Divorce Mediation FAQs

Divorce mediation is a process in which divorcing spouses negotiate a divorce agreement with the help of a neutral third party, the mediator. The mediator helps the spouses to communicate and negotiate, but doesn’t make any decisions for them. The mediator also ensures that the spouses address all the issues needed for a solid a separation agreement.
1. Less expensive
Mediation is almost always far less expensive than a court-involved divorce.

2. Faster
Many mediated divorces are settled in a few sessions. Compare this with the months that are commonly involved in a court divorce.

3. Private
Court is a public forum. The most intimate aspects of your life can be aired. On the other hand, mediation sessions are private, letting you preserve your dignity.

4. Children
Mediation can benefit your whole family. You, as parents, know what’s best for your own children. Studies show that a civil approach helps children recover better from the stress of divorce. A mediated divorce can make for better parents and happier children.

5. Flexibility
You choose the times to meet, and to do it on your schedule, not the court’s.

6. Control
This is a big one. Mediation allows you to control the decisions that affect you most. The adversarial process of court is simply not designed to give you control.

7. Success
Unlike couples who battle and are forced to accept a judge’s decision, with a mediated settlement you’re far less likely to return to court with future disputes. Mediation is simply a more civil and respectful approach to resolving your differences and moving on with your life.

Yes. Not all couples are suited for mediation. In the first meeting, I always screen for any signs that mediation may not be the appropriate path. If one spouse fears the other, or if there’s a history of violence in the marriage, or if there’s any current substance abuse, or if either spouse is pressuring the other, I will not undertake the mediation.
The average mediation takes 2 or 3 sessions, each lasting up to 2 hours. I’ve found that after 2 hours, people can get tired and cranky, so not much progress is made after that time. Yours may take less or more time, depending on your issues and on your willingness to compromise and get matters resolved.
A separation agreement is a contract that you’ll develop with my help. Although it’s called a “separation agreement,” it includes all the terms of your divorce. It must be all-inclusive, leaving no issues for side agreements. A judge must find it to be “fair and reasonable” in order to grant your divorce. Its contents will become incorporated into a court judgment. It then becomes more than just a contract; it becomes a court order.

That’s the technical explanation of a separation agreement. I believe, however, that the agreement also serves another purpose. It’s a reflection of the best in each of you, proving that you were able to move through the pain of ending a marriage while still keeping your wits. It’s proof that you had a choice on how to conduct yourself, a choice about which process best reflected your values, and a choice about committing yourself to coming out at the other end as a stronger person—not a “winner” or “loser.”

You’re not required to have an attorney during mediation, although you may choose to. But I always urge each person to have an independent attorney review the final agreement to make sure it’s fair and to point out any legal implications that you may have missed or misunderstood during mediation.
Once you both tell me that the agreement is acceptable, I prepare all the documents that you’ll need for a joint petition for divorce. We’ll meet to sign and notarize everything, and I’ll give you complete written instructions on where you go, what to do, and what to say.
Yes. Even though you’ve agreed to everything and have a signed agreement, the judge must still review the agreement to ensure that it’s fair and reasonable. The court hearing on a joint petition lasts all of 5 minutes. Again, I’ll fully prepare you for what you can expect and what you need to do and say.
No. I’m available to go to court with you, but it would just be a hand-holding expedition. I doubt you’d want to pay me for that. Court is informal and brief. I’ll completely prepare you to handle it on your own.

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