FAQs – Divorce Mediation Process

What happens after the introductory consultation?

bridge divorce mediation processAfter we have all signed the “Agreement to Mediate,” we may decide that the most helpful mediation process would be to start with an individual session with each of you. These sessions give me an opportunity to learn about you and your perspective. They give you an opportunity to express your concerns and ensure that I understand them. After these individual sessions we would then normally have joint sessions from then on. Or we may simply schedule your first joint session.

How long will the mediation take?

Two to four months is common. Sessions are usually scheduled two or more weeks apart to take into account busy lives, required data gathering and the time necessary to let everything sink in and make good decisions. If both of you want the mediation process to proceed more quickly, we can do so.

How many sessions

A typical comprehensive divorce mediation takes three to six sessions of about 2 hours each. Some of the factors determining overall mediation length are the number and complexity of issues, level of conflict, preparation you do between sessions, and how the two of you communicate. Sometimes in fairly simple divorces in which you have already reached agreement on most issues only a single session is required.

Does the mediator ensure negotiations are fair?

balance fairness divorce mediation processWith most couples there are imbalances. Sometimes these are simply knowledge-oriented such as when one spouse has taken care of all the financial matters in the relationship. Sometimes one spouse talks much more than the other or tries to apply pressure to get his or her way. Although the mediator is fundamentally neutral, it is part of the mediator’s job to address these imbalances in the mediation process so that each side feels safe, confident and empowered in discussions and decision making. In an unusual case where the mediator finds it impossible to rectify an imbalance, it may be inappropriate to continue with the mediation.

Will the mediator advise us what to do?

In general, a mediator shouldn’t and I won’t.  My aim is to encourage and empower you to make your own decisions and come up with your own creative solutions.  I may give you information to aid your decision making, such as what the law says or what other couples have done in similar circumstances, but I will not tell you what I think you should do.  I may also help you brainstorm possible solutions to the issues that arise.

Will I have to compromise even if I think I am right?

compromise divorce mediation processNo. I will assist you in coming up with solutions that meet everyone’s needs as well as possible. These are normally preferable to simple compromises. Some give-and-take is usually involved for each side. But even if we get stuck on an issue, there is no requirement that you compromise.

What does a mediator actually do?

divorce mediation process finding solutions puzzleHere are some of the main things the mediator does in a session:

  • create an agenda that will facilitate progress;
  • keep the process well organized;
  • listen carefully to everything that is said and how it is said;
  • answer your questions;
  • ask questions to clarify and sometimes deepen what is being considered;
  • intervene as necessary to help make the communication process productive;
  • provide you with background information (legal and otherwise) relevant to the topic at hand;
  • identify data and documents that need to be gathered;
  • help generate ideas for solutions;
  • determine what to do when things appear to get stuck;
  • identify when individual (as opposed to joint) conversations would be useful;
  • make sure all the required territory is covered;
  • make note of issues, agreements and action items.
My schedule is crazy. Can't we do this by email?

Perhaps partially. Although the mediation process is usually most effective in person, there are often ways we can move forward using email and/or videoconferencing products such as Skype. I will work with you to make the mediation process as efficient as possible.

Who can attend?

Mediation is a very flexible process. When it makes sense to invite another specialist (legal, financial, mental health or other) to provide input, we can do so. If you have a lawyer, he or she can attend some or all mediation sessions. If you have teenage children and want to obtain their input, this can be done in a joint session or the mediator can speak privately with them. It is even possible for you to have a friend or support person present.

Whenever considering including someone in addition to you and your spouse, we would talk about this in advance and make sure this is acceptable to both of you.

What happens between sessions?

After each session, I will send you a write-up of the key points for you to review. It will often include action items such as obtaining financial documents prior to the next session.

Of course you will want to think about the issues that we are addressing. Breakthroughs often occur not just in sessions but between them.

Is it binding?

The agreements you reach in mediation are not binding until you decide they are.  At the end the mediation process, I will prepare a “Memorandum of Understanding” which includes all the agreements reached. Before you sign this document, I will suggest that each of you review it with a lawyer.  Normally most couples agree to make the Memorandum of Understanding binding with their signatures.

Your agreements will then need to be submitted to the court for your divorce decree. Sometimes, at your option, the Memorandum of Understanding is used as the basis for a more formal and lengthy Marital Settlement Agreement drafted by a lawyer. Once the judgment (divorce decree) has been issued by the court, the terms of your agreement will not only be binding but also an order of the court.