Frequently Asked Questions
In Divorce Mediation
What is mediation?
Mediation is an efficient and inexpensive process designed to help people reach the best agreements for them when separating or divorcing. A trained professional mediator assists you in obtaining the information you need and to focus on the issues that must be resolved in order to separate or dissolve a marriage (divorce) as amicably as possible.
What training does someone need to become a mediator?
Most divorce and family mediators have completed a basic (40 hour) divorce and family mediation training course. In addition, mediators generally pursue additional training in the substantive issues regarding separation and marriage dissolution.
What happens in mediation?
Usually participants and the mediator meet together in a private room. Each party speaks about what is important to him or her and listens to what is important to the other side. The mediator facilitates the discussion. Occasionally, the mediator may wish to speak with each participant privately (and confidentially). The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong. The parties determine the outcome. Both participants must mutually agree to any settlement.
What makes mediation successful?
Mediation will be successful if the participants negotiate in good faith, demonstrate flexibility in how to resolve matters, listen to the other side with an open mind, and share their point of view.
How confidential is mediation?
Mediation is a completely private process, not open to the public. You will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement before beginning mediation. The mediator is bound by law to keep mediation discussions confidential.
Do children participate?
Generally, no. In some cases, however, children may participate. Inclusion depends on factors such as the topic, agreement of the mediator and the parents, the child's maturity level, and the child's willingness.
Is a mediated agreement binding?
If dissolution for marriage or another family issue is filed in court, any agreement reached by the participants may be filed in court. However, an agreement must be approved by a judge and incorporated into a court order or divorce decree to become legally binding.
If your dispute is not filed in court, the agreement is usually considered to be a contract. Depending on the nature of the agreement and the dispute, if there is a breach of the contract you might be able to file a claim with the court.
How long will mediation take?
Since each separation and dissolution of marriage is different, it is difficult to predict exactly how long a specific mediation will last. In general, a full dissolution of marriage, including custody issues, division of property and assets, takes three to eight sessions. In addition, the mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, outline all of the agreement reached through the mediation process. Mediation is voluntary and any participant, including the mediator, may end it at any time.
How long are the sessions?
Generally, mediation sessions are scheduled to last approximately 2 hours, depending on the couple's needs and available time. Some couples prefer longer sessions while others find shorter ones more productive.
Will we meet weekly with the mediator?
At the initial mediation session, you will identify the issues that need to be decided in order to separate or dissolve your marriage. The issues, the urgency of the decisions, and how quickly the participants wish to proceed will determine the meeting schedule.
How much will mediation cost?
Mediation costs will be based on an hourly fee. This fee will be charged for all mediation sessions and non-session work, such as time spent reviewing and drafting documents, telephone consultations, correspondence, and consultations by the mediator with other professionals. The cost of mediation is generally significantly less than the cost of divorce without mediation. This remains true even if both participants have retained their own legal counsel.
For example, assuming the participants meet with a mediator five times for two hours each time, and that there is an additional two hours of mediator time for drafting the Memorandum of Understanding, the cost of mediation at $150 per hour would be a total of $1800. This amount would generally be split between the two participants.
Do I need a lawyer in order to use mediation?
You do not need a lawyer to go to a mediation. However, mediators will
recommend that each spouse retain an attorney when dissolving their marriage. A
mediator focuses on bridging conflict through improved communication and
facilitates the participants in reaching their own agreements. Even when the
mediator is a lawyer, the mediator is not acting as a lawyer and cannot represent
either mediation participant. A lawyer will provide legal counsel and can draft
documents for filing with the court. One of the advantages of mediation is that a
participant will likely use fewer legal services.
If I use mediation, will I still need to go to court?
Using mediation to resolve issues surrounding dissolution of a marriage does not eliminate filing in court. However, if the participants are able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to all of the property, financial, custody, parenting and other issues, and the court accepts the settlement, court appearances likely will be reduced, if not eliminated. Generally, the more done outside of court to decide issues, the better.
What information must be disclosed to my spouse and to the mediator?
If the goal of mediation is to reach a settlement regarding all the disputed issues of a divorce, all financial information must be disclosed as part of the mediation process. The mediator will work with each participant to determine income, expenses, assets, liabilities, retirement funds, and other financial information required as part of a legal dissolution of marriage. Should information be withheld during the mediation process, any agreement reached will not be valid.
What is discussed during mediation?
In a typical mediation, the following issues must be addressed in order to generate an agreement that may be submitted to the court:
>> Children - Parenting responsibility and time, living arrangements, legal and physical custody, insurance, education, support, and any other issues that may arise.
>> Assets - How to apportion the marital property such as the marital home, cars, retirement funds, and other personal property.
>> Debts - How to apportion what is owed on debts like credit cards and mortgages.
>> Spousal Support - Whether there will be spousal support, in what amount, and for how long.
>> Insurance and Medical Expenses
>> Tax Issues
Provided by Johnson Mediation Services