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Frequently Asked Questions
About Divorce
and Family Mediation

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What Is Mediation?
Why choose divorce mediation?
Is a mediator a marriage counselor?
Is there a free consultation?
What are the benefits and goals of mediation?
What points are decided?
Do both parties need to agree to mediation?
How long does the mediation process take?
How can mediation help make my life easier?
How can mediation benefit my children?
Is mediation legally binding?
Doesn't the law provide clear answers about the terms of the divorce?
Are attorneys still needed?
What type of cases are best for divorce mediation?
How does the mediator deal with unreasonable people?
How do private and court ordered mediation differ?

 

What Is Mediation?

Mediation allows the couple, not the court, to make decisions regarding family restructuring. The parties, with the assistance of the impartial mediator, resolve divorce issues civilly in private, saving them from great expense. The parties negotiate the terms of their own separation or divorce agreement with the mediator’s assistance (a neutral third party), as opposed to having a settlement imposed by the Court or by attorneys.

Litigation tends to result in deepening hostility, while mediation creates the opportunity for an improved working relationship. Because mediation keeps the parties directly involved in the negotiations, the parties can make sure that the settlement meets their needs.

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Why choose divorce mediation?

Divorce is one of the more painful and disruptive events an individual or family can experience. Tension quickly develops when a divorce is contemplated. The problems are both financial and emotional, and it affects all members of the family.

Divorce mediation aims at reducing this tension, not increasing it. With the help of a divorce mediator, couples negotiate their own settlement and learn the techniques for resolving future differences. Divorce mediation is for couples who want to retain control over the decisions that affect their lives. No parent should want their roles to be diminished by the Court.

Divorce mediation is not just for couples who already know how to cooperate. A mediator shows couples how to work together productively in spite of their anger.

Sometimes during mediation, other professional services are needed. A list of professional referrals is available, including accountants, lawyers, financial planners, career counselors, psychotherapists and child psychologists.

 

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Is a mediator a marriage counselor?

Mediators are not marriage counselors. Divorce mediation is for parties who agree to seek a divorce from one another and not reconciliation. Divorce mediation is not therapy. Although the process of mediation is directed at such a resolution, there can be a therapeutic benefit for the mediating parties. However, this is not its primary purpose.

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Is there a free consultation?

Yes. The mediator strongly believes that this process is the most desirable to the divorcing parties. A free one-half () hour session is available so that both parties can be fully educated as to how the mediation process works and the money that can be saved. This free consultation also presents a great opportunity for the parties to preview the informality and convenience of the mediation process and to meet the mediator.

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What are the benefits and goals of mediation?

• Mediation takes less time so you can move on with your life;

• Mediation is less expensive, and leads to greater satisfaction than
Court proceedings;

• Mediation allows you to control the decisions that affect your life;

• Mediation benefits your children and others involved by reducing conflict;

• Mediation avoids public disclosure of financial and personal matters
because it is confidential.

The mediator will help the parties reach an agreement that is based on a full and complete disclosure of all relevant data. The mediator will help to ensure that the parties understand the information presented and the choices with which they are confronted so that each party can make intelligent informed decisions based on the relevant facts.

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What points are decided?

• Equitable distribution of martial property (marital residence, retirement benefits, bank accounts, investment portfolios, etc.);

• Custody and parenting arrangements;

• Child support and visitation;

• Spousal maintenance (alimony);

• Marital tax implications;

• Ways to avoid future problems.

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Do both parties need to agree to mediation?

Yes. Mediation only works when both parties to the conflict agree to participate. But never assume that the other person won’t mediate. Many opportunities are lost because each person thinks the other one won’t mediate. However, the mediator may meet with each party individually, if both parties agree to this arrangement. At all times, the mediator remains neutral. However, mediation is a voluntary process that can be terminated at any time by either party. Either party can withdraw from the mediation at any time and for any reason.

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How long does the mediation process take?

It depends on the issues and the parties. However, mediation takes a fraction of the time of Court litigated divorce cases. This saves both parties time, money and public embarrassment. It also allows the parties to focus on the more important issues, by directly discussing them with each other with the assistance of a mediator. In the mediation process, the parties are in full control, and this substantially reduces the time and cost that is associated with Court litigation. The parties soon realize that the public view of the need to go to Court with lawyers is a misconception. Most people are not aware of the less expensive and alternative divorce and separation resolution methods available to them.

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How can mediation help make my life easier?

It relieves the tension of litigation. Mediation allows you to spend your time with your family or at work, rather than dealing with Court related issues.

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How can mediation benefit my children?

Mediation relieves the tension at home by allowing you to resolve your issues in detail, much sooner. Not having to wait weeks or months for a Court decision, allows you to concentrate on your family, not your divorce. The marriage might be over, but the family concerns for the children are ongoing.

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Is mediation legally binding?

Yes. Judges are more than happy to sign off on agreements reached in mediation. (It saves them the burden of making difficult, personal decisions that parties are often unhappy with.) When the agreement has been formalized and signed by a Judge, it is legally binding. (In fact, it is far more likely that a mediated agreement will be honored because both parties understand the terms and have made a personal commitment to follow them, as well as being directly involved in the agreement’s creation.)

Any couple can settle their divorce or separation privately and out of court. The paperwork they sign is a fully legal document.

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Doesn't the law provide clear answers about the terms of the divorce?

No. That’s a myth. The law allows you to argue for whatever you want. No one knows what decision a Judge will make. You, not a Judge or an attorney, are in the best position to plan for your childrens’ future. If one of you doesn’t like the Judge’s decision, you can continue to appeal or fight in other ways, at a great expense. The important questions are what you want, what your spouse wants, and what you want to do about differences between you and your spouse. These questions can best be resolved in mediation.

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Are attorneys still needed?

No, (although many attorneys will tell you otherwise). In fact, people who don’t hire attorneys are usually much happier with the process, the results, and each other, than those who hire attorneys.

Anyone seeking legal advice can always consult an attorney. Attorneys can represent only one client. Mediators help resolve both parties’ issues.

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What type of cases are best for divorce mediation?

Any case in which the parties have a reasonable belief that they can work with each other, and far less expensive. Even parties who generally distrust each other usually find mediation much more satisfactory than attorney-driven negotiation. It is also the best method for couples who desire to spare their children the embarrassment and humiliation of a public Court trial.

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How does the mediator deal with unreasonable people?

When one party thinks the other party is being unreasonable, the most helpful response is to allow both parties to speak their mind thoroughly. The parties are able to calm down and then listen to the other person’s perspective. Once this occurs, the mediator is instrumental in moderating this situation.

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How do private and Court ordered mediation differ?

The divorcing couple works solely with the mediator to settle all issues confidentially in private mediation. When a court of law orders mediation, both parties, attorneys and the mediator try to settle all divorce issues in court during the daytime Court hours. If Court mediation is not successful, the Judge will make the final decision, and neither party may be satisfied with the ultimate decision. Court ordered mediation is very costly and is also public.

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