Below is a basic description of how I will proceed through the mediation process. This process is similar for most mediators, however, each mediator has a specific process and style that works best for them.
Divorce Mediation is common for either Pre-Decree (before the divorce) or Post-Decree (after the divorce). Below is an outline based on the pre-decree process, however, the post-decree mediation process is similar.
Initiating the Process: The mediation process may begin in different ways. Typically a couple has decided to explore the mediation process or one of the parties is interested in pursuing the process. It is important to note that mediation is voluntary, both parties must be in agreement to pursue mediation if it is to be effective.
After the call is placed to begin the process an individual meeting will be held with each spouse / partner. A schedule is agreed upon for the first joint meeting. Except in rare instances all subsequent meetings will be with both parties together.
Individual Session: This session is designed to give each party time to meet and engage with the mediator as well as to learn about the purpose and process of mediation. This meeting will also serve as a time for the mediator to help each party understand the expectations as well as the hopeful future outcome of the mediation.
Participation in each mediation session: You and your spouse will both be present at each of the mediation sessions. On occasion, the mediator may wish to speak with each of you privately and confidentially. In some cases the mediator may want to speak with your child(ren). Individual meetings and/or meetings with children are all disclosed to all parties.
Priorities: Together with the mediator the parties decide on the course of the mediation by establishing the priority of the issues to be covered. A good outline of the issues covered in a pre-decree divorce mediation include:
- Children: Parenting responsibility and time; living arrangements; legal and physical custody; insurance, education, support, holidays and other issues.
- Assets and Debts: How these will be divided
- Property: Marital home, cars, other personal property
- Spousal Support: Whether there will be spousal support, in what amount and for how long
- Insurance and Medical Expenses
- Tax Issues
Duration of the Mediation Process: Because each separation and/or divorce is different, it is hard to predict exactly how long your mediation will last. In general, a full divorce, including custody issues, division of property and assets, takes between eight and twelve sessions. In addition, the mediator will take time to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining all of the agreements that you have reached through the mediation process. Mediation is voluntary and any party, including the mediator, may end it at any time.
Length of each mediation session: 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 that shorter sessions are more productive
Frequency of sessions with the mediator: At the initial joint mediation session, you will identify the issues that need to be decided in order to separate or divorce. What these issues are, how urgent the decisions are, and how quickly you wish to proceed will determine what schedule you create with the mediator. If mediation sessions are court-ordered, frequency of sessions may be on more of a strict time frame in order to accommodate court dates.
Documents and information to be disclosed to my spouse and to the mediator: All financial information must be disclosed as part of the mediation process. The mediator will work with you to determine your income, expenses, assets, liabilities, retirement funds and other financial information that is required as part of a legal divorce. Should information be withheld during the mediation process, any agreement reached may not be valid. Mediation operates under the principle that parties are open and honest in their sharing of information and communication. If a participant withholds information, mediation may not be the best choice for resolving your conflict.
Lawyers in the Mediation Process: In divorce cases, mediators will recommend that each spouse be represented by his and her own attorney. However, by using mediation, it is likely that you will use fewer legal services and that those you use will be different than if you did not use mediation. Your lawyer will provide you with guidance and legal counsel and can draft documents for filing with the court.
Court and the Mediation process: If you are using mediation in order to obtain a divorce, you will have to file in court for your divorce. However, if you are able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to all of the property, financial, custody, parenting and other issues that you are attempting to resolve, and the court accepts your settlement, it is unlikely that you will have to make many, or any, court appearances. Generally, the more you do outside of the court to decide how you want to handle your divorce, the better. This will save time, money and emotional resources.
Outcome of the Mediation Process: The final outcome of the mediation process in a pre-decree divorce is a document called the Memorandum of Understanding. The mediator will create this document using all of the agreements created through the mediation process. This document is then given to one or both of the parties’ lawyers which is used to create the final divorce decree to be submitted to the court. In addition you and your spouse will have participated in the mediation process with a successful result – part of the mediation will include planning for future change and how you and your spouse can successfully negotiate those changes, with or even without mediation.