Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce Mediation
What is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is a process that provides couples seeking divorce or separation the opportunity to make their own decisions in order to reach a fair settlement. Divorce mediation takes place in an informal office setting where, with the help of a trained and neutral third party, the mediator, a couple can reach an agreement that best suits their specific needs.
How does the divorce mediation process work?
The couple meets with a trained mediator to discuss and work through the decisions that must be made regarding the division of their property, custody of their children and future financial support. In my practice, I create an environment for the productive discussion of each individual’s needs, wants and goals in order to achieve the best possible outcome for both. After each session, I send summary emails to keep the process organized and moving forward.
We have trouble sitting in the same room, how can we make important decisions together?
In mediation, the conversation is between the two of you and the mediator. In my practice, depending on the level of conflict, I add structure to the discussion by acting as a moderator. Each person has an opportunity to speak and offer proposed solutions while the other person and I listen. I then build on points of consensus and help generate additional options for agreement. We do this issue by issue until all necessary areas have been addressed.
Can I tell my side of the story to the mediator?
Yes, but. The mediator must remain a neutral third party. It is best if all communication happens in the presence of your spouse. There are times however, where it may be beneficial for the mediator to have individual conversations with each person. Such conversation is called a “caucus”. In my practice, I will caucus if necessary.
How long will mediation take?
Divorce mediation typically takes between 2-8 sessions of 1-2 hours each. The number of sessions is determined by the complexities of each case.
How much will mediation cost?
Most couples can address all necessary issues in 2-8 mediation sessions of 1-2 hours each at a cost of approximately $1,000-$4,000. If the mediator is an attorney, she can memorialize the couple’s agreement by drafting their Stipulation of Settlement for approximately $2,500 and then, if the couple wishes to obtain a final Judgment of Divorce, she can draft and file the additional required legal documents for approximately $1,500. The court filing fees are approximately $400. The total cost to the couple is significantly less than a litigated or attorney negotiated divorce. In my practice, as a mediator and attorney, my fees are competitive. I can and do see my clients through all stages, from mediation to agreement to divorce. I offer a no cost consultation to provide you an opportunity to get a sense of whether you feel comfortable with me and would like to continue the process with me.
Is divorce mediation confidential?
Yes. At the outset of divorce mediation couples sign an agreement to keep discussions and any information shared in sessions confidential. This encourages open and productive discussion and provides greater privacy.
How is divorce mediation different from a litigated divorce?
Divorce mediation is a non-adversarial process where a couple retains control over the process and the decisions they must make in order to divorce. With the help of a third party neutral mediator, the couple communicates their individual interests in order to create a mutually beneficial agreement. In mediation there is time and flexibility to create a detailed enduring agreement that provides security. In litigation, on the other hand, where two lawyers are hired to represent the interests of the individuals, communication between the couple shuts down and negotiations are based on each side attempting to gain an advantage over the other. The result is a costly and emotional battle, which limits possible outcomes, is harmful to the family and often results in dissatisfaction and costly trips to court for enforcement.
If we mediate our divorce, do we need to consult with lawyers?
It is up to each individual. While I am a NY State licensed attorney, I do not legally represent either spouse during divorce mediation. I will provide you with necessary legal information as you proceed through decision-making but I cannot provide you with legal advice. At any time during the process, you may each consult with your own attorney if you would like advice or confirmation that your settlement is fair.
What is a “mediation friendly” consulting or review attorney and what is their role?
A mediation friendly attorney respects that people choose mediation in order to avoid the enormous financial and emotional strain of an adversarial separation or divorce. She can provide legal advice before or during decision-making in mediation and/or review your agreement before your sign. In my practice, I also serve as a consulting and review attorney. I charge an hourly rate to consult and review. Generally, it takes three hours to review an agreement and meet to discuss.
Will we have to go to court?
No. Once all issues have been decided, mediation is complete and your agreement will be embodied in a legal document called a Stipulation of Settlement. In my practice, as an attorney, I can draft your stipulation as well as the other legal documents required to obtain a Judgment of Divorce or you can choose another attorney to prepare and file your documents. All documents are reviewed and signed in the office.
Will we have to disclose financial information in mediation?
Yes. A full disclosure of your financial picture is imperative to produce an enforceable and durable agreement. The documents submitted to the court in order to obtain a Judgment of Divorce require that you have fully shared your financial information.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan sets forth the specifics of how your children will be financially supported, who will make important decisions about their well being and how you will share access to them. Depending on their ages, a schedule of parenting time for weekday, weekends and holidays will be included in the plan. Mediation allows for flexibility and specificity and even the opportunity to “test drive” possible arrangements and anticipate future needs.
Where will the sessions take place?
Sessions will take place in the neutral, comfortable setting of one of my several conveniently located offices.
When will the sessions take place?
For your convenience, sessions can take place before or during traditional work hours, weekends and/or in the evening.
How long is each session?
Generally, each session will be 1-2 hours.
Once we have reached agreement on the issues what else needs to be done in order to obtain a divorce?
After agreement on the issues is achieved in mediation, an attorney will draft a Stipulation of Settlement that encompasses the details of that agreement. Then, the Stipulation of Settlement and other required documents must be filed with the court in order to obtain a final Judgment of Divorce. In my practice, as a mediator and attorney, my clients can choose to have me see them through from mediation to agreement to divorce or they can choose another attorney to draft and file.
How is legal separation different from divorce?
A legal separation is where the parties live separately under the terms of a separation agreement addressing property division, child support, parenting schedules and maintenance (alimony) but where the marriage is not legally terminated by a court order. Couples may choose this option in order to maintain coverage of health insurance and/or to continue to file their income taxes jointly.
If we have already begun litigating our divorce is it too late to turn to mediation?
No. At any time a couple can turn to mediation, take decision making into their hands, and control the outcome and the amount of money spent.
What is marital/couples mediation?
Mediation can be a successful process for couples wishing to remain in an ongoing relationship. The mediator will facilitate discussion and negotiation in order to set parameters about how a particular issue(s) will be addressed going forward. It is a way to generate an agreement with concrete solutions to problems that negatively impact the couple.
What if I am ready to begin divorce mediation and my spouse is not?
It is often the case that both members of a divorcing couple are not “on the same page” regarding the fact that divorce is imminent. In my practice, I work with couples to identify if there is a difference in the desired timing of the divorce and like other issues where there are different views, facilitate discussion to uncover possible options to help them move forward. Sometimes, the person not ready to move forward may just need time to adjust and waiting a few months before proceeding may be the best solution. It may be helpful to come up with an understanding about how financial and other matters will be handled during this waiting period.
Can high conflict couples succeed in divorce mediation?
Yes. High conflict couples may benefit the most from divorce mediation. When high conflict couples choose to hire lawyers to represent their individual interests they tend to spend huge sums of money and do irreversible damage to their ability to communicate and co-parent in the future. In mediation, on the other hand, the goal is to work in an environment where a couple can separate their emotions from the issues in order to make good decisions about their futures.
What if we need financial or tax advice? Or help addressing the developmental needs of our children? Or dealing with our own individual stress and anger?
In my practice, I have a network of professionals I call on with expertise in the areas of tax and personal finance; Child development; As well as professionals who specialize in coaching individuals going through divorce by providing techniques for reducing stress, spotting triggers for emotional responses and how to refocus one’s energy on the good decision-making.
What kind of decisions will we have to make in divorce mediation?
In mediation, you will work through questions about the division of your property, the care and support of your children, whether there will be spousal support and if so, the amount and duration of support. You will also learn how your legal rights and obligations will change once you are divorced regarding taxes, insurance and your estate after death.
What do we need to do to be prepared for divorce mediation?
Dividing your assets and debts as well as issues of financial support will be a part of the discussion in divorce mediation. Gathering financial documents including: tax returns, pay stubs, statements for bank, investment and retirement accounts will be necessary. Also, having a general idea of each of your future budgetary needs is helpful and may save time in mediation.
Are any couples not suited for mediation?
Couples with a history of physical violence may not be appropriate candidates for mediation.