What is mediation?

Mediation is a meeting between two people with a neutral party who attempts to reach a compromise agreement. The goal of mediation is to reach an agreement which is acceptable to both participants. A mediator is not a judge and cannot force either side to accept a certain result, nor can they force a resolution. The meeting can be with each party privately and in separate areas (called a caucus), or with both parties together with the mediator.

What are the advantages of mediation?

  1. Financial Savings: An agreement in mediation can save the expense of paying two lawyers to battle each other, as well as the other expenses of litigation (filing fees, deposition, etc.). The savings to each side can literally be thousands of dollars.
  2. Conflict Resolution: Mediation provides a far more efficient and expeditious end to disagreements than the justice system. The sooner an agreement is reached, the sooner both sides can cease fighting. And if children are involved, a harmonious parting is the best benefit you can provide to you them. On the other hand, if you part ways and continue to fight, you have failed to improve anything for your children.
  3. Control: When you go to court, your fate and that of your children is in the hands of the lawyers and the judge. The situation is fraught with uncertainty as to the outcome, cost and delay. Mediation, on the other hand, provides certainty and a relatively rapid solution. This is particularly important in matters of child custody as the parents are in a far superior position to know what is best for their children.
  4. Privacy: Going to court necessarily involves “airing the dirty laundry” of both sides. Mediation provides a confidential and private alternative. The mediation process is a confidential one and no participant may disclose the substance of the negotiations or any information acquired during it.

Do I need a lawyer for mediation?

Parties can participate in mediation with or without attorneys. It is advisable for both parties to consult with a their own attorney prior to mediation to be advised of their potential rights and obligations. If an agreement is reached in mediation, a court document (judgment) can be drafted, or a simply a written summary of the agreement that was reached. The written summary can be taken to lawyers and put into legal form.

What does mediation cost?

I currently charge $100.00 per hour as a mediator. As an attorney, I charged $250.00 per hour for the work I performed. The total cost will depend upon how many issues are contested, how complicated the financial matters are, how cooperative or uncooperative both parties are, whetheror not lawyers attend and participate, and how detailed the agreement is that will be drafted at the conclusion.

No “retainer” or advance deposit is required, but mediation is paid for as the work is performed. Payment can be cash, check, certified funds or credit card, and it will be expected the same day the mediation services are rendered. Finally, typically each party pays for one-half of the expense.

What documents do I need to bring to the mediation?

If you are involved in ongoing litigation, you should bring that to the meeting a copy of the prior judgments, court papers and any papers which may have recently been filed.

If your case is just starting, and child support or spousal support (alimony) is an issue, both parties should also bring:
  • Copy of two (2) most recent income tax returns, together with supporting documentation which must include W2 Forms;
  • Last four (4) check stubs, or a statement from employer as to how you are paid (salary, hourly, commission, etc.) as well as your year-to-date income and the period of time that income covers if it has not been the entire year;
  • If applicable, proof of private school tuition, fees, books, registration, technology, etc, from the school;
  • If applicable, a statement from the child care provider documenting the cost; and
  • If applicable, the cost of health insurance attributable to the minor child(ren) only.

Is there anything else I need to do or bring?

It is always helpful if I know the issues [custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, community property, etc.] ahead of time, along with what each party is seeking and why. If other issues are involved, I can notify you of what else will be helpful or required.

If the issue is dividing up property, then you should both complete the form on the web site called a Detailed Descriptive List, along

What happens at the mediation?

When attorneys participate, we frequently put each party and their attorney in a separate room and the mediator goes back and forth. This is not required, but in high conflict cases is typically the preference of the parties. Whenever possible, however, everyone is in the same room. Should behavior or attitudes deteriorate, then we can always separate.

There is also generally a list of issues which need to be resolved and we address each one. Sometimes an agreement is reached by parties compromising, and other times parties will agree to give the other side their way on an issue, in exchange for what they want on another one.

Is an agreement reached in mediation enforceable?

The general rule is that if an agreement is reached and signed by both parties, it is binding on both and can be enforced.

What happens if we fail to work out all the issues?

Sometimes parties can work out most, but not every issue. Whatever both sides do agree to on the day of mediation can be typed up and signed off on. Any issues which you were unable to agree will probably have to be decided by a judge and going to court with lawyers.

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