Finding creative solutions with neutral assistance.
What is it?
Family Mediation is a family-focused decision-making process whereby parties work together with their neutral Family Mediator to find creative solutions to their divorce issues while avoiding court. The parties commit to focusing on the future and to providing full disclosure of all relevant information throughout the Process. Mediation is not limited to divorcing spouses – you may be unmarried, you may be still living together and want to draft an Interspousal Agreement, you may want to draft a pre-nuptial agreement. A mediator can assist you with all these issues.
Whom is it for?
If you agree with the following statements, Family Mediation may be right for you:
- I want to avoid having the Court decide my future.
- My children’s needs are my priority.
- I want focus on the future.
- I want to reduce conflict between the other party and me.
- I want a quick and efficient resolution.
If you wish to avoid having lawyers involved in your negotiation process, you will likely agree with the following statements:
- I prefer to involve as few professionals in the process as possible.
- I want costs to stay as low as possible.
- I want to make my own decisions, without being assisted by a lawyer’s opinion during negotiations.
- I believe that I can make myself heard and understood without assistance.
How does the process work?
Hire a Family Mediator
Each party must meet with the Family Mediator independently prior to committing to the mediation process. This consultation allows each party to fully understand the Process and to allow the Family Mediator to learn about each party’s perspective on the issues for resolution. The Family Mediator’s role is to facilitate the parties’ discussions and to assist the parties to resolve their conflict throughout the process.
Before the Family Mediation process can begin, the parties and the Mediator must review and sign a Participation Agreement which commits all parties to the Process and to avoiding court-imposed resolution.
Engage in joint meetings
First meeting: the parties and the Mediator sign the Participation Agreement, identify each party’s interests (concerns, hopes, expectations, assumptions, priorities, beliefs, fears, values, needs), and create a list of issues and priorities for resolution. Usually time permits for the most pressing issues to be discussed and at least a temporary resolution to be put into place until a longer-term resolution can be reached. A “to do” list is created for all parties at the end of each session so that everyone knows what they must do before or for the following meeting.
Subsequent meetings: we hit the ground running at all subsequent meetings. We address each issue identified for resolution in the order as agreed between the parties. Information is exchanged, solutions are brainstormed, and resolution is reached on each issue.
Prepare Agreement/Memorandum of Understanding
Once resolution is reached on each topic identified, the Family Mediator will prepare either a form of Agreement or a Memorandum of Understanding. The agreements reached in Family Mediation are non-binding on the parties until they place their verbal agreements into a legally-binding format. If the Mediator prepares the Agreement, then the parties can take this Agreement to their own lawyer to have it reviewed and signed separately from the other party. If the Mediator prepares a Memorandum of Understanding, then the parties can take this to their lawyer to put it into the form of either an Agreement or a Court Order.
Where role do lawyers play in Family Mediation?
You always have the right to have your lawyer present with you at your mediation session(s) or you may want to consult with your lawyer in between sessions. Many parties, though, choose to keep the meetings as 3-way meetings including the parties and the mediator alone and simply to discuss the final result with their lawyer at the end.
How long does it take?
Most families average 2-5 sessions at 2 hours per session, which can mean 2-6 months for full resolution. Sometimes parties decide to engage in full-day mediation sessions, which can cause the process to be expedited in many cases. The factors that determine the length can include: level of conflict between the parties, number of issues to resolve, and the time required between each meeting.
What are the possible outcomes?
- Reduced conflict.
- Usually less expensive resolution than Court.
- Time-effective resolution.
- Foster or improve communication between the parties.
- More clearly understand differences in opinions.
- Empower each party to be heard.
- Make informed and voluntary choices about your future.
- Focus on the needs and interests of the children.
- Create an effective and sustainable co-parenting plan.
- Future dispute resolution becomes easier
- between the parties.
Family Mediation FAQ
▶ If we already have an agreement regarding division of assets & debts, do we have to open up that topic in our Family Mediation?