Mediation is a process by which people talk to each other with the goal of working out an acceptable resolution to whatever they may be in conflict about. They are helped in this process by a mediator, who acts as a neutral third party to facilitate the conversation. The conversation can occur over time, requiring a number of sessions.
Mediation is a forward-looking process. Usually the desired result is some type of agreement by which the parties involved can abide. A successful mediation is one where each party is able to speak freely, feels heard, feels understood and is able to listen and understand the other party's perspective. It is not a negotiation, although negotiating can certainly be part of the mediation process.
When mediating, I follow the conversation and through active/reflective listening, checking in and summarizing, I help the parties identify and discuss the issues. I do not sit in judgment, nor do I express personal opinions. I may work with parties to problem-solve, if that is their desire.
When two people in an intimate relationship – whether married or not – desire to end that relationship, resolve various legal issues between them, and move on to a different type of relationship with each other, mediation can be a way to accomplish these goals. The mediation process of building an agreement typically involves identifying each party's broad goals and the issues for discussion, gathering necessary information, discussing/brainstorming options and solutions, engaging other professionals to assist (financial, parenting) if necessary, obtaining individual attorney review, and developing a final agreement.
How do you know if mediation is the right choice for you?
If you feel you can make decisions for yourself, follow through on whatever promises you make, be willing to agree to disagree, and be willing to hear and consider another perspective, you should be able to participate in mediation. If you both desire to maintain a changed relationship with each other, such as co-parents or simply friends, mediation can be a cost-effective option to get there. Where there has been domestic violence between parties, where the emotional hurt is too deep, where there is a significant power imbalance between parties, and where there are significant issues of mental illness, mediation may not be the best choice.
I offer a free half-hour consultation to discuss your situation, answer your questions and give you an opportunity to assess how well mediation may fit your needs.
Typically, each mediation session takes 1 ½ to 2 hours. Fees are paid at the time of service.
What about "The Law?"
The mediator acts as a neutral, meaning the mediator's role is to facilitate the conversation, not direct it. The mediator can engage in brain-storming solutions with the parties, however the parties are in control of their choices. The mediator can give information regarding the law of a particular issue, but the mediator can in no way provide legal advice, whether the mediator is an attorney or not.
If legal rights are affected by the mediation, parties are always strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel to help them assess the individual legal effect of their agreement and provide them with legal advice.
Raising children is hard work. It's even harder when doing it as co-parents who live in separate households who may have differing values and approaches. As children grow and develop, a parenting plan written when the child was 5 will not apply when that child is 15. Parents and families can use mediation to help them work through the difficult conversations and decisions that come up during their children's lives.
As a lawyer, I can also draft a legal document such as a separation agreement or parenting plan after the mediation has completed and each party has consulted with independent counsel. Additionally, if clients desire it, I can prepare any necessary court documents and submit them to the court.
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