Divorce Mediation FAQs
At the Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution, we have been compiling a list of questions most frequently posed by couples considering divorce mediation.
- How long does mediation take?
This question ranks high on the most frequently-asked scale. It is also the most difficult question to answer, since without knowing the couple or their situation, it is quite hard to estimate time. However, based on over 30 years of experience, the average mediation takes seven sessions with each session being two hours. The word “average” is, of course, of central importance. Some couples finish mediation in less than seven sessions and others take longer. The duration of the process is not necessarily measured by the complexity of the family’s estate. The key ingredient is a couple’s ability to do their homework, thereby enabling them to move through the process efficiently and effectively.
- What are the essential differences between mediation and litigation?
The most significant difference in the two processes is who determines the outcome. In a litigated divorce, the judge decides. In a mediated divorce, you and your spouse decide. With the assistance of an experienced mediator, you will work together to design an agreement that meets your needs and that of all family members. Rather than a cookie-cutter, boiler plate document, your final agreement will be personally tailored to your family and your unique circumstances.
- Do you offer a free consultation? CMDR does offer a free half-hour consultation for couples who want to ensure that there is a personal compatibility with the mediator and wish to learn more about the process. Other individuals prefer to have one or both parties speak to the mediator on the telephone prior to scheduling a session. We also offer conference calls as a prelude to beginning mediation. It is important to know that at CMDR, staff is available daily to answer your questions and provide information.
- Can we prepare ahead?
The short answer is yes, but typically only after the couple begins mediation. At the end of each mediation session, the mediator and the couple will determine the agenda for the next meeting and their homework. Preparation is essential. Some couples take another step by discussing issues themselves outside of mediation and returning with their thoughts on settlement. To be most time-efficient and cost-effective, the parties should ask for the mediator’s help in identifying issues that can best be handled out of mediation.
- Do we have to go to court?
Yes, even for couples who are filing a non-contested divorce, the judge has to approve their petition for divorce. Yet, couples whose agreement represents a thoughtful and thorough presentation of issues ranging from property and support to custody demonstrate to the judge that they have given careful thought to their present and future needs and concerns.
- Are there individual meetings or do couples always meet together with the mediator?
Unless requested otherwise, mediation sessions begin with the couple and the mediator. At times, it is more productive to schedule individual meetings, particularly as a mechanism for breaking logjams and/or expediting the process. The mediator and the couple will work together to determine the most effective format for the process, which may always have joint meetings or a combination of joint and individual sessions.
- What if my Spouse/Partner and I do not communicate well?
It is the mediator’s job to help the couple communicate. A skilled and experienced mediator is able to draw out ideas from the less communicative party and to ensure that the other party does not monopolize or control the sessions. The mediator’s job is to stimulate problem-solving through the provision of ideas, information, and the facilitation of communication. Despite assistance, it is the couple who determines what is fair and appropriate for their family. One side benefit of mediation is for spouses to learn how to communicate better, a valuable skill for the future, particularly if the couple has children.
- How will I know if I’m getting a fair deal?
Mediation is not a process that takes place in a “space” outside the law. It is the mediator’s responsibility to help you to make knowledgeable decisions. You should be helped to weigh the options and to explore alternatives. You should understand the impact of each alternative on you and your spouse – where you are making a compromise and where your spouse is providing you with an advantage.All clients are encouraged to seek legal review of their agreement prior to going to court.
- How long will it take for us to be divorced?
Once you have a completed agreement, you will need to file the document with the court clerk in the appropriate county and request a date to appear before the judge. In general, the court tries to provide you with a hearing date within 30 days of your filing.The judge will need to approve your petition for divorce based on his or her interpretation of the fairness of the document. The judge’s approval will take place at the hearing. After the hearing, there is a 30-day wait period in which either party may withdraw the petition for divorce. After the expiration of this 30-day wait period, there is a 90-day period of time in which it takes both parties to withdraw their petition. Thus, after 120 days, your petition for a lA No Fault divorce becomes a Divorce Absolute.
- May we elect to use mediation for only some—not all—of the areas covered by an agreement?
Absolutely you may. Some couples enter mediation to reach agreement on a single issue or in a single area, such as custody. It is not uncommon for representing attorneys to refer clients to mediation when there appears to be an impasse in the couples’ ability to reach a full settlement.
- I am interested in using mediation, but my spouse is uncertain. Can a mediator help convince my spouse?
The best route to helping your spouse to consider mediation is to encourage him or her to join you for a free consultation with a mediator. In addition, materials are available by request as well as on our website. Telephone consultation, without charge, can also be scheduled.
- Do we need individual lawyers?
Many clients want to have their agreement subjected to review by an individual attorney. A “reviewing attorney” is not the same as an attorney who is primarily your advocate. The attorney’s role is more circumscribed and therefore, much less costly; it does, however, provide clients with peace of mind that they have indeed gotten a fair agreement as seen through the eyes of someone thinking only of them. Other clients do not wish to have their agreement reviewed by counsel or to employ an attorney during the process. The decision to have or not to have legal counsel is an individual choice.
- Will we save money by mediating?
The short answer is yes. Mediation is considerably less expensive than litigated divorces, negotiated divorces, and collaborative lawyer divorces. Even when clients retain reviewing or consulting attorneys, the savings are substantial. At CMDR, we believe that not only is the process less costly, but the product we offer is structured to carry you through the future without returns to court or even mediation. In the long run, we believe the cost savings in money, time, and angst are incalculable.