At the Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution (CMDR), we have been compiling a list of questions most frequently posed by prospective clients. With this article, we hope to respond to some of your concerns and provide you with the information needed to select the process best selected to managing your separation and/or divorce.
How long does mediation take?
This question ranks high on the most frequently-asked scale. It is also a most difficult question to answer, since without knowing the couple or their situation, it is truly hard to estimate time. However, based on twenty-eight years of experience, the average mediation takes seven sessions with each session being two hours long.
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.
Can we prepare ahead?
The short answer is yes, but 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 let the mediator help them to determine what can be handled outside 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 demonstrates to the judge that they have given careful thought to their present and future needs and concerns.
Do you have a free consultation?
CMDR does offer a free one-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 have also offered conference calls as a prelude to beginning mediation.
It is important to know that at CMDR, staff is available from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to answer your questions and provide information.
Are there individual meetings or does the couple 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 expanding 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 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, education, and the facilitation of communication. Despite assistance, the couple 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.
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 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 even 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.
Please Call Our Office For Answers To Your Questions – 781.239.1600