Gresham Mediation FAQ
Are there other ways to settle our divorce without going to court?
Yes, there are several options you can follow: You can learn more about various methods to resolve you divorce without court by using some of the terms discussed below, or find and compare the various professionals trained in these skills. Mrs. Watson would be glad to discuss your choices at an initial consultation.
I have heard the term Alternate Dispute Resolution. Is mediation a type of this method of settling our divorce? Mediation or collaborative law are both examples of alternate dispute resolutions. It is important that you choose the correct method to fit your circumstances. These are but options to assist you in coming to your own decisions, with the support you need you and your spouse can reach a final agreement. Whether you have a short-term marriage, have children, own property or have joint debts, these can be resolved through mediation. The arising or unresolved issues will determine how much time and planning it will take to end your marriage. Sometimes it is quite simple, sometimes more complicated. That is why one method is not right for every couple.
Can Mrs. Watson explain various options available to use?
Yes, in her initial consultation she will discuss processes available to you. Your choices include coaching, mediation, mediation or full lawyer representation. An initial consultation is not a commitment, but an opportunity to choose the route that will meet your needs. Mrs. Watson has practiced family law since 2001. She was an active trial attorney for over 15 years and has assisted in settlement in hundreds of cases. Her practice currently focuses on various methods to resolve divorce outside of litigation. She has completed extensive training in both collaborative law and mediation.
What is the purpose of mediation in finalizing a divorce?
Mediation is a process where both spouses discuss their differences to resolve their divorce with the help of a neutral professional. A trained mediator often has a background or training as a counselor, or a child specialist; many attorneys are also trained in mediation. Through mediation, individuals can reach a final agreement which then can be turned into an enforceable judgment.
How is mediation used in a divorce? When a husband and wife have decided to divorce, they may agree on several aspects of their divorce; but often there are one, two or more areas where they cannot agree. With the use of a mediator (a neutral professional) as a guide, they can discuss their different positions and often reach an agreement without resorting to asking the court to make the final decision for them. Not anyone should act as a mediator as they need to understand their role in not siding with one spouse or insert their own opinions. A V:\Z Lillian\Marketing\BAd file Mediation Questions a.docx
mediator is not acting as a Judge, although they may have experience they share about the court's role in the process.
What is the benefit of using an attorney experienced in family law as a mediator?
Many family lawyers are trained in mediation which provides the skills needed to be a neutral. Because they are a neutral, they cannot take sides or provide legal advice, but that does not mean they cannot explain legal principles or guidelines. This advice is provided in a neutral manner that allows you both to understand how the court would review the question but the decision you reach may be based on the law or on your joint choices.
How long does the process take?
It can be completed in a few meetings. Expect at the very least three in addition to the initial conference. The timing will depend on your and Mrs. Watson's availability to meet and your time concerns. Mrs. Watson will schedule meetings on Saturdays or late afternoon into the early evening when possible.
What if we cannot reach an agreement?
Once Mrs. Watson is your mediator, she ethically cannot represent either of you in either the collaborative or traditional method, all mediation discussions are confidential. You are not prevented from switching to a collaborative method or traditional litigation if all efforts to settle fail. In fact, Mrs. Watson encourages you both to have your settlement reviewed by an outside attorney. Hopefully your mediation is successful, but starting the process or attempting mediation is often worth the attempt at settling all of your unresolved issues.
What can I expect at the initial conference?
When you initially meet with the mediator/ attorney she will want to learn about you both and whether this is a suitable process for your resolution. Where there is a great deal of power in balance, or there is a history of physical violence or mental abuse, mediation may not be the right process for dissolving the marriage. However, another choice would be to use two attorneys trained in a "collaborative method" which still keeps your divorce in your control but each of you have separate attorneys. I will discuss collaborative divorce process later and focus on the mediation process.
How much will it cost to complete our divorce through mediation?
Mrs. Watson will review costs in more detail at your initial meeting, but she charges $125 for the initial meeting (about 30-45 minutes). At the initial meeting, she will review your issues, help you determine if mediation is appropriate in your circumstances and estimate how many meetings she anticipates the process to take. She will ask you to complete "homework" so that you each understand where you stand financially both before and after your divorce. After the initial meeting, it should take one full meeting to determine what issues will need to be addressed, as many meetings as necessary to discuss other more complicated issues and then a meeting to document your final decisions. Usually this process is faster and more economical than you proceeding through the courts in a traditional method.
What if we need an additional meeting or two to reach an agreement?
Mrs. Watson would then charge for additional time at $200.00 per hour as needed so there is no reason not to finish. This is one of the benefits of mediation, as you do not depend on a court calendar but can set meetings as many times or during a specific time frame as needed. Mrs. Watson can set several meetings in advance based on your schedule, but it is important that you have the documents needed to make informed decisions.
Who can we have prepare our final court documents?
You can have your individual attorney(s) prepare documents based on your mediated agreement; you can file self-help form; or, you can have Mrs. Watson prepare co-petition documents to be filed with the court. If you request that Mrs. Watson prepare your final documents, we will need a meeting to review draft documents and one to sign and finalize the process. Often Mrs. Watson will offer a package price for document preparation after she understands the issues that need to be addressed. Remember you are not legally divorced until a circuit court judge approves and signs your Judgment.
What if each of us have already hired our individual attorneys?
Mrs. Watson has worked with many of the family attorneys in our metropolitan area. Check with your attorney and see who they recommend as a mediator. Remember you are always the client and you have the choice to choose who you would like to resolve your family issues. Mediation is required in some counties before the court will schedule a trial in front of a Judge, so your attorney has been trained with how to use mediation in various circumstances. Often an attorney may elect to be a part of this process and could attend some sessions.
What if we have children? If you have children under 18, or if your children are between 18 and 21, the divorce judgment must address their needs. Again, you and your spouse can make many if not most of the decisions regarding custody and parenting time. If you are uncertain how to define your ongoing relationship with your children, you can use the free country parenting time mediators or ask Mrs. Watson for guidelines. There are lots of tools you can use and she can point you to professionals to help with this decision. Again, if you resort to traditional litigation, a judge will decide your parenting time. Although most parties eventually settle the question of custody and parenting time, your attorney may spend hours (which equals cost) preparing for trial. When you elect mediation (or collaborative method) you both keep the decisions between you. This can help you in your co-parenting together after the divorce is final (and save time and money).
Who decides the amount of child support that will be ordered?
The amount of child support is decided on various statutory factors and a judge is reluctant to sign off on any agreements that do not comply with the statutory formula. However, there are various factors that are considered. Mrs. Watson is experienced in establishing child support and can work with you both to arrive at an amount that is fair and agreeable to both parents. Remember if your child is between 18 and 21, they become a party to your divorce and have a right to be supported by their parents.
What is the collaborative method?
Instead of having one neutral professional, you have two trained attorneys who help you settle your divorce amicably. Again, you use trained attorneys (who may also be trained as a mediator) but each has the advice of your own attorney to reach a final agreement. Again, the negotiations are confidential and are focused on settlement. Your attorneys will help you decide if you need outside professionals (trained coaches) in areas such as custody or child issues, financial advice, appraisal experts or other coaches to help you through the process.
Does a collaborative divorce cost more than mediation?
It is likely it will cost more as you are using two attorneys to make decisions. However, if either of you need your own attorney to provide you individual legal advice, collaborative law may be the option for you. Again, you are avoiding the costs that a family attorney often incurs when appearing in court for various issues. In some cases, court is the right direction if you cannot agree. If you and your spouse can reach a settlement in several meetings you may be able to resolve your divorce in a much faster time frame and be in control of your legal costs.