Divorce Mediation Tips & FAQ’s
I hope the following will answer many of your questions about divorce mediation. If you have other questions about how mediation would work in your separation, divorce or other family matter, please contact me.
Is mediation legally binding?
Any mediated agreement may become the basis of an enforceable contract if the parties wish it to be. In divorce or child custody cases, the mediated agreement may be incorporated into a legal document that is filed in court and becomes part of the divorce decree. The mediator cannot force the parties to accept any form of settlement. If the mediation does not result in an agreement satisfactory to both parties, they are free to litigate the case in family court.
How long does it take?
The time it takes to reach resolution in mediation depends upon many factors, including the number and complexity of issues involved, the timing and frequency of mediation sessions, and the participants’ emotional state and level of cooperation. I have helped people reach resolution in as few as two sessions in one week and in as many as 20 sessions over the course of a year. Regardless of the factors at play in your situation, one thing is certain. Mediation takes less time than the legal process to resolve difficult family conflicts because you are working together to resolve the issues rather than strategizing against one another to “win.”
How much does it cost?
Mediation is charged by the hour and there is no retainer fee. While the cost of mediation depends upon the time involved, you can be sure that it will cost less than the collaborative law process and a fraction of the expense of litigation, where costs include retainers for two attorneys, and escalate significantly as your case is prepared for hearings and trial.
Do I need an attorney?
You don’t need an attorney in order to participate or succeed in mediation. However, it’s important to know that although your mediator is a lawyer, she will not be working as your legal advisor. For legal advice, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney during the mediation process. Understanding the range of legal outcomes can be helpful in negotiations and promotes fully informed decision-making. At the same time, relying solely on the law produces more limited options than the customized solutions you are free to establish in a mediated Separation Agreement.
Can a mediator file divorce papers?
You do not need a lawyer to file for an uncontested divorce. Though your mediator will not file divorce papers on your behalf, you can file yourself by submitting your mediated Separation Agreement and court filing forms and fees with the court in your appropriate jurisdiction.
Court filing instructions and forms for Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia are generally available online or in the courthouse.
Can we do mediation by phone or skype?
It is still possible to mediate when you live in different parts of the country or on the other side of the world. Mediation can take place via telephone or skype when it is not possible to meet in person.
What if we can’t talk to each other?
That describes a lot of my mediation clients! It’s not unusual for people going through divorce to have experienced a complete breakdown in communication. And many are surprised to find that, with some help, they are able to talk constructively with one another, often for the first time in a long time. It is possible to successfully mediate your divorce even though you may begin the process with intense feelings of anger, hurt and distrust.