WHAT IS MEDIATION?
Mediation is one way for family members to resolve their own conflicts during and after divorce. The mediator, a neutral professional, helps participants clearly define the issues in dispute and tone down the communication process so a rational discussion can take place and agreements can be reached. The mediator does not make decisions for the family but helps the family make decisions that are in everyone’s best interest.
WHAT IS A DIVORCE MEDIATOR?
This is an attorney, or other professional, that is trained in mediating conflict. They do not tell you what to do, they simply create a structure wherein you and your spouse can communicate effectively and come to a meeting of the minds as to an agreement.
Rita Ros-Planas is a mediator. If you would like information on the mediation process contact us.
HOW DOES MEDIATION WORK?
The disputing individuals meet together with a neutral and objective professional who is trained to help parties solve problems in a cooperative manner. The mediator guides the communication process so that everyone has a chance to be heard and personal feelings can be put aside. Conflicts are discussed one at a time and various solutions are explored so that the best possible agreement can be reached. The mediator may offer suggestions and help parties develop options to resolve the issues, but the final agreement is up to the parties.
WHAT TYPES OF DISPUTES CAN BE RESOLVED?
Mediation can be helpful in resolving marital conflicts between spouses and family disagreements between parents and their children. It has been considered very beneficial to many couples experiencing disputes during and after divorce, particularly when children are involved. A mediator can help parents understand the needs of children and make decisions that are in their best interests. Mediation can facilitate working out solutions for the day-to-day care of children, division of property, and financial arrangements. Communication skills established during mediation often help with future planning and can establish future amicable and cooperative post-divorce parental relationships.
DO BOTH PARTIES HAVE TO PARTICIPATE?
Because mediation is a joint, cooperative, problem-solving process it is necessary for both spouses to participate. Participants need not feel friendly toward one another but should be respectful, courteous and willing to work together to find solutions that will be fair and meet the needs of all family members.
CAN MEDIATION HELP US GET BACK TOGETHER?
You and your spouse should seek marital counseling if either one of you have any doubts about getting a divorce. Mediation is not marital counseling. While feelings about the marriage and the decision to divorce may be discussed, the focus of mediation is to reach agreements so that parents and children may better adjust to the divorce and resolve future issues together.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?
Divorce often is a difficult time for everyone, especially children. It can be very comforting for children to see their parents working together to resolve issues rather than fighting and competing over them. In some cases, children may be invited to participate in mediation so that parents can consider their needs and feelings as plans are made that will directly affect them.
DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY?
Mediation is not a substitute for independent legal advice. Lawyer can help their clients understand the law, make informed agreements and complete the legal divorce procedure. The mediator focuses on helping participants reach their own agreements and does not represent either party nor advise participants about their legal rights.
ARE AGREEMENTS REACHED IN MEDIATION LEGALLY BINDING?
Mediation agreements may be drafted by the parties and the mediator as an informal working agreement, and/or a signed legally-binding contract which may be filed with the court. Signed agreements are legally binding. When those agreements are incorporated into a court order or divorce decree they are not only legally binding but also subject the parties to the contempt powers of the Court. Any change in agreements requires that the parties submit written modifications to the court.
WHAT IF WE CANNOT WORK IT OUT?
The mediation process may not resolve all issues but even partial agreements can help participants narrow the issues and limit the time and expense of hiring individual attorneys and of going to court. A “time out” from mediation and individual or couples counseling may help parties return to mediation and resolve the remaining issues. Issues that cannot be resolved completely in mediation can be addressed by the court for resolution.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Mediators in private practice usually charge by the hour and fees are typically shared by the parties. Mediation is often less costly, both emotionally and financially, than litigation.
HOW DO I SCHEDULE A MEDIATION SESSION?
Both parties should schedule a time to come in together. The mediator cannot meet with one party alone. There is a full explanation of how the process will work prior to the beginning of the initial session.
ARE THERE SITUATIONS WHERE MEDIATION IS NOT APPROPRIATE?
If there is a history of domestic violence or substance abuse in your relationship, you may not really be in a position to engage in mediation. For example, if you’re the victim of domestic abuse, your spouse will undoubtedly have the upper hand in mediation, and may even try to intimidate you with the threat of further physical abuse in order to force you to accept an unfair agreement. The agreements made during mediation must be voluntary; if you’re afraid of your spouse, or if your spouse is forcing you to accept unreasonable terms, you will walk away with an unfair agreement.
If you’re in this situation, you should contact an attorney and the local police department and/or domestic violence advocates for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is: 800-799-SAFE.
Take the time on your own to learn about legal matters in Virginia. This should never be used as a substitute for the advice of experienced counsel; this education empowers you and can help frame your discussions with your attorney.
Please contact us to schedule an appointment.