Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Advantages of Mediation?

  • Help with the complexity: Family law has become increasingly complex and you may find that you cannot or do not want to represent yourself and need professional help when you separate or divorce. Financial and tax issues can be complicated and few non-lawyers are fully aware of all the issues that need to be considered. Emotional issues and communication problems can make direct, unassisted negotiations between you and your spouse very difficult. Yet, the traditional adversarial system is expensive, often public, sometimes slow, and can distance you and your spouse even further by the positional bargaining that is the basis of the traditional system by reducing your chances to talk directly with each other.

  • Understanding the law: I am an experienced family lawyer and I will help you understand the legal issues and guide you through the settlement process. All issues raised by separation and/or marital termination, including parenting, child support, spousal support, division of property and debts, and the costs of the process can be handled effectively in mediation. Although I am neutral, I do give you lots of legal overview information designed to help you in your decision-making process.

  • Lower costs: You and your spouse share my costs rather than individually paying for two opposing attorneys. However, I do strongly recommend and encourage each of you to have a consulting attorney. I can answer questions as they arise and offer various options that you might want to consider in reaching a resolution. Because I meet with both you and your spouse simultaneously, issues are resolved more quickly. Furthermore, you, rather than the court system or process, set the pace at which the mediation proceeds. Perhaps most important, in mediation you can work directly with your spouse to create an agreement that works for you and your family.

  • Problem solving skills: Many people feel they learn valuable problem-solving skills through the mediation experience and become therefore are more invested in the outcome. If you have minor children, you can use those skills in future situations, making it less likely that there will be costly litigation.

  • Feeling heard: I will work with you using communication techniques designed to help you hear one another, communicate your needs and concerns and to feel heard in the process.

When is Mediation Inappropriate? Mediation is not for everyone.

  • Mistrust: If you do not trust your spouse to disclose information in an open and transparent manner

  • Violence and/or abuse of any kind: If you have experienced emotional, psychological, verbal or physical violence, you will probably be better served by another process.

  • You tend to “give in” to avoid conflict: If you are inclined to give in to everything your spouse requests, either out of guilt, fear or the hope of reconciliation, mediation is probably not the best choice.

  • Can’t or won’t sit at the same table as your spouse: If you are not comfortable sitting at the same table and communicating directly with your spouse, you may wish to consider another process.

    What is the Mediation Process in your office?

  • Call or e-mail me for an appointment: The first step is taken when you or your spouse contact this office to request an initial appointment. I will then obtain some basic information and set an initial appointment. Please go to the “Appointment Options” link for more information.

  • The initial appointment: Whether you choose the “long” or “meet and greet” option (see appointment options) I will describe the Mediation process, my style and how I work. You will have the opportunity to ask me any questions about the process and to interview me. If you have a long appointment and choose to begin mediation that day, we will discuss your situation, and then begin the process. You will be asked to sign the formal Agreement and Consent to Mediate which includes my fee requirements and will be sent to you and your spouse before the meeting. If you choose a “meet and greet”, I will give it to you at that time.

  • Outline goal and concerns: We will work on a preliminary outline of your goals and concerns. Although you might hope to begin work on specific issues immediately, it is important not to rush this preliminary stage; if both you and your spouse do not have a good initial sense of what you hope to accomplish and how to reach your goals, the specific issues are less likely to be resolved in a mutually satisfactory way. However, we may address immediate financial or parenting concerns at the first meeting.

  • Set future agenda: At subsequent mediation sessions, you and your spouse will set the agenda with my guidance. We will usually do this at the end of the previous session. You will gather information between sessions. Sometimes, it is useful to seek the assistance of neutral experts to value property, analyze income, or assist with tax or financial planning. If there are substantial disagreements about parenting issues, you and your spouse may decide to consult with a child custody mediator who is a mental health professional with special expertise on children of divorcing or separating parents and custody arrangements. I can give you referrals if need be.

  • Draft the Agreement: Once you and your spouse agree on all issues, I will draft a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) incorporating these agreements in a form acceptable for inclusion in a Family Law Judgment. This Agreement should be fully reviewed by you and your consulting attorney. The completed Agreement will then be appropriately signed.

  • Submit to court: The Judgment, with the agreement attached, is then submitted to the appropriate court for signature. It is even possible to complete a partial agreement if some but not all issues are resolved in mediation; unresolved issues can then be addressed in traditional representation, if needed. I will also prepare all appropriate court forms based on the information provided by you and your spouse and ensure that they are completed and filed appropriately.

Who are Consulting Attorneys? I strongly recommend that all mediation clients retain consulting attorneys during the mediation process although I do not require it.. Consulting attorneys give you want legal advice or assistance during the mediation process and they support you during the process. They are NOT there to talk you out of agreements or advocate going to court.. After an agreement is reached and a Marital Settlement Agreement drafted, you should review the Agreement with your consulting attorney to make sure that you understand the legal significance of the agreement and the ramifications of your decisions. This adds greater assurance that the Agreement is complete and properly expresses your understanding of the mediated settlement and it makes the Agreement far more difficult to overturn in the future. Although this may increase the cost of mediation, most parties appreciate this additional resource. The extent to which you use your consulting attorney is entirely your choice. A list of consulting counsel will be sent in advance of your first meeting or be given to you at that time.

What is the Cost of Mediation? There is no way to predict the cost of mediation in advance because the cost is directly related to the complexity of issues in a case, and the motivation and ability of you and your spouse to resolve them. It is generally safe to say that a mediated agreement will cost less than one litigated or negotiated by traditional attorneys. But even mediation can be expensive. Out-of-pocket expenses such as filing fees, appraisals, and other professionals fees are charged in addition to mediator time. I normally require the payment of a deposit before beginning the first session which is not a flat fee or guarantee of the total cost. The total cost will depend a lot on you and your willingness to work together and compromise.