What is Mediation?
Simply put, mediation is a way of resolving disputes and reaching agreements without court intervention. Mediation is managed negotiation. Conflict is a fact of life and a whole spectrum of methods is available for its resolution. Often people can resolve conflict themselves in face-to-face negotiation. At the other end of the scale, litigation uses the formal methods of the courts and adversarial attorneys for resolution. Arbitration and mediation, in various forms, have developed to meet the need of resolving conflict with less formality and cost than litigation.
What Types Of Disputes & Conflicts Can Be Resolved By Mediation?
Mediation is a very versatile tool for negotiation. It can be used to resolve many types of disputes resulting from marital dissolution, separation of non-married couples, separation of business partners, child custody and co-parenting, disagreements between parents and children, stepfamily disputes, and conflicts between neighbors or family members.
It can also be helpful in forming premarital agreements, relationship agreements and business partnerships. It can assist in real estate transactions and other contractual relations.
Are Agreements Reached In Mediation Legal And Binding?
The goal of the mediation process is a settlement agreement. This agreement, once it is signed by the parties, is just as legal and binding as any settlement agreement reached by other means (i.e., through the courts).
In a dissolution situation, your settlement agreement will become a part of your court order. Our office will provide you with the court forms and instructions for filing the forms, or will prepare and file the court forms for you for a reasonable fee. No court hearing will be required.
What Is Necessary For Us To Begin Mediation?
All that is necessary is a willingness to sit down with a mediator and a commitment to work out an agreement that is fair to all concerned.
In the case of marital dissolution or separation, it is not necessary to have separated. It is not even necessary to have made a firm decision to end the relationship. It also does not matter whether one or both parties has seen or is still seeing an attorney.
How Does the Mediation Process Work?
The work of a mediator is to facilitate the negotiation of the parties. Patsy guides the communication process between the mediating parties so that each has an opportunity to be heard. She will urge each person to speak up for themselves and make clear their feelings and opinions. Conflicts are discussed one at a time and various options are explored.
Fairness must be defined by the mediating parties after considering all of the information they have developed.
Patsy will ask for certain types of information from each party such as concrete information or hard data concerning the issues that need to be resolved, and personal information which relates to each person’s goals, fears, concerns, desires and assumptions.
Patsy provides legal information relevant to the dispute. Patsy may offer suggestions and help the parties to resolve the issues, but the final agreement is up to the mediating parties. Unlike an arbitrator, a mediator does not make the decision for the parties.
How Long is the Mediation Process?
The average number of visits to our office is two to six. Each visit typically lasts one and one-half to two hours and visits are scheduled at approximately three week intervals.
What is the Cost?
Mediation is often much less costly, both financially and emotionally, than litigation. Clients are charged Patsy’s hourly fee on a “pay as you go” basis. There is no retainer charged. The only time money is paid in advance is when Patsy is ready to draft the settlement agreement. At that time she will estimate the amount of time she expects to spend (typically one and one-half to two and one-half hours). She then asks that clients leave a deposit towards that work.
What is Patsy's Role as Mediator?
Acting as a bridge between the parties, Patsy helps them communicate with each other. Sometimes the feelings of separateness, anger, guilt or remorse that led to the dispute interfere with the parties’ ability to talk to each other. Patsy creates an environment where the parties can speak to and listen to each other. She helps them identify and clarify their issues.
Patsy helps clients gather the information necessary to resolve their issues as she guides them through the decision-making process so both parties can make informed decisions and be satisfied with their resulting agreements.
Defining fairness by the parties after considering all of the information they have developed is an important part of the mediation process.
Do we Both Have to Participate?
Yes, it is necessary for both parties to participate in mediation. Participants need not feel friendly towards one another but should be willing to work together with the mediator to make their needs known during the negotiation process and be willing to work together until satisfied that their agreements are fair.
What are the Ground Rules of Mediation?
The mediation process is confidential; what you say in mediation cannot be used against you if you have to go to court later. Additionally, it would be unethical for Patsy to be a witness for either of you. Patsy, as mediator, will not communicate by phone or in person with either client without the other being present or being involved in a conference call.
Patsy does not advise or represent either client individually. All relevant financial information has to be furnished at the request of either client or Patsy. Clients have the right to terminate mediation at any time and Patsy has the right to terminate mediation if relevant information is not being disclosed or if either client is unwilling to focus on a fair agreement.
Are the Services of Other Professionals Necessary for Mediation?
Patsy does not require that you see another attorney. However, since she does not represent either party individually she will always recommend that you have the Mediation Settlement Agreement reviewed by a consulting attorney before you sign it. There are circumstances in which the services of actuaries, accountants or business appraisers can be helpful.