Mediation is a dispute resolution process where you and your former spouse work together with a mediator to reach a customized agreement on matters related to your separation.
The mediator is a neutral third party who facilitates you and your former spouse in reaching a mutual agreement. The mediator does not make any decisions for you, instead they empower and support you and your former spouse in making those decisions yourself.
The mediation process provides a forum for creative and personalized solutions for you and your family. It is less formal than court, and gives you and your former spouse the decision-making authority over your future and the future of your children.
The mediation process can be used to resolve a wide variety of family law disputes, including parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support, property and debt division, relocation issues and more.
As part of the mediation process, you may also choose to bring in the services of various professionals to provide expertise on issues you are deciding. Some professionals that we regularly use are child specialists, divorce coaches, property appraisers, business valuators and financial specialists.
We prefer to refer to separation as “family restructuring”. In other words, especially if you have children, your family is not “splitting” or “separating”, instead you are establishing a new family construct. The litigation process is often ill equipped to deal with this restructuring concept, instead designed to right a wrong that may not exist or need redress. Through the mediation process, our focus is on empowering you to build your new family structure and the next chapter of your life with confidence.
Mediation puts you and your former spouse in the decision-making seat, allowing you to design a custom plan for your futures. Unlike litigation, you and your former spouse decide on what your future will look like. Our role as mediator is to facilitate and support that decision making process, helping you reach an agreement that is fair, workable and enduring.
Another benefit to mediation is that it can be much faster, and more cost-effective than other dispute-resolution methods. It is not uncommon for parties proceeding through the court system to take years to resolve their matter. In mediation you can often walk away with a written separation agreement within months. As a result of the reduced time required (fewer legal fees), and the less formal nature of mediation (no complex forms or court filing fees), it can be a very cost-effective solution for families.
The format of a mediation can vary from family to family, but typically involves four main stages: selecting a mediator, having pre-mediation meetings, attending mediation session(s), and drafting the written agreement. Our mediation process generally looks something like this:
We offer a free 15 minute consultation to provide you with a summary of the mediation process and answer any questions you may have about it. Typically this occurs over the phone.
2. Intake Forms
Our next step is to obtain more detailed information from you. We will ask you to complete two forms- our General Information Form, and a Financial Information Form. These get returned to our office at least one week before the scheduled pre-mediation meeting.
3. Pre-Mediation Meetings
Once you and your former spouse agree to mediate with us, we schedule a pre-mediation meeting with each of you individually. The purpose of these meetings is to gather background information from each of you to get a sense of the priority of issues you wish to mediate, and to do the mandatory screening to ascertain that this process is the best fit for you. At this point we will provide you with an Agreement to Mediate, which governs how the mediation will occur.
4. Pre- Mediation Independent Legal Advice
Prior to mediation, we strongly encourage each party to have a meeting with a lawyer so that they can come to the mediation with an understanding of their legal rights and obligations. We recommend that you bring your General Information Form and Financial Information Form to the meeting with your lawyer as this can expedite the process. We also encourage you to review your Agreement to Mediate with the lawyer at this stage.
Once the above steps are complete, the first joint mediation session will be scheduled. Some people will come to mediation on their own, while others choose to come with their lawyer.
If you come on your own, we structure the sessions to allow you to obtain legal advice before formalizing any final decisions. In order to facilitate this, the mediation is usually spread out over a few sessions. At the end of each session, we provide you with a summary of what was discussed and any agreements reached, so that you can easily discuss this with your lawyer.
If you are attending with a lawyer, oftentimes mediation can be completed in one day.
6. Written Agreement
Once you and your former spouse agree to all the terms, and have both had the opportunity to get legal advice on those terms, you will need a written separation agreement. If you have a lawyer, they will typically draft this for you. If not, we will do it. After the agreement is drafted, it is important to have the agreement reviewed by lawyer. We will provide you with instructions on how to file it with the court, should you wish to do so.
Every family going through a restructuring has its own unique needs, and this means the cost for every file will vary. Factors that will influence overall cost include how complex your financial situation is, whether or not you have children and what their needs and interests are, the ability of you and your spouse to communicate effectively, and your general organization skills.
In mediation, the parties typically share the mediator’s fees equally. If parties have their own lawyers, each is generally responsible for paying their own legal fees. Any professionals the parties agree to retain to help them in their decision making is usually shared equally by the parties.
Laura Allen’s fees for mediation are $250/hour ($125 each) + tax. You are billed for all time spent on your file, including pre-mediation meetings; email communications before, during or after mediation; the mediation sessions themselves; and, if required, the time spent drafting a written agreement.