Divorce mediation can happen over a series of meetings or in just one. Most of the time divorce mediation is starts with one meeting for four or eight hours, and if needed the parties agree to continue to another mediation at another date and time.
Mediation takes place with the parties with and without attorneys. In some cases, mediators prefer to start the mediation caucused. That means, they prefer to start with one party in one room, and the other party in the other room. In some cases it’ll be appropriate to bring everybody together; in other cases the husband-and-wife may not see each other during the mediation at all. Sometimes, it might be appropriate to bring the divorce lawyers together with the mediators to address issues.
The mediator will introduce himself or herself to the client and the attorney. The mediator will explain what mediation is and how it’s different from other forms of dispute resolutions.
The mediator will explain his or her role in the mediation process. Specifically, that the mediator is neutral and impartial and doesn’t take sides. The mediator can’t make decisions for the husband and wife, but hopefully can help the husband and wife make their own decisions. Finally, the divorce mediator is not a lawyer or a judge and cannot give the parties any legal advice or opinions. That’s a job for the lawyers.
The mediator will explain the unique aspects of the divorce mediation process: that mediation is confidential, that it is informal unlike court, and that the parties are allowed to present their positions and interests. Also, if a party needs to speak to a family member or professional regarding any questions that arise, they can contact the appropriate people to get their answers.
The mediator explains the ground rules of the process. For example, how is this going to go? How long are we going to be here? What are the arrangements concerning fees? Will this be in one session or multiple mediator sessions.
The mediator gathers information on the parties and their issues. In many cases, the attorneys will submit written memorandums to the mediator in advance of the hearing.
The mediator will identify the legal issues and develop an agenda for discussing and resolving them. Remember, most divorce cases have more than one legal issue to resolve. You must handle them one by one, and the mediator and the attorneys can decide which issues make sense to tackle first.
The mediator will use his or her mediation and negotiation skills to help move the parties towards compromise.
The mediator has helped the parties reach an agreement or at least an outline of one. The mediator will then go to both parties and see if this is exactly correct. If a deal is struck, then the mediator will begin drafting an agreement right away, usually with the help of the attorneys.
Finally, if and when an agreement is signed, the mediator will file the agreement with the clerk of the court, prepare a mediator’s report letting the court know what happened, and give copies of the final agreement to the parties and their attorneys.