If you are involved in a divorce or child custody dispute, you will likely be asked if you want to participate in mediation. Sometimes you do not even have a choice if you want to participate in mediation: many of the local courts order that all parties must attend mediation.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third-party, the mediator, helps you and the other party reach an agreement. Because only about 5% of the cases proceed to trial, realistically you may be part of that 95% of the cases that settle.
Benefits of Mediation
Of course, the two main benefits of mediation are the cost savings compared to going to trial; and a decrease in hostility. Compared to going to trial, there are many benefits to mediation. For example:
- Mediation is informal and less stressful than going to trial.
- You can freely speak to your attorney during mediation and discuss the pros and cons.
- Mediation takes as little as a few hours up to a few days.
- You can schedule mediation at your convenience.
- You are in control over the outcome in mediation. You have the power to agree to a settlement or to reject it. You also have the option to fine-tune provisions to your liking.
When Should You Not Agree to Mediation?
If your spouse is hiding assets, you should not proceed to mediation until a period of thorough discovery. If you are scared of your spouse, mediation may not be right for you; and some judges will not order you to attend mediation or they will order some safety measures.
Should You Prepare for Mediation?
Yes, you should! At Kraayeveld Law, we prepare with you. There are many court-appointed mediators. We make sure that the best possible mediator is appointed to your case. That is only possible when we know the facts of your case and connect you to a mediator who will be understanding of your situation. Then, we prepare your case for mediation. We often provide the mediator with a mediation brief so that he or she is very familiar with your facts and prepared to address to your requests.
Is There anything Else You Can Do to Get Ready for Mediation?
If the Kraayeveld Law team represents you in your divorce or child custody, we will ask you to be involved and get ready for your case with us. For example:
- Let us know about good facts and bad facts. To hear the bad facts from the other party usually hurts your case.
- Make a spreadsheet with all your and your spouse’s assets and debts. That way you do not forget any.
- If we must make decisions regarding children, let us know about your and the other parent’s weaknesses and strengths.
- Take some time to think about your bottom line settlement and let us know.
- Don’t forget about the little, sentimental items. When your attorney is arguing for your fair share of the 401(k) plan, he or she will not consider that you may want some of your children’s baby photos.
- If we need to settle your child’s parenting time, write down your and your partner’s work schedule so that we can incorporate workable transfer times.
What Happens During Mediation?
Most mediators will require you to meet at his or her office. Some clients meet with the mediator without their attorney present. If you want to meet without your attorney present, you should make sure that your spouse also will not bring an attorney. After all, the negotiations should be fair.
Your mediator may send you a questionnaire about your children and your finances so that the mediator is prepared to ask you questions. You also will have to pay a retainer to the mediator and sign a mediation agreement. Most often, both partners are required to equally share the mediation fee.
Many mediation sessions last a few hours and if necessary another session will be scheduled.
If you are able to reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a written agreement while you wait. The mediator will ask both of you to review the agreement and sign it. If you have a Kraayeveld Law attorney with you during mediation, your attorney will review the agreement with you.
A Word of Caution.
The signed agreement is binding. Even if it is very casually written, sometimes it is even hand written, it is binding, and the judge will sign a judgment or order with the same terms. This means that you cannot have buyer’s remorse or second thoughts about the agreement. After a long day of negotiating, you will be tired. You will be emotionally drained. And, that will be the time when you’re asked to sign a very important written document. If you prepared for the mediation as we suggested, take a moment to review your notes if your agreement works with your schedule, does not exceed your bottom line and all assets and debts listed on your spreadsheet are included in the agreement.
Many divorces and child custody disputes are resolved during mediation. Many clients do not realize that the agreements reached during mediation will have lasting consequences. Many clients fail to prepare. At Kraayeveld Law, we often suggest that our clients attend mediation. But, we will never suggest that our clients attend mediation ill prepared. If you are ordered to attend mediation, please contact the Kraayeveld Law team so that we can prepare and attend mediation with you to obtain the best results possible.