What Questions Should I Ask a Divorce Mediator?
While mediation is often a good solution, couples need to find the right mediator to help them. First, a mediator should be a local lawyer experienced in mediating divorces. Mediation requires the preparation and filing of legal documents and deep knowledge of divorce laws in your state. A divorcing couple who uses a mediator who is not a divorce lawyer will still need an attorney to review documents and finalize the process. In addition, when a couple files for divorce, a court will often recommend mediation as a first step.
Divorcing couples who want to use a mediator should choose one as carefully as they would choose any legal counsel. The following are topics to address when searching for the right mediator.
Training and Experience
Ask how long they have been a mediator and what special training or certifications they have. Get a feel for their experience with areas of primary concern. Ask about the type of cases they typically handle and how many mediations they have managed.
While there are specific required and standard outcomes in a divorce, mediators may differ in their approach to getting there. Ask about the nature and frequency of meetings, virtual opportunities, the process and timeframe, needed information, and what your and your spouse’s roles in the mediation.
Mediators may charge by the hour, a flat fee, or by session. Will you pay a retainer or as you go? Be sure to understand the charges upfront, including any court fees and other miscellaneous expenses.
Some mediators will include ancillary services such as psychological counseling or financial planning in their services. Ask about these services and do not accept them if you do not want them. Keep in mind that costs will be split between you and your spouse.
A divorce comes with many required legal documents and court filings. Be sure to ask questions about what is included in the mediation agreement. Will they process the divorce for you? Are the documents included in their price? Do they offer ancillary services and at what costs? Remember that mediators who are not lawyers cannot prepare and file legal documents.
Experience With Children
Ask the mediator about their experiences developing parenting plans and performing child-centered divorces. Divorces with children take special knowledge of laws and unique skills in ensuring children remain at the forefront of thought and action in a divorce.
Be sure to know beforehand how you plan to pay and if that is acceptable to the mediator.
How They Handle Conflict
The point of mediation is for divorcing spouses to practice civility, fairness, and openness during the divorce process. A skilled mediator will usually accomplish this, but if one or both spouses refuse to play fair or are otherwise contentious, the process may not work well. Ask the mediator about their expectations and how they handle disagreements, conflicts, or uncivil behavior.
What Are Tips for a Successful Mediated Divorce?
The divorcing couple plays a significant role in the success and outcomes of mediation. They need to participate as much as their mediator does. The following are tips that can help divorcing spouses have a successful mediated divorce.
Have an Open Mind
Mediation is designed for fairness to both couples. Both parties should go into the process with a willingness to compromise, and if children are involved, a child-centered approach.
Agree to Civility and Respect
Mediation can help ease and balance emotions, but only if both people are willing to be civil. Mediation works best when couples approach the process with maturity and willingness to consider the other person’s feelings and needs. It is not the time for righting perceived wrongs.
Do Some Pre-Work
Have an open discussion and initial agreement with your spouse about some of the major outcomes you would like to see, such as parenting responsibilities, living arrangements, ownership of property, and similar topics. The more you can agree on beforehand, the better the mediation process will be, and it may be even quicker.
Gather Financial Information
Both spouses should have a good idea of assets and debts, including home and car values, and share this financial information with the mediator. Include insurance, medical care, and activity fees. This information will help move the process along and lessen surprises in the future.
Discuss Custody and Parenting Schedules
Have an honest discussion with your spouse about what custodial and living arrangements and visitation schedules will work best for the children. Agree with your spouse that the children will come first, always. Going into mediation with a good initial plan for the children can help the parenting plan be fair to both children and parents.
Discuss Pre-Divorce Living Arrangements and Financials
Divorce takes time, and both people need to live somewhere and continue to pay bills and expenses, especially if there are children. Civilly discuss these topics and have a plan of action so you can start mediation with the divorce itself.
Once both spouses have decided on a mediated divorce, act promptly to keep the momentum going. The internet is a great place to find child-centered, collaborative family law lawyers in your area. Interview one or more of them and together decide on whom you will use. You should feel comfortable with the mediator you choose.
Understand That There Is No Winning
Some people, especially those with higher incomes, wrongly assume they can get out of paying alimony if they use a mediator instead of going to court. This is unrealistic thinking. A mediator is wise and seasoned enough not to let one spouse get an unfavorable deal simply because they are not in a courtroom. You have the right to ask the mediator what is considered fair in your jurisdiction.
Ask for Written Memorandums
From the start, ask for a written memorandum of understanding after each session with the mediator. This will help both parties remember what was agreed upon. Make sure it is accurate and correct any erroneous information.
Marlton Divorce Lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A. Are Also Skilled Divorce Mediators
Our experienced Marlton divorce lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A. are skilled in making the divorce and mediation process as fair and civil as possible. Call us at 856-890-9400 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Marlton, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, and Gloucester County.