FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are the Benefits of Divorce Mediation Over Litigation?
  • You retain control over your divorce process; and
  • Significantly less expensive; and
  • Limited time frame; and
  • Priceless benefits to your children and each other by reducing conflict so you may focus on your needs and the best interests of your children; and
  • Supports cooperative communication; and
  • Flexible meeting times in consideration of your work schedule and you set your own pace; and
  • Craft a unique agreement tailored to your specific circumstances; and
  • Avoid public disclosure of financial and personal matters since mediation is confidential.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

Your Attorney Mediator will guide you and your spouse in working together to reach an agreement. Mediators help couples separate their spousal role, which is ending, from their parental role, which is continuing. Couples learn to evaluate their present financial circumstances and provide for their future financial needs. With the Mediator’s guidance, agreements aim to resolve both immediate and long range concerns. The mediator will focus on your specific divorce issues and identify possible options. You will actively participate in the negotiations to resolve your divorce issues and create a mutually satisfactory agreement which addresses the needs of all family members. The Attorney Mediator’s goal is to guide a divorcing couple toward an acceptable settlement, with no winner or loser.

Is Mediation Cheaper Than Retaining Litigation Attorneys to Handle a Divorce?

Significantly.  We charge a set fee which is provided by the conclusion of your complimentary consultation.  Our fee which covers the entire mediation process is generally less than the initial retainer set by most divorce litigators.  You may be comforted by the fact that your retainer won’t be exhausted shortly into your divorce process and need to be replenished on a regular basis.

Typical divorce costs run significantly higher than the cost of mediation. Also, keep in mind that "cost" not only means dollars spent but the emotional cost to the parties and their children who suffer through litigated divorces. This emotional cost is also greatly reduced by the mediation process.

What Does The Attorney Mediator Do?

Your Attorney Mediator is a neutral party specially trained to help couples resolve the issues in their divorce.  Your Attorney Mediator provides information about the legal system, how issues may be viewed by lawyers or judges, and provides creative options for resolving issues.  She explores options and resulting consequences, but is not an advocate for either party. Your Mediator works to ensure that neither party dominates the other. Even though one party may be a more powerful negotiator, your Mediator helps to balance the power through the mediation process. She facilitates communication between the parties by ensuring that each party is given time to speak.

Your Attorney Mediator does not take sides; instead we aim to help both of you do your best.

What Should I Look for When Selecting a Divorce Mediator?

Experience.  Compassion.  Legal knowledge and experience. You will have the opportunity during your complimentary consultation to meet your Attorney Mediator to judge her experience and approach to mediation.  You should feel comfortable asking questions and your Attorney Mediator should be able to explain the relevant divorce law to you, provide you with clear answers to your questions, and mediate divorces on a regular basis.

One aspect that is very important in choosing your mediator is the final product…a well written Settlement Agreement.  What is your goal?  An Agreement that it is clear and specific on the four corners of the piece of
so that each of you and/or an attorney or judge who was not present in the mediation room will clearly understand your reasoning and process that lead to your agreed upon terms and conclusions. The terms should be as black and white as possible so that you don’t end up in court in the future fighting over what was meant and not clearly stated.

How Long Does Mediation Take?

The duration of the mediation process is measured in months not years as is often the case with litigation.  The number of sessions will depend on the issues which we will need to address to complete your divorce process, such as the division of assets, debt allocation, support and co-parenting issues. The complexity of the issues and ability of the participants to be flexible as they negotiate a fair agreement will also dictate the length of the mediation. Some couples want their divorce completed yesterday and others are in no hurry to finalize the process.  You have control over the pace of your divorce mediation, however, when the next step in the process is in our hands we pride ourselves on moving your matter forward as quickly as possible in order to keep our promise of providing a very different and distinct alternative to the litigation process.

What Topics are Covered During Divorce Mediation?

While each divorce is unique, an outline of the issues discussed during the divorce mediation process are:

Financial Issues/Equitable Distribution, such as how you are handling your marital residence (one party keeping or selling), division/allocation of bank or investment accounts, retirement accounts, debts, any investment properties and/or business ownership; and

Children, such as custody, parenting time schedules, child support and child care expenses, health insurance, college expense, tax considerations; andSpousal Support, such as alimony, health insurance, and tax effects.

In addition, we address the timing of the finalization of your divorce process and guidance to avoid future post-divorce issues.

We Don't Get Along Well - How Can We Possibly Mediate?

Some people understandably think that they must be amicable in order to mediate.  It is a common misconception.  While that is a terrific place to start, it is often unrealistic and communication may be at an all-time low when a couple is approaching the divorce process.  That is understandable.  There are many couples who are very emotional about their divorce.  Part of your Attorney Mediator’s training is to assist divorcing couples who have difficulty communicating but who still would prefer to work things out between themselves in order to retain control over the terms of their divorce, save money and/or expedite the divorce process.  Your Attorney Mediator will guide you through a problem solving process that encourages you to attack the problems, not each other.

How Can We Be Productive When We Can't Talk to Each Other?

The presence of a trained divorce Attorney Mediator dramatically changes the interpersonal dynamics of the divorcing couple. An accredited divorce Attorney Mediator has the skills necessary to foster constructive communication. Through the process, you come to understand that it’s in the best interests of your family to work together to reach an acceptable settlement. Your Attorney Mediator facilitates the communication and provides unbiased, relevant legal information and experience to assist you with your negotiation and resolution process. Your Mediator will provide information about the legal system, how issues may be viewed by lawyers or judges, and the alternatives for resolution of difficult issues.

What Are the Steps in the Divorce Mediation Process?

Consultation:  The couple is provided with the opportunity to meet your Attorney Mediator free of charge in order to determine whether this is the right process for you.  We explain and discuss the mediation process in detail so that the couple is able to make an informed decision about how they want to proceed.

Mediation Sessions: The couple and the mediator identify and discuss how to compromise on the various issues in order to meet the needs of both parties. Your Attorney Mediator will provide information about the law which is relevant to the couple’s issues and information about how their particular concerns would likely be addressed in their jurisdiction.

The Agreement: When an agreement has been reached on all issues, your Attorney Mediator drafts the Agreement for review by each of the parties and their attorneys, if any.

The Review Session:  After your Attorney Mediator has drafted your Settlement Agreement, the couple will meet with the Attorney Mediator in order to review the written terms so that both parties are comfortable that the formal Agreement properly reflects each person’s understanding of their agreement.

Will We Have to Appear in Court?

We have offices in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  No court appearances are necessary by either party for mediation in Pennsylvania.  In New Jersey one person will need to appear as the final step in the process in order to obtain your final Judgment of Divorce.  Your Attorney Mediator will explain this simple process.

Will our Agreement be Legally Binding and Enforceable?

Yes.  Once your Settlement Agreement is signed it is a legally binding contract.  Mediated Agreements are just as binding as the Agreements reached during the litigation process and they have a better record of standing the test of time because both parties participated in creating the terms of their Agreement.  When your divorce process is complete and your Divorce Decree is signed by a Judge, the Settlement Agreement will be incorporated into your Divorce Decree and the terms you have voluntarily agreed to will become a legally binding and enforceable Order of the Court.

How do Divorce Court Documents Get Filed?

Your Attorney Mediator will draft the court papers and provide detailed instructions to assist the parties in filing all papers with the court, including the Divorce Complaint, Acceptance of Service, the Final Marital Settlement Agreement, Decree and the court documents necessary to finalize your divorce process.

My Spouse is Very Powerful and Knowledgeable in Financial Matters - How Can I Hope to Be Successful in Mediation?

Your Attorney Mediator must maintain a balance of power in the mediation process.  Your Mediator will take the time to explain the topics which are addressed during mediation so that both parties understand the complexities of their marital estate and the decision-making process until both parties fully understand.  This is great practice for managing your new financially independent household.  This point illustrates how important it is to make sure that you choose a strong mediator who will maintain control of the process and now allow one dominant personality to run the show.  I have found that once the less experienced party is provided with the information necessary to make well-informed decisions, that they have been quite effective in the mediation process.

Should I Also Retain a Lawyer During Mediation?

You are always welcome to retain outside counsel before, during and/or after the divorce mediation process has begun. Neither party may bring an attorney into the mediation sessions, but a well-informed participant is always a good thing. At one point in the divorce mediation process, your Attorney Mediator will create and Attorney Draft specifically for attorney review and you are encouraged to have separate lawyers review your Agreement before you sign. During your divorce mediation process, your Attorney Mediator may provide legal information but is not permitted to provide legal advice.

Does Divorce Mediation Require a Retainer?

Some mediators charge a retainer and an hourly rate.  We do not.  We charge a set fee for the entire divorce mediation process.  You will know what the set fee is at the conclusion of your initial consultation prior to you making any commitment to the divorce mediation process.

Do We Owe it to Our Children?

Absolutely.  Divorce is often a traumatic experience.  Your divorce is generally going to be more difficult for your children. How you handle your divorce process may make all of the difference. When this divorce process is over, you will be the parents of your children forever.  It is clearly in your children’s best interests that the two of you to work together when your children are involved. Your marriage may be over, but your relationship with your children as their parents is forever.  Studies on the effects of divorce on children demonstrate that how you proceed through your divorce process may have more of an effect on your children’s well-being than the fact of the divorce itself. In addition, you are setting an example for them about how to resolve their differences.  Did the two of you sit down together to work out the details of your divorce or did you go to war?

Why Choose Divorce Mediation?

Separation and divorce are among the most painful and disruptive events that an individual and family can experience. The problems are both financial and emotional, deeply touching all members of the family. Mediation aims at reducing this tension. Our goal is to ensure that the divorcing process does not add to the problem. With the help of your Attorney Mediator, couples negotiate their own settlement and in the process may learn techniques for resolving future differences. Mediation is for couples who want to retain control over the decisions that affect their lives and don’t want their children caught in the middle. Mediation is not just for couples who already know how to cooperate for joint decision making. Your Attorney Mediator will guide you through the decision making process to resolve your divorce issues.

How Does Divorce Mediation Differ from Going to Court?

Divorce litigation is an adversarial process where attorneys argue for their client, 100% vs. 0%, which often leads to more court appearances and hurt/angry feelings. Divorce attorneys exchange information through complex discovery procedures which could take years for compliance and completion.  Interrogatories, depositions, expert (forensic accountants, therapists, etc.) analysis and testimony…the costs can be astronomical.

The divorce litigation process is very adversarial and geared toward winning at the expense of the opposing side.   Litigation generally takes years and tens of thousands of dollars.

Divorce Mediation enables you to work together to reach a mutually beneficial Agreement. Your Attorney Mediator will coach, educate and guide you through your both of your concerns.  There is less fighting and more problem solving so you may focus on your real needs and the best interests of your children. Mediation allows you to retain control over the process and have a hand in making your own well-informed decisions about your life and your family rather than having a judge or attorneys decide your future. Divorce mediation is also significantly less expensive and timely than litigation.

When Should We Begin Divorce Mediation?

Sooner rather than later is better so it is best to begin when you decide to divorce. Mediation will save you time, money and heartache.  Sometimes a couple comes to mediation out of frustration with the legal system after the emotional and financial toll, and disillusionment with the lack of progress after so much time and money has been lost. They often say they wish they had used mediation from the beginning.

If We Already Started the Divorce Litigation Process, Can We Still Mediate?

Absolutely

Suppose I’m Not Happy with Mediation?

You may choose to terminate the divorce mediation process and opt for the litigation route at any time.  Most couples who begin mediation do complete the process, but you are in control as the decision maker in the mediation process.  You choose how you wish to proceed.  It is important, however, to make a good faith effort to complete the mediation process once invested for the sake of your family and for each other.

Must We Be in the Same Room, or Can Our Mediator Act as a Go-between?

There are different models of mediation.  Some mediators will meet with each participant in separate rooms.  The process is called caucusing.  In the model of mediation which we use, both parties are always in the same room for substantive discussion.  This way both participants are comforted to know that nothing will occur behind his or her back.

Will the Mediator Pressure Us into Saving Our Marriage?

Mediators are not couples therapists. Their job is not to reunite you. Mediators focus on helping you arrive at a negotiated agreement to equitably settle your divorce issues and concerns.