Frequently Asked Questions

What is Mediation?

Mediation is an opportunity for the parties to a lawsuit, whether it is a divorce or a civil suit, to settle their case. If they are able to do so, with the aid of a skilled mediator, they can reduce the significant financial and emotional costs often associated with litigation. The role of the mediator is to help the parties communicate and explore options which can lead to settlement. The mediator does not tell the parties how to settle their case, simply assists them in discussing ways in which they can solve their dispute on their own terms. This is accomplished in a controlled environment in which both parties can feel safe in expressing their thoughts and feelings. The skilled mediator has many tools available to him to help the parties explore solutions which may not have occurred to them. By allowing the parties to communicate freely and openly in a safe environment, the mediator can improve each party's understanding of the other party's perspective.

When is the best time to use mediation?

There is no wrong time for mediation. It is always preferable to the alternative of spending thousands of dollars on attorneys fees in the hope that the judge might see things your way. Some people choose mediation even before they hire lawyers to represent them. Others may wait to mediate until they are well into the legal process. Many courts require parents to mediate before asking a court to decide custody and visitation. If you are represented by an attorney, that attorney can often advise you as to when mediation is more likely to be successful. Each case is different and it's very difficult to predict the perfect timing for your case. As long as a couple is willing to try mediation, an experienced mediator can often bring the parties to an agreement.

Why mediation?

There are many reasons for families to choose mediation, including:

  • Reduces the cost and time involved in litigation
  • Reduces the emotional stress and uncertainty of litigation
  • Creates less trauma for the children
  • Deals with unique needs of each family
  • Allows each parent to experience success and learn how to communicate and cooperate on issues that affect their children
  • Reduces conflict within the family
  • Teaches children a healthy way to resolve conflict
  • Permits spouses to divide property and debts and decides future financial obligations, rather than risk a court decision that neither of them like
Can you describe a family situation that would benefit from mediation?

Your marriage is coming to an end and your life is about to change dramatically. During such an intensely stressful time, you must make decisions about dividing property and debts, future financial obligations, and, most importantly, the future of your children. Will you allow lawyers and judges to direct your future, or do you want to control those decisions? Let's say you and your spouse have separated and you both have retained lawyers. Divorce proceedings have commenced. Perhaps things have not yet gone that far. You and your spouse are still living under the same roof but have decided to terminate your relationship. In either case you are probably wondering what is going to happen to your children, your property, and your money. The emotional level between you and your spouse make it very difficult for the two of you to calmly discuss these issues. At the same time, you don't want to spend thousands of dollars on attorney's fees to let a judge, who has never met your children, decide what is going to happen to them. There is a better way to deal with your future. There is a way you and your spouse can collaboratively decide when your children will be with you, how you and your spouse are going to make future decisions about them, how you are going to divide property and debts, and what will be your future financial obligations.

Can mediation really work in my case?

Sometimes couples, who are on reasonably good terms when they are ending their relationship, have worked through some of their issues, but need some assistance in resolving the remaining issues. In those cases, mediation is a great fit. However, mediation can also work in cases where the parties are not necessarily on the best of terms, or communicating well. Even in those cases, mediation can help parties resolve property, financial and parenting issues. A skilled mediator can remind parents that they have one very important common interest: their children. The mediator can help the parties refocus their attention away from their emotional pain toward their parenting and assets/debts issues. Parents can learn that they can communicate and cooperate because, for their children's sake, they must.

What are your fees? Is it less expensive?

Most mediations are scheduled for two-hour sessions. Few mediations are resolved in a single session. However, even if your mediation takes several sessions to reach an agreement, you have saved thousands of dollars in attorney's fees, as well as untold emotional stress on yourself and your children.

  • Average cost of a contested divorce ranges from $7,500-$30,000 or more per spouse (not including trial)
  • Average cost of mediation for a divorce: $1,500 (approx.)
What is Collaborative Divorce?

In collaborative divorce, spouses and their attorneys commit to resolving family legal issues reasonably and fairly without litigating in court. Read More

Does a case have to be filed before mediation can happen?

I have helped many couples, both with and without counsel, settle all the issues in their case through mediation before the case is ever filed. Once an agreement has been reached, the couple then simply needs to file the appropriate papers with the court to finalize the divorce. The judge will approve the couples' agreement and enter a divorce, upon the filing of the appropriate paperwork.

What if my question isn't listed here?

You can find out more about mediation and collaborative law on our Services page. Also check the Resources page for links to related websites and literature. Please feel free to contact Hugh with any questions you have about the process in general or how we might help with your particular situation.

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