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Questions to Ask a Prospective Marriage Mediator

Questions to Ask a Prospective Marriage Mediator

1. What is the difference between a divorce mediator and a lawyer?

The divorce mediator is a neutral third person (a retired judge, an attorney, or a professional with subject matter expertise). Mediators do not represent anyone and do not have a fiduciary duty to any party. On the other hand, divorce lawyers represent the party who hired them and have a fiduciary duty to their clients. Unlike mediators, they are not neutral. Divorce lawyers pursue a case on behalf of their clients, aiming to defeat the opposite party at all costs. Contrarily, mediators stay neutral throughout the entire process, not taking sides.

2. What does the mediator do?

A neutral third person, divorce mediators possess in-depth knowledge and experience in divorce-related issues, including negotiation skills and psychology training. They facilitate negotiations without giving legal advice, proposing solutions, or resolving the issue. Unlike state-appointed judges, mediators do not have decision-making authority. The mediator motivates the parties to speak openly by giving them equal and uninterrupted time. In private sessions, the mediator identifies and evaluates each side’s arguments and the possibility of settling. In joint sessions, mediators facilitate negotiations and open discussions. When the need arises, mediators refer the couple to third-party experts (financial specialists, psychologists, coaches, etc.).

3. Why would someone hire a marriage mediator instead of going to court?

Going to court means engaging in an adversarial, time-consuming, and financially draining process. Litigation often wreaks havoc in an already disrupted relationship between former spouses. It is ineffective at bringing a genuine reconciliation. Contrarily, meditation helps spouses resolve a divorce-related dispute while reconciling former partners and setting the foundations for a productive post-divorce relationship. Mediation enables the spouses to openly discuss the root causes of divorce and achieve emotional reconciliation, helping them to engage in co-parenting roles after the divorce.

4. How does the process work?

The mediation process consists of several stages. First, the mediator introduces themselves. Then, the parties get the opportunity to offer opening statements regarding the dispute. After that, each party goes to a separate room for private talks with the mediator. The closed sessions are known as caucuses. The mediator moves between the rooms, listening to each side, and weighs its arguments..They are not allowed to reveal to the other party what is discussed in private sessions unless authorized. Following caucuses, the parties gather in joint sessions to discuss the disputed matter openly. The mediator does not resolve the dispute or propose a solution. Their role is to remain neutral, facilitating the negotiations. After bringing offers and counteroffers, the parties settle their issues peacefully. A successful process results in signing a mediation agreement. The divorcing couple can initiate the mediation process before or in the middle of litigation. Sometimes, the court can require them to try resolving their case out of court.

What does the mediator do

5. How does it work if we do not have kids together, but I am still fighting for child support and alimony?

Any mediation agreement must be following Florida laws and regulations, including child custody laws. Otherwise, it cannot produce a binding effect as a divorce judgment.

6. Will mediation affect any custody or property decisions we undergo through other legal channels like attorney negotiation, small claims court, or informal family negotiations?

No. Mediation is voluntary, and the parties have control over the process. By signing the agreement, you choose the mediator and determine the scope of mediation. The mediator will help you and your spouse negotiate only the issues you define at the beginning of the process. After you settle, you can litigate the remaining matters or come back to mediation when you feel the time is right.

7. How much will this cost me? Is it worth it for peace of mind and saving hard-earned money in the long run?

In litigation, each stage of the process (discovery, expert witness testimony, etc.) carries additional costs, contributing to the overall length and costs. Contrarily, mediation has no strict formal rules, meaning the process is quick and cost-effective. The mediator fees are much lower. There is a wide range of options when it comes to charging. Some mediators charge by the hour, while others bill by day or session. You can also negotiate to split the costs with the other party. Traditional litigation costs can be up to ten times higher than mediation costs. Besides, the emotional price for everyone involved is even more draining than financial burdens.

8. If we do not see eye to eye on property division, can the mediator do anything about it?

No. The mediator cannot issue a binding decision to resolve the dispute. They facilitate negotiations between the parties, assisting them in a settlement. Both parties must participate in negotiations and reach an agreement on all disputed issues, including the property division.

9. What if my spouse is more powerful and influential than me – does that affect the mediation outcome?

Mediation is a strictly neutral process. The mediator must remain impartial and unbiased throughout the entire procedure. No amount of power or influence can affect the equal balance between the parties. The mediator cannot take sides or favor one party over the other. If the disbalance of power disrupts the negotiation efforts, the mediator can stop the mediation, talking to each party separately, helping them to calibrate and continue negotiations in good faith.

Do I need a lawyer during mediation

10. Is marriage mediation confidential?

Confidentiality is a core feature of mediation. By signing a mediation agreement, both parties and the mediator pledge to keep everything revealed during the process confidential. That includes future litigation – parties cannot use the information they learned during mediation.

11. Do I need a lawyer during mediation?

The mediator does not represent any of the parties and does not provide legal advice. Therefore, hiring a lawyer during mediation is recommendable. Your lawyer can assist you during negotiations and help you review the mediation agreement before signing.

12. Does mediation involve appearing in court?

No. Mediation does not require you to appear in court. The mediator (as an attorney) will file all necessary papers with the court. That includes the initial action for dissolution of marriage, disclosure documents (if you initiated litigation before mediation), and the mediation agreement.

13. Is the mediation agreement enforceable?

If negotiations are successful, the mediator will help the spouses settle their dispute by signing a divorce mediation agreement. The agreement is legally binding and enforceable. If the mediator is an attorney, they can help you prepare a judgment according to the mediation agreement and file it with the court. After filing, it produces the same legal effects as a divorce judgment.

14. Is my case too complicated for an out-of-court settling?

No matter how complicated your divorce is, mediation is the best method for resolving all disputed issues. Even in high-net complex divorces, mediation is the most effective tool to end the marriage and enable a successful post-divorce relationship. Mediation often involves the participation of third-party experts (such as appraisers, accountants, actuaries, real estate specialists, child psychologists, etc.), helping the parties and the mediator deal with the most complicated financial matters. Mediation may not be suitable in rare cases (involving physical violence or substance abuse).

15. Does mediation offer additional benefits?

Mediation can offer more than just compensation or other financial benefits. Mediators actively engage in reconciling the spouses during negotiations, contributing to productive relationships after divorce. If you have children, mediators will help you keep fruitful communication and co-parenting links. Otherwise, spouses can benefit from mediation by building healthy and grown-up attitudes about divorce and improving their mental well-being.

16. What are the skills of a good divorce mediator?

The best marriage mediator understands the causes of divorce and complex financial issues. They successfully communicate and coordinate with experts from different fields. A good mediator has a high level of patience and compassion, using neutral and facilitative language. The most effective mediators maintain balance and equality between the parties throughout all sessions.

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