Most frequently asked questions & answers
The biggest difference is the amount of support you receive during the process. In Mediation, you both generally work with a single neutral mediator. In Collaborative Divorce, you each have a collaborative attorney advising and representing you throughout. For more information, see this comparison of the different processes.
Because mediation is a voluntary process, both parties must consent to using it. And success in mediation requires the genuine participation of both parties, so it’s important that both you and your spouse are fully on board with trying to resolve your conflict through mediation.
Encourage them to learn more about mediation so they can make an informed choice. Once people understand that they retain complete control over the outcome of the mediation process, they realize that trying it shouldn’t feel like a risky endeavor. And the more they learn about the potential benefits in terms of preserving relationships, protecting children, and potentially saving time and money, they are often excited to try it. Please suggest that they visit the section of my website which provides more information.
It is a common misconception that mediation is only for couples who have a friendly relationship. The overwhelming majority of people seeking mediation are in conflict and are not able to communicate effectively enough to resolve it. All that is required to succeed in mediation is a genuine willingness on both people’s part to work together to try to find solutions that make sense for everyone.
Yes. We will enter into a written mediation agreement which will specify that our discussions remain confidential, and that they cannot be used in any unlikely future court proceeding. That way, both parties can feel comfortable in fully engaging in the process without fear that something they say or suggest could someday be used against them.
It depends how much time we spend. In large part, the number of hours it will take depends on the specifics of the situation. The complexity of the issues, the dynamic of the communication between the parties, the readiness of each party to make decisions and move forward, they all impact the time spent. In my experience, most people find that the mediation process provides excellent value. And if at any point it doesn’t feel that way, they can simply stop with no further obligation.
As with overall cost, the length of a mediation (or collaborative case) is primarily affected by the parties themselves. Factors include the frequency with which they are willing to meet, their productivity between sessions, the complexity of the issues, and their relationship dynamics and communication styles. I have had mediations and collaborative cases that have concluded in two months or less, and I have had clients that prefer to move much more slowly and even take years to conclude. In every case though, the pacing and duration is primarily controlled by the clients themselves.
Usually yes. Because Collaborative Divorce generally involves more professionals than mediation, it usually translates to more fees. But Collaborative Divorce can still be highly efficient. By using neutral professionals in their areas of expertise, parties can reduce attorney hours, streamline their process, and achieve great value. And because of the cooperative nature of the pursuit, couples don’t waste time and money working at cross purposes as they generally do in litigation.
Eventually, yes. But only in a limited capacity. Many people are able to conduct the majority of the mediation without lawyers – or at least without lawyers in the room. Individual consulting attorneys will, at a minimum, review any written agreement for each party before they sign it. They can also be available to provide advice and guidance during the mediation process. But their role is limited and their fees generally reflect that. Of course, if they prefer, parties can agree to have attorneys present during some or all mediation sessions.
The mediator is neutral, which means they don’t represent either side. Although I am a lawyer, when I am mediating, I am not serving as the lawyer for either or both parties because it would be a conflict of interest. That doesn’t mean that as a mediator, I don’t provide the parties with lots of important legal information and insight from my experience. But it means that my role precludes me from offering the specific legal advice that a lawyer who represents a party can. For individualized and confidential legal advice, I recommend that parties contact their consulting attorneys. That’s exactly what they are there for.
One of the best things about mediation is that you get to make all of the important decisions yourself rather than having someone else make them for you. And because you retain that ultimate power, nothing happens unless you say it does. During the mediation, we discuss what’s important to each of you and we discuss the law too. That way you can make informed decisions. And the use of a consulting attorney who reviews the written agreement for you before you sign anything provides an extra layer of oversight, so you can feel certain that your rights have been fully protected.
Because you will be focusing on what matters most to you, a mediated settlement will be designed to satisfy your important interests. And any deal which delivers on what means the most to you is likely to feel pretty good. Having litigated for many years, I can say from experience that mediation and collaborative clients tend to be far more satisfied with the results they achieve than those who chose litigation. For more information on why mediated settlements can be more satisfying, see my video explaining interest-based negotiation.
I subscribe to what is known as the “understanding-based” model of mediation. In a nutshell, I believe that parties who clearly understand their own, and each other’s, important interests are best able to work together and find satisfying resolutions. I try to work with both parties simultaneously rather than shuttling back and forth between them. I find that to be more efficient and effective in terms of building confidence in the process and achieving results. For more information on the “understanding-based” model of mediation, visit the website of the Center for Understanding in Conflict where I trained and now serve on the Board of Directors.
Yes. It’s an important service I really enjoy providing. My consulting services are described here.
Yes. My litigation background has provided me with broad experience in commercial matters. A wide range of legal conflicts can be successfully resolved through mediation or collaborative law and can benefit from all that these processes offer. You can read more about my commercial mediation services here.
Not any more. I did for many years and eventually reached the conclusion that most people in conflict are better served by a process which allows them to communicate their needs and make their own decisions. If you believe that going to Court is the right answer for your situation, I would be happy to refer you to a trusted colleague who can help.