The Mediation Process

In mediation, both spouses meet in the same room with the mediator. As a mediator, my role is to assist clients in having conversations that they may not be able to have on their own and guide them through a process where option are created and evaluated so they can reach agreements.

In my mediation practice I use a six stage model. Stage 1 is an introduction to the process and an outline for the next hours of mediation. This includes length of meeting, taking breaks, and note taking. Then we review the Agreement to Mediate and discuss any concerns and then everyone signs the agreement. The agreement addresses issues such as confidentiality and without prejudice negotiations so that both client feel confident that they can freely discuss all options available to them without the threat of the information later being used in court. The Agreement to Mediate also clarifies my role as a mediator and not as a lawyer in this process and while I can provide information to the clients I am not acting as a lawyer for either of them.

Stage 2 involves a brief gathering of information such as date of marriage or cohabitation, date of separation, date and place of marriage, and names and birth dates of children. Most of the information gathered in this stage will be used in the drafting of the final agreement and the completion of divorce documents.

Goal setting occurs in Stage 3. Examples of goals are “I want us to continue to work together parenting our children so we can raise them in a healthy way” or “I would like us to fairly divide our assets so that we both have a comfortable life” and “I would like to financially support the children so they can continue participating in their current activities and sports.” The goals stage sets the tone and the foundation for the process. If discussions get challenging, then I remind clients of what their goals were for themselves and their children.

We create the agenda for the mediation process in Stage 4. The clients will share what they need to resolve. This will include division of assets and debts, child support, parenting, spousal support, estate planning and life insurance. It may also include urgent issues such as bills that need to be paid soon or how the parties are going to separate or how a house will be sold. The clients identify what issues the want to discuss first. I always suggest they deal with urgent issues that must be resolved that day and then move on to other issues. It is a good idea not to start with the most challenging issue so the clients can build confidence regarding their abilities to reach agreements.

In Stage 5 we move into the “meat and potatoes” of the mediation process. We work through each agenda item and discuss options for resolution. During those discussions the client’s interests will emerge. Some common interests are fairness, security, safety, structure, consistency. For each issue, several options will be generated and evaluated. For example. If the issue is “what do we do with the house?” Some options would be:

a) Spouse 1 keeps the house

b) Spouse 2 keeps the house

c) the house is sold

d) the children stay in the house and the spouses move in and out of the house (nesting)

I will assist the clients in evaluating each of the options until such time as the clients have reached an agreement. In this example, more information may be needed before the clients can reach an agreement, such as the current market value of the home or if the spouse wanting to keep the home can obtain the necessary financing on the home.

All of the issues identified in Stage 4 are worked through until an agreement is reached on all issues. In Stage 6 I review the agreements reached to ensure that as much as possible the agreements are in alignment with the goals that the clients identified at the beginning of the mediation. When all of the issues have been resolved, the mediation is complete.

The client’s Property, Support and Parenting Agreement will be drafted. The client’s take the agreement to their respective lawyers to review and provide them with independent legal advice.

For more information, I may be reached at 780-983-3494 or deanna@eponalawandmediation.com