Is divorce mediation right for you? Here are our answers to frequently asked questions about mediation.
1. What is mediation? In mediation, a third party neutral (the mediator) helps you and your partner resolve disputes and reach a settlement without court intervention. Typically you and your partner meet with the mediator together in his or her office. Depending on your mediator’s style and training they may or may not hold separate sessions for each partner.
2. How long will it take us to reach a mediated settlement? It varies. If you and your partner have a general idea of the terms of your agreement you may be able to resolve your divorce in two or three sessions. If your situation is more contentious or there are complex financial or emotional issues to work through, you may need closer to seven to ten sessions with a mediator.
3. Is mediation for everybody? No. Mediation is not recommended in situations where there is a history of domestic violence or a power imbalance between partners. For example, if you are completely in the dark about the family’s finances or if you are someone who finds it difficult to confront your partner, mediation might not be the best place to resolve your divorce. In those cases, you likely will benefit from the legal protections afforded by the court system.
4. Does mediation avoid the need for lawyers? It is possible to mediate without lawyers but we do not recommend it. Since your mediator is neutral, he or she cannot make judgments about the terms of your agreement nor can he or she advise you about whether the settlement is in your best interest. We suggest that you hire an attorney at the beginning of the process to seek advice in between the mediation sessions. Your attorney can meet with you before mediation sessions to help you prepare and meet with you after mediation sessions as well to evaluate tentative agreements. In contentious cases, it can be helpful for lawyers to join the parties in mediation. At the very least you and your partner should each hire separate “review attorneys” to review the mediated agreement after it is drafted. Your attorney will review the agreement for accuracy and also make sure that the terms of your agreement are in your best interests. Experienced mediators in New York will insist that each party hire a review attorney.
5. Is mediation a cheaper alternative to a “traditional divorce”? Generally, but not always. If you and your partner reach an agreement relatively quickly, mediation generally will cost less than litigation or a negotiated settlement, even if you both hire review attorneys. However, in some circumstances mediation can be more expensive. If parties are ill-suited for mediation from the beginning they may spend many sessions in mediation only to find that they have not made any progress. If they end up litigating, money spent in mediation was wasted.
6. How do I choose a divorce mediator? We highly recommend hiring a trained mediator who also is an experienced divorce attorney. A mediator with knowledge of the law can provide you with information about New York divorce law and give insight into how a court might view your case. Without this information you may agree to something well below (or well in excess) of what the law might afford you. Furthermore, when it comes to drafting a final agreement, a mediator who knows the law and is experienced in drafting agreements will make sure that your separation agreement meets all of the legal requirements. Attorneys at Greenblatt Law have extensive experience in mediation, acting both as mediators and review attorneys. If you are interested in mediation or are looking for a review attorney please don’t hesitate to get in touch.