Frequently Asked Questions About Mediation
Legal issues involving family members can be emotional and complicated. At Divorce Mediation Plus, our staff is ready to help families in Leesburg and the surrounding Northern Virginia area deal with these complicated questions. Below we have complied some common questions we get into a divorce FAQ.
Q: What is the benefit of mediation versus the two-lawyer adversary process?
A: There are three major benefits: The first benefit is cost. In the adversary process, the parties are duplicating their costs with two attorneys, and usually incur litigation costs in addition to the cost of settlement negotiations.
The second benefit is time. Mediation is far more efficient because the parties are communicating directly, rather than through lawyers with letters, draft agreements, etc. A divorce case can take years to resolve, while the average mediation case is resolved in one to three months.
The third benefit is the relationship, which is especially important if there are children. Divorce litigation makes parties more hostile and suspicious, while mediation, conducted in a calm, controlled, neutral environment, tends to reduce hostility and suspicion, and improve communication.
Q: Is financial analysis and planning part of the mediation process?
A: Yes, the way we do it. We find that issues faced by people in divorce are financial as much as legal. We employ sophisticated software to analyze your financial situation, determine the feasibility of proposals, measure the tax impacts of different proposed solutions, and help you plan for retirement and college education expenses.
Q: One or both of us has hired an attorney — can we still mediate?
A: Yes. Some people choose to retain an attorney as an adviser as she/he goes through the mediation process. The role of the attorney in mediation is different, however. The attorney is your adviser, not your spokesperson, and (hopefully) does not conduct litigation while the case is in mediation.
Q: We have already verbally agreed on a resolution in our case — how can mediation help us?
A: Almost no one thinks of all the issues that need to be decided in a divorce, and certainly not the tax effects of your decisions. We have a structured process that walks you through all the issues, offering information, options and suggestions. We let you know if there’s anything in your agreements that could cause trouble in the future, from our experience. Finally, we will draft your agreement into legalize for your signature, to eliminate misunderstandings about what you agreed to.
Q: How many sessions will it take?
A: Since each case is different, it is impossible to say with certainty how many sessions an individual case may require. It depends on how complex the issues are, and how contentious you are. If your case is complex, and/or you fight like cats and dogs over who gets the cat and who gets the dog, your case will take longer. Most cases without children can be resolved in 3-4 sessions, and with children, 4-5 sessions, but there are “spectacular” exceptions.
Q: What is the length of each session?
A: Each session is typically two hours long.
Q: What does mediation cost?
A: That depends on the time the individual case takes, which in turn depends on the complexity of the issues and how easily the parties tend to reach agreements. Because the length of each case cannot be predicted, time is charged by the hour, and billed monthly.
Q: One or both of us has government or military or private retirement benefits. Are you familiar with division of these types of assets? What about our house?
A: Retirement benefits and equity in your house are usually the two major asset groups in a divorce case. We have extensive experience in dealing with both. We can provide you with options and suggestions, and draft the necessary court orders and other legal documents.
Q: What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?
A: In arbitration, the parties essentially hire a private judge. They can present witnesses and evidence just like in a trial before a judge. The arbitrator makes the decisions, which are legally binding on the parties. In mediation, the parties make the decisions for themselves, with the assistance of the mediator.
Q: Suppose I think I could do better in court, why should I mediate?
A: In mediation, you maintain total control over your decisions. You and your spouse make decisions jointly as to how to resolve your issues and plan the future for yourselves and your children.