Why would I choose mediation to resolve a family dispute?

Mediation is a good choice when there is a family dispute because the parties are in the presence of a neutral and trained professional helping the parties negotiate their needs and interests.

Unresolved conflict is not healthy for children. Mediation can help improve the channels of communication and works to keep the relationships healthy, for the sake of the children.

What should I look for when choosing a Family Mediator?

The selection of a mediator is very important. A mediator is not vested with the legal authority of a judge or arbitrator and must rely on his or her own resources.

To effectively mediate a dispute, a mediator must possess a combination of qualifications.

  • absolutely impartial and fair
  • trustworthy
  • able to encourage people to talk about the problem in depth
  • understand the participants’ motivations
  • a good listener
  • able to analyze complex problems and get to the core
  • a problem solver
  • articulate with good communication skills
  • flexible and patient
  • a person who can guide others to make things happen

What happens in mediation?

  • Each party meets with the mediator separately; these are called pre-mediation meetings. Pre-mediation meetings may be done over the phone.
  • These meetings:

    • give you an opportunity to tell the mediator what is going on and what you want to see happen
    • give the mediator a chance to ask questions and get an idea of what the whole picture looks like
    • are confidential and private
    • provides an opportunity to bring any important documentation for the mediator to view (agreements, court orders, notice of assessments, etc)

  • A mediation is scheduled when all parties to the mediation are able to meet face to face. If being in the same room is not an option, a shuttle mediation may be scheduled. In shuttle mediation each party is in a separate room and the mediator goes back and forth between rooms.
  • If you have a lawyer, she or he is welcome to attend mediation with you.
  • At mediation, the mediator will encourage each party to talk about the issues with the other party. This is done in a structured environment emphasizing respect and honesty.

How do I talk and listen during mediation?

  • One person talks at a time, you will be asked to wait your turn to talk.

    The mediator's job is to make sure everyone gets a chance to talk. You will have a chance to say what you need or want.

  • When it is your time to talk.

    Focus on the issues you believe are important. Avoid using blaming language.

  • Try to keep calm 

    People will hear and understand you better if you stay composed. This can be difficult at times. If emotions are getting hard to control, ask the mediator for a short break.

  • Listen carefully 

    This is your chance to understand what the other party is upset about.

  • Ask questions

    If you don't understand something, wait until the person speaking has finished and then ask a question. If you are worried you will forget your question, write it down.

What happens if a dispute settles at mediation?

Once settlement is reached, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be prepared and sent to all parties after the final mediation session. Each party takes this document to a lawyer who will provide their legal opinion or/and advice. If all looks good, then one lawyer will draw up the legal agreement. The parties decide which lawyer.

What happens if a dispute does not settle at mediation?

The goal of mediation is for the parties to finish the mediation with all their differences resolved, which happens in many cases. If agreement is not achieved, the parties are free to pursue other means of resolving their dispute which may include court or other possibilities depending on the circumstances of the case.

Who pays for mediation?

Most mediators charge either by the hour or flat rates. Typically the cost is split 50-50 between the parties, unless they agree differently.

Generally, the cost of a successful mediation will be less than the cost of going to court.

Costs vary, depending on such things as:

  • how many parties are involved
  • the complexity of the issues under discussion
  • the qualifications and experience of the mediator
  • the number of sessions
  • whether lawyers are participating in the mediation

Some of the things mediators are paid or reimbursed for include:

  • time spent in pre-mediation sessions with each party
  • time spent in mediation sessions
  • travel time to and from mediation, if out of town
  • rental of a mediation room (if needed)

Will I still need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer before mediation, but obtaining independent legal advice before final agreement is reached is strongly encouraged. I prepare the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). A lawyer of your choice can prepare the legal agreement.

Mediators provide legal information, not legal advice.

If you need a lawyer for independent legal advice or for reviewing the MOU or to take on some or all of your case, please ask me for a list of lawyers that offer unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope representation.

What is unbundled legal services or limited scope representation?

A lawyer who offers unbundled services or limited scope representation will only do tasks you agree on in advance, and will only charge you for those tasks. You both decide ahead of time what those tasks are.