During mediation, can I speak with the mediator privately?
Yes. Although many mediation settlement sessions typically take place with both parties in the same room as the mediator, it is also quite common for some portion of mediation settlement meetings to occur with the parties in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth between the rooms. This is referred to as caucusing.
When caucusing occurs, the mediator always clearly clarifies whether or not what is said in the private meeting can be shared with the other party. Anything that is not expressly specified as shareable will be kept confidential by the mediator and will not be discussed with the other party.
How can I prepare for mediation?
Attending mediation can be intimidating. You may be nervous about even sitting in the same room as your ex and the issues to be resolved can be very stressful. In order to feel more in control and to ensure the mediation is effective, it is important to be prepared. Here are some tips:
• Think about the key issues carefully.
• Reflect on your interests, needs, goals, concerns, fears, and hopes. What is most important to you? (eg. happy and healthy children, financial security, fairness, certainty)
• Think about your spouse's perspective, interests and alternatives.
• Communicate effectively, which can be difficult. Speak to be understood and listen to understand. It is important for people to feel heard, to feel understood. The more you can understand and acknowledge the others perspective the more likely you are to achieve an agreement. Remember that understanding and/or acknowledgment does not indicate that you agree with their perspective.
• Focus on the future and be prepared to let go of the past. You could likely argue forever about the past without agreeing, it is a futile endeavor. Luckily agreeing on the past is unnecessary to reach a comprehensive resolution so let it go and focus on what you need to see happen in the future in order for you to say yes to a solution.
• Be open to trusting the mediation process, even if you do not trust your spouse. Trust the process.
• Gather any paperwork or factual information you believe will be relevant to reaching an agreement. This frequently includes:
◦ pay stubs
◦ income tax returns
◦ notices of assessment
◦ financial statements
◦ costs associated with your children’s education, extracurricular activities, medical expenses, etc.
◦ a list of assets and liabilities
◦ bank account statements
◦ investment statements, both registered and non-registered
◦ pension plan statements
◦ credit card statements
◦ loan statements
◦ mortgage statements
◦ real estate value appraisals, realtor opinions, city tax assessments
◦ vehicle value appraisals, blue/black book values
◦ monthly budget of expenses
◦ details and costs of retraining
• Identify possible solutions. Ideally you would generate at least three potential solutions that address both parties needs and interests for each and every issue. However, be open to alternatives. The more open you can be the more likely you will be successful.
• Be patient. A lot of the work in mediation is done in the beginning (gathering background facts, financial documentation, exploring interests, needs, fears and goals). That work can feel slow, cumbersome and frustrating but have faith. It is a process and is like building a pyramid. The wide base takes time but it is essential for the remainder. You need to allow sufficient time for a solution to be achieved.
• If you feel like terminating mediation, commit to taking a break and giving the mediator five minutes of your time before you actually terminate the process.
• Think positively a solution is just around the corner!
How long will the process take?
The processes provided by Jones Divorce Mediation can take anywhere from several hours to a few weeks. A matter that takes a few months is possible, but that would be considered very long.
The length of the process varies depending on the number of issues requiring resolution, the complexity of those issues, the degree of amicability, the level of entrenchment in positions at the commencement of mediation, the timing of mediation (eg. over Christmas, Spring Break or Summer vacations), and whether experts are required.
How much will the process cost?
Jones Divorce Mediation offers its services either by hourly rate or pursuant to a predetermined all-inclusive flat rate. Once the number of issues and their complexity is determined a flat rate will be offered and you can then select the flat rate or hourly rate. With a flat rate, clients will know in advance how much the process will cost before they commit to using it.
Regardless of how complex a matter is and how adversarial parties are, a solution achieved through Jones Divorce Mediation will involve a mere fraction of the cost of a litigated resolution.
Mediation is a process that promotes effective communication, creative solutions and the resolution of conflict in a mutually agreeable manner. The way that issues get resolved can have a tremendous effect on a family’s adjustment to separation. All disputes can be resolved through mediation. Whether it is decision making, parenting time, the division of assets and debts or how income should be shared or any other number of issues mediation can lead to the best possible outcome.
Mediation is geared toward couples that are committed to working toward a solution to their dispute. Parties do not have to feel friendly to one another. In fact, it is very common for there to be feelings of anger, mistrust and trepidation about the other party. Mediation requires both parties to be involved in the process.
A mediated resolution can only be achieved through the participation of both parties to a dispute so both people need to be willing to work with the mediator to achieve a solution. Since mediation is a cooperative process where everybody is attacking the problem and not each other, it builds communication skills that can be used in future planning and parenting.
Mediation also promotes understanding which can lead to the foundation of a more cooperative relationship after divorce.
However, mediation is not for everyone, such as when Child Family Services is actively involved, when there is a history of severe abuse or when a child has been abducted from this jurisdiction.
Is mediation private and confidential?
Everything that happens in mediation stays in mediation. All discussions, admissions, proposals and negotiations which occur during mediation are without prejudice. That is, they cannot be used against a party in a later arbitration or court application. This is meant to encourage participants to speak freely and openly and to make resolution proposals without fear that their proposal could be held against them in another forum.
What if we cannot reach an agreement through mediation?
Mediation does not always result in a settlement of all issues. However, even reaching an agreement on some issues is beneficial since a reduction of the issues can significantly reduce the time and money it takes to resolve the remaining conflicts.
Parties that have outstanding issues after mediation are free to resolve those in whatever manner they choose. They can continue to negotiate an agreement or they can have a decision imposed upon them through court or arbitration.
At Jones Divorce Mediation we believe that it is best for people to achieve a prompt and cost effective resolution to their issues. We offer arbitration services for parties that are unable to agree on everything in mediation.
What is involved in the mediation process?
The mediation process offered by Jones Divorce Mediation is designed to maximize success. The mediation procedure is tailored to the level of conflict between the parties and the complexity of the issues involved. Jones Divorce Mediation’s mediation procedure typically involves the following steps:
1. Parties jointly attend an information session in which the mediation agreement is reviewed and signed and the parties inform the mediator about what issues need to be discussed. Basic financial information (legally known as disclosure) that may be required for a successful mediation is identified, plans and procedure for obtaining that information are established, and parties are provided with valuable relevant legal information which may be important for them to consider when reaching an agreement.
2. Each party can separately attend an hour-long mediation coaching session to acquire the essential skills for a successful mediation.
3. The parties jointly attend one or more settlement meetings in order to:
◦ discuss the matters in issue
◦ explore each party’s interests, needs and goals
◦ make proposals for a harmonious solution
◦ evaluate resolution options, and
◦ finalize a comprehensive settlement that is acceptable to both parties.
What is the client's role in mediation?
Clients are responsible for:
• Raising issues that may need to be addressed
• Prioritizing the agenda items
• Respecting the mediation process
• Making proposals
• Making decisions
What is the role of the mediator?
The mediator is a neutral and impartial third party who:
• Manages the mediation process
• Coaches parties on the skills for a successful mediation
• Provides general information
• Facilitates effective communication
• Translates by rephrasing or reframing
• Questions and clarifies the issues and concerns identified by the parties and the proposals made by the parties
• Advises on process
• Acts as a catalyst by inspiring new perspectives, posing reference points for consideration and stimulating an agreement
• Writes a mediation report outlining the terms of the parties' agreement
What issues can be discussed?
Any matter in dispute can be resolved in mediation, mediation/arbitration, and arbitration. However, Jones Divorce Mediation deals only with divorce, separation and family issues, including parenting plans, division of property, child support, spousal support, communication, prenuptial agreements, cohabitation contracts, marriage agreements, decision making, parenting schedules, vacation schedules, child exchange arrangements, decisions related to the child such as education, health and welfare, place of residence and selection and participation in activities.
When should these process options be avoided?
Our process options are not appropriate for situations of severe abuse, a child having been abducted or when Child Family Services is actively involved.
In situations where there is a history of domestic violence, mental illness or severe drug or alcohol abuse mediation is challenging. However, it is sometimes possible to have a successful mediation even with these issues because parties can meet with the mediator separately or they can have their lawyers attend mediation with them.
In order for mediation to be effective both parties need to be able to express themselves. If you wish to attempt mediation but you have one or more of these problems make sure you tell your mediator about the situation up front.
Typically, only the individuals involved in the dispute attend mediation. However, they are free to bring their legal counsel to mediation sessions with them.
Sometimes parties decide to consult a tax expert, financial advisor, business valuator, mental health professional or other expert. The expert may attend a mediation session to provide information and assistance to move the parties toward their agreement.