What is mediation?
Mediation is simply the practice of a neutral expert guiding two or more parties toward an agreement.
Unlike litigation, mediation allows for creative solutions. It is built on the premise that good communication is the best way to resolve conflicts. We create an environment that allows parties to discuss all the issues and reach terms that satisfy and benefit everyone, even in high conflict situations.
What is divorce mediation?
Since divorce mediation is a collaborative process, both parties must be willing to participate. Divorce mediation enables spouses to work through all the difficult issues with the direction of an unbiased intermediary. And the process provides plenty of support to allow couples to come up with their own solutions. Everything will be thoroughly explained, which ensures that the participants get exactly what they need out of the agreement.
Mediation will help the parties settle on parenting plans, spousal support, child support, division of assets and more. The process will also address the future needs of the children, such as education and cars.
Mediation is not really about the divorce: It is about creating a stable, secure future for both spouses and any children involved. Together, we take a realistic look at the family finances, including monthly and annual budgets, debt and marital assets. The goals are to fairly divide assets, position each spouse to meet financial obligations, and avoid financial squabbles down the road.
Spouses with children enter mediation with specific concerns. You will work out a parenting arrangement that addresses how children are raised, when they spend time with each of you, and how they will be supported financially. With all that out of the way, you can focus on being Mom and Dad.
How does the mediation process work?
Prospective clients can learn about mediation at a free consultation. It is an opportunity to hear how the process works, ask questions and discuss goals. The parties will be able to review the mediation agreement. Clients can choose to sign the agreement at the initial meeting, or take some time to decide if mediation is right for them.
Once the process begins, the parties meet with the mediator for a series of sessions, each generally lasting between 90 minutes and two hours – although that is flexible, based on the client’s needs. The number of sessions varies with each case.
At the first mediation session, the parties identify the issues they want to settle, along with their goals on each matter. The mediator gets the parties talking, and offers creative solutions when needed. There’s no chance important details will be overlooked: We make sure the sides exchange documentation and other information critical to making decisions.
Mediation often reveals that the parties have the same goals and just need to formalize the details in an agreement.
The parties can bring the finalized agreement to an attorney, who can convert it into a legal contract. You won’t have to shop around: We can refer you to attorneys who are experienced in handling mediated agreements.
Is mediation right for us?
Yes, if you want to avoid a contentious court battle and negotiate the terms of your separation or divorce in a timely, cost-effective manner. Mediation is attractive on several fronts. Couples – not judges and lawyers – negotiate and personalize the terms of their settlement. The mediator keeps negotiations focused and productive. And since most people mediate without attorneys, couples avoid sky-high legal fees.
Remember: A courtroom setting is both austere and intimidating — not a great environment for crafting a creative agreement. Through mediation, both sides can discuss their goals creatively, without the ominous glare of courtroom lights. Courts also operate on their own schedule, not yours. Mediation sessions are arranged at your convenience, not the court’s.
Both sides must be able to talk freely to offer their points of view, and understand all the information that is circulating. The mediator serves as a conductor so both sides know exactly what they are negotiating.
What about high-conflict situations?
Mediation is especially helpful in high-conflict situations. When emotions are running on overdrive, sound decisions often don’t follow. Squabbling parties could find themselves in pitched court battles, rife with animosity and exorbitant legal fees. The goal is to get on with your life. A mediator is a neutral third party, skilled at getting constructive and focused conversations started. It makes no sense to allow your conflict to get in the way of an agreement, and it is a cancer when children are involved. Without mediation, a high-conflict situation is bound to escalate and become even more toxic for family relationships.
Can everyone mediate?
Most often, yes. But mediation is not possible in cases that involve a court-issued restraining order.
What is the role of the mediator?
Quite simply, a mediator’s role is to help disputing parties work together to make their own decisions. Mediators remain neutral – there is no taking sides and no coercion. We listen closely, gauging each side’s concerns and interests. Once we get a good handle on everyone’s point of view, we can get the conversation going. In short, the mediator helps lay the groundwork for an agreement by creating a climate of cooperation.
Do we need to hire divorce attorneys?
Mediation is an alternative to litigation, so divorce attorneys are not required. However, clients are free to retain attorneys for legal advice, just as they might consult other outside professionals such as financial advisers or therapists. And at the end of the process, clients may go to an attorney, who can formalize the agreement.
How much will mediation cost?
Our mediation services are based on an hourly fee. There is no retainer fee and services are “pay as you go.” Payment is due before each session by credit card, cash or check. Mediation typically saves clients at least 40 percent of what they would pay to litigate. In divorce, most often the entire process will cost less than attorney retainer fees.
What is the role of the law in mediation?
Mediation might take place outside a courtroom, but the law provides a framework for the entire process. In fact, more courts are requiring couples and other parties to go through mediation in an attempt to avoid litigation.
When the parties agree to terms, an attorney can review the agreement to ensure it will be the basis of an enforceable contract. Mediation allows you the freedom to craft a completely customized agreement within the boundaries of the law.
Do we need to decide everything before we start mediation?
Absolutely not! In fact, it is often more beneficial if some of your issues are not yet settled. The reason is that, oftentimes, you “don’t know what you don’t know.” In my experience as a mediator, I have run across countless issues that may not fit neatly into a “one size fits all” resolution.
For example, your circumstances may require a more customized parenting plan than those that are suggested by the court. You may also need a creative solution to resolve certain financial issues, such as real estate ownership and family-owned businesses. By leaving some of these issues to decide during mediation, you may open up a world of possibilities that you did not even know existed.
What if I don’t know everything about our finances?
That is perfectly fine! Many couples enter into divorce mediation without a totally clear view of their financial picture. During the mediation process, all issues and information is laid out on the table, including your finances. And if you have complex financial matters, we can also bring in outside experts to help sort everything out.
How long is the mediation process?
This depends on the flexibility of you and your spouse, the complexity of your case and other specific circumstances. That said, the average divorce mediation takes 3-6 sessions and 2-3 months to complete. More complex cases can take 3 to 6 months (or longer).
What if we need outside professionals to help settle our divorce?
We work with numerous couples who have more complex circumstances and need the skilled assistance of outside experts to reach a settlement. This is particularly common with high net worth couples and divorces involving family-owned businesses. We have established relationships with several reputable experts who can be brought in to participate in crafting the settlement. These include:
- Financial Advisors
- Real Estate Appraisers
- Business Valuators
- Forensic Accountants
You can use our experts, or you can bring in your own, your choice. And if you have retained outside legal counsel, you may also choose to have your attorneys present for the mediation sessions.
Where are the sessions held?
Advanced Mediation Solutions is conveniently located in Cherry Hill, NJ, with additional offices in Linwood, NJ and Princeton NJ. We also offer virtual mediation, which can be conducted from anywhere in the world as long as the parties have a stable internet or phone connection.
Our main office is located at:
1236 Brace Road, Suite F
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
For further information or to set up a free initial consultation, contact us today at 856-669-7172.