What can I expect from my family law mediation?

Tom and Sarah had a strong friendship long before they were married. Once divorce became imminent, they both committed to maintaining a healthy relationship after their divorce, for their own good but also for the benefit of their two teenage children. Tom and Sarah decided to try mediation before either filed for divorce, based on the advice of close friends who had gone to mediation during their divorce only to find that the divorce process had already turned them into adversaries. 

A gentler choice

Family law mediation provides a less adversarial and less expensive process for resolving a divorce. Mediation allows parties to decide for themselves how to resolve their divorce, rather than allowing a judge to make those decisions. 

What to expect at Mediation

Tom and Sarah met with a qualified family law mediator who specializes in divorces involving minor children. Before the meeting, the mediator spoke with both parties about their goals for mediation and any concerns about the mediation process. The mediator also gathered background information about the parties, their children, and their finances. The mediator scheduled a three-hour session and explained to both parties that mediation would be conducted as follows:

  1. Introduction and rules of engagement: The mediator introduced himself to Tom and Sarah and explained the mediation process, including his role, their roles, and the rules of conduct for mediation.
  2. Identification of Issues: Based on information previously provided by the parties, the mediator quickly discussed with Tom and Sarah the issues that needed to be addressed at mediation. Among the issues each was most concerned about: The couple disagreed about where the children would spend their afternoons after school; Tom wanted them to walk to his new apartment near the school, while Sarah believed it would be safer and in their best interest to continue riding the bus to her home.
  3. Discussion: The mediator facilitated a discussion between Tom and Sarah, encouraging them to generate their own resolutions for their issues. As a neutral third party, the mediator was able to direct the conversation while also allowing both parties to express their opinions. The mediator also encouraged each party to consider the other party’s point of view on contentions issues. With the background information he had available, the mediator was able to offer a few suggestions for possible solutions to them but left it to them to make the final decisions.
  4. Negotiation: Tom and Sarah discussed their positions on each of the issues between them, including the children’s after-school destination. The mediator helped the parties communicate their positions effectively, helped the parties stay on topic, and helped the parties overcome any obstacles preventing resolution of their issues.
  5. Agreement: Tom and Sarah agreed, among other things, that the children would alternate weekly between riding the bus to Sarah’s house and walking to Tom’s apartment after school. The mediator drafted a written agreement that summarized the terms of the agreement. Tom and Sarah reviewed the agreement, made a few small revisions, and signed it.
  6. Follow-up: In the months that followed Mediation, the mediator occasionally followed up with Tom and Sarah to see that they were following the terms of the agreement and offer advice and assistance where he could. Ultimately, Tom and Sarah found a solution that worked for them (and their children) and were able to maintain a healthy relationship and family dynamic.