Frequently Asked Questions
is family mediation?
How does mediation work?
are some benefits of mediation?
How long does mediation
How expensive is mediation?
the difference between mediation and arbitration?
Are lawyers needed?
is a confidential process used by members of a family who need
help in solving certain important issues. They use a mediator—a
trained individual who does not have a stake or an opinion in
how the problem is solved—to help them find solutions that are
best for their situation.
Mediation can help
a family with many types of problems. The most common use of
family mediation involves issues surrounding separation or divorce.
A mediator can help with tasks such as:
- Division of money
and other types of property
- Child custody
and visitation arrangements (parenting agreements)
- Alimony, spousal,
or partner support
- Preparing prenuptial
In addition, some
mediators are also skilled in helping with other types of situations,
problems between parents and teens
- Conflicts between
adult brothers and sisters
- Disputes about
running a family business
- Decisions about
care of an aging parent who is alone and frail
- Following health
about wills or estates
A mediator meets
privately with the family members involved and helps them settle
their issues in ways on which they both can agree. Participants
remain in control of what is happening, making all the decisions.
The mediator does not make judgments, determine facts, or decide
the outcome. Instead, he or she provides a setting in which
the participants can identify options and find solutions best
suited to their situation. No decision is made unless and until
it is acceptable to all participants.
over what happens to people's future, finances, children,
and businesses stays with the parties, not a judge.
- Confidentiality is a central principle of mediation.
Personal information does not become part of a public record,
and private business stays private.
- Durability in the agreements reached. Mediated settlements
have more "staying-power" than those imposed by a court. People
are much more likely to comply with decisions that they have
agreed to themselves.
- Time saved in completing resolution of the issues.
Mediation can spare people years of the stress, uncertainty
and strain that they would experience in a court battle.
- Collaboration in dealing with difficult issues. Mediation
provides a constructive and civil alternative to the anger,
hostility and frustration that characterize adversarial approaches.
involve a series of sessions, with each session typically lasting
about two hours. The number of sessions needed depends upon
how complicated a dispute is, and the level of disagreement
between the participants. A separation or divorce may take four
to eight sessions.
When a dispute is
resolved, the mediator prepares a "memorandum of understanding"
containing all the decisions made by the parties. For informal
disputes, the process ends here. In situations involving legal
issues such as divorce, the parties then normally use attorneys
to prepare legal documents based upon the memorandum of understanding.
invariably costs much less than litigation—in many cases, less
than half as much. The total cost will depend on how many sessions
are needed to settle the dispute. Most private mediators charge
by the hour, in a range of about $100–$200 per hour. The hourly
rate is usually divided between the participants.
Both types of processes are similar in that they use a neutral third party. They differ, though, in that mediation supports the parties in finding common ground, rather than determining facts or deciding whether people are right
or wrong. Arbitration, on the other hand, involves both sides presenting evidence and making arguments, after which the arbitrator makes a decision for the parties.
Lawyers can be helpful
as legal advisors, either during mediation, to review decisions
made by participants, or to prepare legal documents. The degree
to which lawyers are involved varies depending upon a number
of factors, including the nature of the issues, the wishes of
the participants and the mediator's preference. You should discuss
this question with any mediator you are considering using.
At the very least,
most mediators urge their clients to consult with their own
attorneys regarding any decisions with possible legal consequences.
In divorce-related matters, it is highly advisable to have lawyers
prepare documents such as financial settlements and custody
and visitation agreements.
alternative dispute resolution (including mediation) versus other
approaches to divorce and separation.
"What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?"
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Basic Information About Conflict Resolution from CRInfo