At Finding Balance, Ltd., we treat mediation as a collaborative problem-solving process. As neutral professionals, we assist people in conflict to clearly define issues in dispute and reach agreements that are in the best interests of your particular family. Our mediators help participants find their own solutions to problems. We engage the parties in a conversation, but the decisions are your own.
We understand that mediation may be overwhelming. We hope the answers to these frequently asked questions (FAQs) are helpful.
What is mediation?
Mediation places YOU, the individuals, in charge of making the decisions about what happens to you, your children and your finances.
Mediation is an efficient and inexpensive process designed to help individuals resolve conflict during and after a separation or divorce. The method in which conflicts are processed and resolved will have a large influence on a family's adjustment to separation and divorce. Mediators are neutral professionals. Their role is to help individuals clearly define issues, keep lines of communication open and promote discussion and resolution. Mediators do not make decisions for you and your family. YOU are in charge of making your own decisions about what happens to you, your children and your finances. It IS possible to come to resolution of conflict in the face of anger, resentment and fear. Some of the issues that mediation addresses are: plans for parenting children, division of property and future financial provisions. Mediation can be done both pre and post decree.
What training does someone need to become a mediator?
Most divorce and family mediators have completed a basic (30-40 hour) divorce and family mediation training course. Here at Finding Balance, Ltd., our mediators generally pursue additional training in the substantive issues of conflict, separation and divorce.
Is a mediated agreement binding?
If you are involved in a divorce or another family issue that is filed in court, any agreement you reach may be filed with the court. You should speak with your lawyer about how this works and what your options are. The court generally reviews the agreement to assure that it conforms to the standards that have been established, such as the child support guidelines and, where it doesn't, what special circumstances exist.
If your dispute is not filed in court, the agreement is usually considered to be a contract. Depending on the nature of the agreement and the dispute, if there is a breach of the contract, you might be able to file a claim with the court.
Is mediation confidential?
Mediation is a private process, not open to the public. You will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement before beginning mediation. The mediator is bound by law to keep confidential what is discussed in mediation.
If I use mediation, will I need to go to court?
If you are using mediation in order to obtain a divorce, you will have to file in court for your divorce. However, if you are able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to all of the property, financial, custody, parenting and other issues that you are attempting to resolve, and the court accepts your settlement, it is unlikely that you will have to make many, or any, court appearances. Generally, the more you do outside of the court to decide how you want to handle your divorce, the better. This will save time, money and emotional resources.
Will I need a lawyer in order to use mediation?
Mediation is not a substitute for independent legal advice. However, by using mediation, it is likely that you will use fewer legal services and that those you use will be different than if you did not use mediation. Your lawyer will provide you with guidance and legal counsel and can draft documents for filing with the court. The mediator engages in conversation to assist you reach your own agreements. As a neutral professional, the mediator is not an advocate for either party.
How long will mediation take?
Because each separation, divorce and/or family issue is different, it is hard to predict exactly how long your mediation will last. The number of mediation session depends on the complexity of your situation and your ablity to reach agreements. In general, a full divorce, including custody issues, division of property and assets, takes between three and eight sessions. In addition, the mediator will take time to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining all of the agreements that you have reached through the mediation process. Mediation is voluntary and any party, including the mediator, may end it at any time.
Mediation will save time and money. Often, using a mediator to resolve issues will cost a fraction of what it would cost if you went to court.
How long are the sessions?
Generally, mediation sessions are scheduled to last from 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the family's needs and available time. Some people prefer longer sessions while others find that shorter sessions are more productive. Each mediator works differently and has a different approach to how they schedule sessions. This is an important question to ask in your initial phone call.
How much will mediation cost?
Your mediation costs will be based on an hourly fee. The cost of mediation depends on who is conducting the mediation. In most counties, the average cost ranges from $175-$275. Typically, there is also a retainer or deposit that is paid in addition to the hourly rate. This deposit will cover time spent on reviewing and drafting documents, writing the Memorandum of Understanding, telephone consultations, and consultations by the mediator with your attorneys or other advisors in the process. The cost of mediation is generally significantly less than if you each hired lawyers to represent you in your divorce without using mediation.
Mediation costs are SUBSTANTIALLY less than a litigated divorce. The average litigated divorce in DuPage county is $25,000 per person. If you choose to mediate part or all of your divorce, the cost is significantly less than this. For example, assuming that you meet with a mediator five times for two hours each time, plus an additional two hours of time for writing up the Memorandum of Understanding, the cost of mediation at $200 per hour would only total $2400.
Who is present at the mediation session?
You and your spouse will both be present at the mediation session for divorce. For other various family disputes, mediation will include the family members involved in the presenting issues. On occasion, the mediator may wish to speak with each of you privately and confidentially. In addition, the mediator may want to speak with your child(ren).
What information must I disclose to my spouse and to the mediator?
All financial information must be disclosed as part of the mediation process. The mediator will work with you to determine your income, expenses, assets, liabilities, retirement funds and other financial information that is required as part of a legal divorce. Should information be withheld during the mediation process, any agreement reached may not be valid. Mediation operates under the principle that parties are open and honest in their sharing of information and communication. If a participant withholds information, mediation may not be the best choice for resolving your conflict.
What is discussed during the mediation?
In a typical divorce mediation, the following issues must be addressed in order to generate an agreement that may be submitted with the court:
You can mediate ALL or PART of your divorce.
- Children: Parenting responsibility and time; living arrangements; legal and physical custody; insurance, education, support, vacations, holidays and many other issues.
- Assets and Debts: How these will be divided
- Property: Marital home, cars, other personal property
- Spousal Support: Whether there will be spousal support, in what amount and for how long
- Insurance and Medical Expenses
- Tax Issues
When is mediation not appropriate?
Mediation works best when both participants are able to fully express their needs and interests and are capable of following through on agreements. If there are any concerns regarding domestic violence, child abuse, mental illness or substance abuse, mediation is not the best choice for conflict resolution.
To schedule a free phone consultation or appointment, please email us or call (630)777-7113.