Mediation allows you and your spouse to reach a fair settlement with the help of a third, neutral party. Mediators can be lawyers, mental health professionals, clergy, or other professionals. At The Center for Separating with Civility & Divorcing with Dignity®, we mediate the parenting plan/custody schedule (but not the other facets of divorce). Our role is to facilitate discussions between spouses in order to help you and your spouse identify and resolve issues and come to an agreement on custody.
An important thing to understand is that mediators cannot give either of you legal advice (this is the case even if your mediator is an attorney), and are not a substitute for having your own lawyer who can provide legal advice and representation. The mediator’s role is to help you and your spouse communicate and reach agreement, whereas a lawyer’s role is to make sure your legal rights are protected. If both spouses feel reasonably competent to negotiate for themselves, then mediation can be an excellent way to reduce conflict, cost, and time in the divorce process.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Our roles as mediators came about over the years as people noted that our expertise in divorce and ability to act as neutrals, combined with our skill in facilitating positive and effective communication under difficult circumstances and expertise in child development, were a perfect combination for mediating the issues of divorce. Couples often came in saying that they wanted to avoid conflict as much as possible, and keep costs down. They wanted someone who could facilitate the divorce process in a way that they could reach a fair settlement in an amicable manner. At Lepage Associates we designed Separating with Civility & Divorcing with Dignity® as a facilitation and mediation process to meet this need.
Our role is to facilitate custody discussions between spouses in order to help you and your spouse identify and resolve issues, and come to understandings. Your attorney’s role is to provide you with legal advice and representation, so that you are an informed negotiator, and so you have full confidence going forward in the agreements you reach. Mediation is confidential, allows you and your spouse to make the decisions, and is much less expensive than filing a lawsuit. You can reach a positive agreement that is more customized than the one you would receive from a judge.
|(1) mediation by psychologists who are experts in communication skills, conflict resolution, and moving through emotional pain to healthy resolution
(2) when children are involved, our expertise truly sets us apart from other mediators who are often attorneys or ex-judges; we have expertise in child and adolescent development, minimizing the negative impact of separation and divorce on children, designing parenting plans based on the unique needs of individual families, and developing and maintaining healthy family relationships (people often use us to mediate just the parenting plan; click here for specific information on our parenting plan services)
Mediation is a process of cooperation, not confrontation. As mediators, our role is to help you find and focus on common interests, understand each other’s concerns, explore a wide range of possible choices, and reach mutually acceptable solutions. We also support, encourage and guide you in treating each other with respect, listening to each other’s concerns, exploring all possible choices, and concentrating on amicable solutions. Our expertise as psychologists allows us to help each party move past difficult emotions that may threaten to block the process, and reach a settlement in as amicable a manner as possible under the circumstances. We also suggest you consider using a Financial Planner with expertise in Divorce Financial Planning to assit you in making financial decisions.
Mediators cannot give legal advice and do not provide legal representation. If you choose mediation, you should at minimum visit an attorney for a consult to become well-informed of your legal rights and thus be an informed negotiator in mediation; or, you can work with an attorney in adjunct to the mediation, to provide you with legal information and representation throughout. While some people worry attorneys will interfere with keeping the process amicable, we can refer you to attorneys who do not fall within that stereotype and will provide you with excellent legal advice and representation, while at the same time respecting your desire to utilize the mediation format and keep the process amicable; we can suggest attorneys who can work well within the mediation process and who are dedicated to providing top-notch legal advice and representation without interfering with the parties’ attempts to utilize mediation and remain amicable through the divorce process. We are also happy to work with attorneys you have chosen prior to visiting us. (That is, we don’t have a closed or specific list of attorneys we work with. We welcome providing mediation sessions for the clients of any local attorneys, and if you are still looking for an attorney, we can provide you several names of attorneys to consider.) Once understandings have been reached in meditation, your attorneys will draft all legal documents you need to complete the divorce process.
MEDIATION: RESPECTFUL. EFFECTIVE. The process of mediation is designed to help you and your spouse have effective dialogue that ends in understandings being reached. Mediation provides you with a positive and effective venue to have conversations and reach understandings. Your final agreements regarding property distribution, parenting plans (child custody), and cash flow (child support and/or alimony) are then written into a separation agreement by your attorneys.
COMPARING COSTS OF MEDIATION WITH OTHER APPROACHES
To most people, whether you are wealthy, middle of the road, or struggle financially, money matters. That is, we all like to feel our money was spent usefully. Overall mediation costs are generally dramatically less than legal fees for a contested divorce (one that concludes with a court trial or hearing), or even for a divorce in which both parties retain attorneys to represent them but concludes by settlement without a court trial or hearing.
Mediation typically takes 4-8 hours total (done in 2-hour sessions), but that varies of course by the needs of each couple; at the low end a couple may come in for only one 2-hour session, at the high end couples with more issues to be worked out and/or with high conflict between them may take up to 12 hours (six 2-hour sessions). Couples with children have more topics to be considered and thus will meet with us between three to four 2-hour sessions to consider, discuss and arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution of all divorce issues. Most divorcing couples without children will meet with us only two sessions, and sometimes only a single session.
We charge $200 per hour, thus TOTAL costs of mediation are $800-$2,400 (or $400-$1200 per spouse if you are splitting costs equally). Even the higher-time cases of 12 hours have a total cost of $2,400 (or $1,200 per spouse). We do not require retainers and instead allow people to pay meeting by meeting for the hours used.
Consider the costs of a high conflict divorce that ends in litigation: on-line divorce calculators for North Carolina put the cost of litigation at between a low of $26,000 to $130,000 or more PER SPOUSE.
Consider the costs of a low to moderate conflict divorce using the traditional adversarial divorce model in which both parties retain attorneys to represent them and concludes bysettlement without a court trial or hearing: on-line divorce calculators for North Carolina put the cost at between a low of $6,000 to $30,000 or more PER SPOUSE.
Imagine all that you could do with that money: investments, vacations, children’s college funds, new home, etc. Your attorney costs will be lower if you utilize attorneys for legal advice, representation, and paperword, and have the majority of conversations you need to reach understandings with a mediator.
FIVE BENEFITS OF MEDIATION
- (1) COMFORTABLE ATMOSPHERE & RESPECTFUL PROCESS
The atmosphere is comfortable and informal, and the process is empowering and efficient. Meetings take place in a comfortable and informal office setting instead of a conference room, and communication is fostered between spouses instead of through attorneys.
- (2) PROMOTES COOPERATIVE CO-PARENTING
Mediation helps parents stay attentive to the needs of their child(ren) and attentive to creating and maintaining an amicable and cooperative co-parenting relationship through the years. Whether your children are young and you will be co-parenting for many years or they are older and will launch from the home soon, it will be best for your children if you and your ex-spouse treat one another as co-parents with kindness and respect. Mediation encourages the development of this scenario, which obviously benefits the well-being of all children and adults involved. Research findings show benefits of divorce mediation versus litigation for reaching settlement on divorce or child custody disputes.
- (3) PRESERVES CONTROL; ALLOWS FOR INDIVIDUAL CREATIVITY & MORE SATISFYING SOLUTIONS
All matters are determined by you, directly, and without control by Orders of judges. Cooperative face-to-face problem solving often allows for more detailed planning and more creative and satisfactory outcomes. In mediation, it is much easier to discuss your separate visions of your after-divorce needs and circumstances, and then structure agreements to achieve your financial needs and the needs of your children.
- (4) CONFIDENTIAL
In divorce mediation, all conversations about settlement are protected by North Carolina law as confidential. It is “safe” to discuss various options and scenarios during mediation without fear anything you said or considered could be used against you in litigation. Your family’s particular life circumstances are not disclosed either. This differs from litigation in which settlement discussions and life circumstances can be disclosed in court paperwork or in open court if you go to trial.
- (5) REDUCE COSTS
The legendary costs of both settled divorce disputes and divorce trials can quickly deplete any assets you have accumulated during your marriage. In contrast, mediation, which relies on direct communication and the mediator’s skill in keeping the dialogue constructive and focused, accelerates the conclusion of divorce or parenting disputes. This affords very substantial cost savings, making divorce mediation a truly affordable alternative.