Here you will find some frequently asked questions about family and divorce mediation. PLEASE NOTE: It is suggested that you read these questions in the order presented.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a method of dispute resolution which allows participants to resolve their own disputes.
As a mediator, I act as a neutral professional who assists individuals in resolving their own issues rather than risk uncertain outcomes which may be imposed upon them by the courts. Through the use of proactive, psychologically based interventions and techniques, I help my clients think creatively, avoid or overcome impasses and, finally, I help them to develop creative and comprehensive agreements which they find to be fundamentally fair by their own standards.
What Are The Advantages And Benefits Of Mediation?
- Mediation is less time consuming. The duration of litigation can, at its worst, be measured in years whereas the duration of mediation is measured in hours. The average divorce mediation, including the preparation of the final Memorandum of Understanding, is usually accomplished in less than fifteen hours. Because resolution occurs quickly, children are not exposed to the stress created in households resulting from prolonged litigation.
- Mediation is substantially less expensive than litigation. A process which takes hours to complete will be much less expensive than a process that takes months or years to complete.
- Conflicts created by an adversarial justice system can be eliminated. Rather than risk resolutions which can be imposed upon you by the courts, you are in complete control of all decisions which must be made. You create your own agreements on your own time schedules and in your own words.
- Communication and understanding between conflicted parties is enhanced and trust can be restored through the exploration of each party’s goals and concerns.
- Mediation can resolve developing conflicts before they mature into a crisis. Parties often attend mediation when they anticipate that issues may arise in the future.
What Is Your Training?
I have many hundreds of hours of training in the many models of mediation and the various psychologically based interventions and techniques which mediators use to assist their clients. I have training in the dynamics of divorce and separation, the anatomy of anger, neuro-linguistic programming, conflict dynamics, the effect of divorce and separation on both adults and children, the creation of parenting plans, the division of assets and liabilities, the tax ramifications of divorce, and strategies for insulating children from their parents’ struggles.
Through my training, I have achieved the status of “Advanced Practitioner in Family Mediation” from The Association for Conflict Resolution, the largest qualifying organization for mediators in The United States. In order to maintain my status, I must engage in continuing mediation education training on a bi-annual basis. I am also a mediator approved by The American Arbitration Association.
In addition, I wholeheartedly abide by “The Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators”, a set of ethics and standards for mediators which has been approved by The Association for Conflict Resolution and which has been jointly approved by The American Bar Association and The American Arbitration Association. I have also trained with many of the finest mediation trainers and training programs in both the United States and Canada, including coursework at the Program on Negotiation at The Harvard Law School.
My extensive experience as an attorney contributes to my ability to mediate effectively. I have been an attorney licensed to practice in The State of New York since 1984. Although my practice has concentrated in mediation since 1992, my areas of concentration include Matrimonial Law, Family Law and issues relating to family owned businesses.
In addition, I have been a Law Guardian (children’s advocate) certified by the New York State Appellate Division, Third Department, since 1987. For more information regarding my qualifications, please CLICK HERE.
What Are The Core Principles Of The Process?
The three core principles of the mediation process are:
- The absolute impartiality of the mediator; and
- Self determination of all issues by the participants; and
- Participants must make educated, informed choices.
The following three sections will further explore these concepts.
Core Principle #1: What Is Impartiality And How Does It Differ From Neutrality?
As your mediator, I am “neutral” as to your final outcome but I am “impartial” in conducting the process of mediating your dispute. This distinction is important. “Neutrality” means that I have no agenda and that I take no stake in your outcome. You create your own agreements.
The concept of “impartiality” relates to the actual process of mediation that leads to the creation of your final agreements. This concept, sometimes called “omnipartiality”, means that during negotiations, I am on both sides and on no side at the same time. This allows me to help each of you think creatively, develop your options and ensure that both parties are negotiating in an emotionally safe atmosphere.
Core Principle #2: What Is Self-Determination?
According the “Standard I” of “The Model Standards of Conduct For Mediators”, adopted by the Association for Conflict Resolution and approved by the American Bar Association and the American Arbitration Association, “Self Determination” is the act of coming to a voluntary, uncoerced decision in which each party makes free and informed choices as to process and outcome.” This means that the participants in the process are educated regarding the topics they must discuss and they are in complete control of all decisions that must be made.
Core Principle #3: Informed Decision-Making: Are Lawyers Necessary To The Process?
In most mediation cases, lawyers play an important but limited role in the process. It is important for you to understand all of the intricacies that go into achieving a comprehensive settlement, including how the law might apply to your situation.
Since it is unethical as a matter of law for one attorney to represent two individuals, who are negotiating with one another, I am unable to give legal advice to both parties without creating a “conflict of interest”. It is thus my strong recommendation that each party to the mediation process consult with an attorney of his/her own choosing either prior to or shortly after commencing the mediation process. Although attorneys are not present in the process, they will give you independent legal advice about the topics you must discuss in mediation. Once educated, you can either decide to adopt the law as it relates to your case or you can choose to “opt out” of the law and create your own law for you and your family. You should also know that “opting out” is not a concept associated with mediation … Every separation agreement in the State of New York is, by law, called an “Opting Out Agreement”.
At the end of the mediation process, your attorneys will review your final mediated agreement to ensure that you understand the legal ramifications of the choices you have made. This is an ethical safeguard that ensures that you fully understand all of the ramifications of the decisions you have made in mediation. After this review, they will prepare the legal documentation necessary to achieve your goals. Remember, the decisions that you make in mediation can, in many cases, have lifelong consequences. Having a personal, trusted and objective advisor will give you the knowledge necessary to make comfortable, meaningful and long lasting choices.
What About The Use Of Other Professionals?
My clients do not necessarily limit themselves to speaking with attorneys in order to make informed choices. Depending upon the issues you bring to the table, you may want to speak with other professionals in order to obtain the information necessary to make informed choices. Appraisers, accountants, financial advisors, business consultants, college funding advisors and/or mental health professionals are often consulted to help participants make the best possible choices.
What Is The Process?
Generally, I meet with my clients weekly. Depending upon the topics to be discussed, these sessions can run from one to several hours. Don’t worry! You will not miss anything! I cover all topics which you must consider in order to achieve a comprehensive agreement.
In our sessions, I use various psychologically based interventions and techniques to “shift” my clients from “positional bargaining” (“win-lose” negotiation) to “interest-based negotiation” (“win-win” negotiation). Creative solutions are achieved by exploring all concerns that are raised and by helping my clients create mutually advantageous solutions. At the end of each session, I will tell you what we will be covering in and explain how to prepare for our next meeting.
What Topics Are Covered By The Process?
I like to group decisions into four separate categories.
Category 1: The Parenting Plan
These decisions include:
- How will major decisions be made for the children?
- How often will the children reside with each parent?
- How will the parents divide holidays, vacation periods, birthdays and special events?
- How close or far away can the children reside from each parent?
- Selection of child care providers
- Attendance at childrens functions
- Religious or spiritual training
- Contact with extended family
- Private school
Category 2: The Economics Of Raising Children
These decisions include:
- How will the children’s food, clothing, shelter, transportation and other necessities be provided?
- Who will provide health insurance for the children and how will it be paid for?
- How will uncovered medical expenses be paid?
- How will child-care be provided?
- How will tuition for private school and college be paid?
- Is life insurance necessary?
- What tax ramifications must be taken into consideration?
Category 3: Division Of Assets And Liabilities
These decisions include:
- What are the assets and liabilities of the marriage and how will they be divided?
- Will there be a need for appraisals to determine the value of assets prior to continued negotiation?
- What are the tax ramifications of the division of your assets?
Category 4: Spousal Support
These decisions include:
- Is spousal support necessary?
- If so, what will be the payment?
- If so, what is the duration of the obligation?
- What are the tax ramifications of this obligation?
These lists are by no means comprehensive, but they do give you an idea of the types of decisions which must be made. During the mediation process, other topics are sure to arise that are unique to your circumstances.
What Is The Final Product?
At the end of the process, I will prepare a “Memorandum of Understanding” containing all of the specific terms of your agreement. This is not a legally binding document. It is my intention that each of you review this Memorandum with your respective attorneys to ensure that you have achieved your goals and to ensure that you understand the legal ramifications of your choices. The attorney will then simply draft the appropriate legal documents to make your decisions binding.
Where Do You Perform Your Services?
Although I conduct the majority of my meetings at my offices in Albany, New York and Clifton Park, New York, I do mediate at other locations both within and outside of the State of New York. If you desire that I travel to your location, special arrangements are generally made for my travel, lodging and for securing an appropriate location for conducting the mediation.
Are You Available To Give A Presentation To My Organization About The Benefits Of Mediation?
I truly enjoy public speaking! If you would like me to educate the members of your organization about the advantages and benefits of mediation, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will tailor a presentation to meet your specific needs.