It should come as no surprise that dissolution is an extremely stressful
event, no matter whether
mediation or litigation is in play. Tempers can run high, and emotions are intense.
Though the mediation process can't extinguish these feelings, your
mediator can give you some tools for managing anger and expectations.
Most importantly, your mediator can remind you that a successful process
requires you and your
spouse to keep coming to the negotiating table, no matter your personal feelings
for each other. Spouses who can't handle being in the same room together
are not candidates for mediation.
Usually, your first meeting with a mediator will focus on setting ground
rules and laying a foundation for future meetings. Mediators will discuss
principles of confidentiality with you, and let you know that he or she
will be neutral throughout the process. Your mediator is not an advocate
for you and your position, and both parties need to understand this up front.
This initial meeting will also give you and your spouse an opportunity
to issue spot, and decide what type of assistance you need to reach a
full agreement. You and your spouse will be expected to sign a retainer
agreement, and agree on how your mediator will be paid. Mediators generally
charge an hourly rate for services rendered, but certain cases are appropriate
for a single flat-fee rate. This depends on the circumstances of your
case, and the issues you present. You and your spouse can decide how the
mediator's fee will be split.
Subsequent sessions will eventually cover all issues of your case: the
disposition of your finances, real estate, debt, tax liabilities and,
of course, child custody, child support and/or visitation. The mediator
will work through each issue with you and ultimately draft a Settlement
Agreement. The parties will work with the mediator on clarification and
review of the draft and complete a final agreement that can be submitted
to the court as a judgment.