Mediation is a voluntary process so both parties need to agree to mediate. At the first mediation session both parties and Joan and Doug will review the mediation guidelines and you can ask any questions you have about the process. The basic guidelines of mediation include the need to have full and open disclosure of all assets and other material information related to the issues to be resolved, and being respectful of one another. You will then identify for the mediators all issues that need to be resolved. There will be a discussion of the information needed to be gathered to make an informed decision. Throughout the process there may be discussions about whether to include other professionals (a tax expert for example) if necessary. The mediators will work with you to prioritize your list of issues and then begin the process of reaching a resolution working on the most pressing issues first.
In order to do this, there needs to be an environment in which both parties feel safe to express themselves and suggest ideas that would not necessarily feel “safe” if the parties were simply sitting around the kitchen table. At we strive to create that open and understanding place where both people can say what is really on their minds in a respectful manner. The mediation process has the parties problem-solve rather than taking positions. “I want XYZ” is a position. “The problem is ABC” (fill in the blank—getting kids to school, having the cash flow after a house sells, how will a spouse’s education be paid for to allow him/her to get a good job) opens up a discussion where the parties can come up with a list of possible solutions. There are always a few solutions to each problem; with Joan and Doug’s help and experience, the parties often come up with solutions they had never considered before mediation. The ultimate goal is a written agreement that can be relied upon and incorporated into any future divorce decree. This agreement, created by the parties, will be the basis for the parties moving forward instead of a Judge’s decision.
Neither Joan nor Doug are representing either party. Mediators are neutrals and do not take sides in any mediation. We are not the lawyer for either party. Therefore, any agreement that is drafted should (and this is highly encouraged) be reviewed by each party’s own lawyer before it is signed.