Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Q: Who does a mediator represent?
A: Mediators do not represent either of the parties. The mediator’s role is to remain neutral, provide guidance and assist in resolving disputes with the goal of reaching a fair and reasonable Separation Agreement. Even if one of the parties has already started the court proceedings, the parties may still go to mediation to try to work out their own agreement. Mediation is voluntary, not required by the court and if mediation doesn’t work, the parties can always resort to litigation.
Q: Is an attorney necessary or required in a mediation process?
A: Parties are not required to be represented by an attorney in order to participate in the mediation process. Mediators will recommend having an attorney review any final documentation such as a Separation Agreement or financial statements prior to the court hearing, but an attorney is optional.
Q: Can a non-attorney mediate a divorce?
A: Yes but one important benefit is the Attorney knows the laws, local courts and rules that apply to family law cases. Attorney Carlson is not only an attorney, but as a past Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and stock broker she also has an extensive accounting and finance background in addition to an understanding about businesses and investments.
Q: What are the advantages of mediation?
A: There are many advantages of choosing mediation compared to a divorce proceeding in court (litigation) where each party has their own attorney:
- Cost: The cost of mediation is a fraction of a court divorce, the cost is known up front and it saves time. A court battle can be ongoing, indefinite and uncertain with several trips to court for hearings, status conferences, pre-trial conferences or returning to court for various modifications; all of which come with a price tag for each party’s lawyer. In this area, clients hiring a divorce lawyer can expect to pay an initial retainer between $5,000 to $10,000 just to get started.
- Control: The couple will control the outcome, not the attorneys or judge. The couple can also be creative with parenting plans for custody arrangements, parenting time and most importantly, plans that allow for changes that occur in the future without having to return to court. Mediation can happen at any point during the divorce process even if one party has already filed for divorce.
- Confidentiality: Any and all mediation meetings, conversations, notes etc. remain with the mediator and are protected; they cannot be brought into court or used in any litigation, even by subpoena. Mediation protects the entire family, including any children from a long, drawn-out and very public court battle.
Q: Is mediation an option for unmarried parents?
A: Yes, unwed couples can mediate; it’s a very similar process with similar rights and many of the same benefits as those of legally married couples/parents going through a divorce. Once the Mediation is complete and an agreement is reached, the mediator will assist the parties in filing a Complaint for Support, Custody and Parenting Time.
Q: Do Grandparents have legal visitation rights?
A: Only in certain circumstances, and even then, it will be up to a Judge to make that determination.
Q: What is a Separation Agreement?
A: A Separation Agreement is an Agreement that becomes the Divorce Agreement. It contains the terms of the divorce – custody of the children, a parenting plan – terms for the division of assets – terms for medical insurance and uninsured medical expenses – terms for issues like child support, the payment of extra-curricular activities. These agreements are tailored to the needs of the parties and I think it would not be in our interest to post examples, I don’t want anyone making copies – they can get a skeleton agreement from the Probate Court and fill in the blanks, but even the courts don’t advise using those for a final divorce agreement.