Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Divorce Mediation Behind the Scenes: Initial Contact

First Call

Typically, one of the parties calls my office asking about the mediation process. During this call I will answer many of the basic questions about mediation and will make sure that there is no conflict of interest. In order to maintain neutrality and the appearance of neutrality, it is essential to make sure that there are no prior business, social or client relationships between the parties and the mediator which might affect the mediator’s neutrality.  If there has been a prior relationship the parties and the mediator will have to determine if proceeding with the mediation would be appropriate.
Assuming both parties are interested, I set up an initial free consultation. I make sure that the party calling for the appointment calls his or her partner and I have them confirm the first appointment. These calls are usually fairly short and limited to obtaining identifying information.

First Meeting

At the first meeting, I explain the process and ask some additional identifying information such as date of marriage, date of separation, names and ages of children etc. I also usually try to get some idea of what sort of issues the couple has and what sort of agreements they have already reached. I give the participants an opportunity to ask questions about the process. This usually takes between 15 to 30 minutes. I give the couple the option of starting the mediation right away or going home and thinking about it. If they need time to discuss it alone, I offer to leave the room.
If the parties want to start right away, I go over the mediation fee agreement with them and go over the packet of information which I hand them at the start of the mediation or which I have sent to them before they arrived. If they choose to start, I begin charging them after they sign the mediation agreement. The fee agreement explains how much I charge, how they will be billed and reiterates the mediation process.

Free Informational Packet

If the participants choose to start their mediation session on another day, I send them home with a packet which includes information about divorce and mediation. The packet includes homework which I ask them to prepare before the next session. The homework includes a court financial statement and answering questions about finances, insurances, agreements they have reached and issues they are having trouble with. If they have children I also include information about the parent education class they will be required to attend before their divorce hearing.