Family Mediation FAQs
What do family mediators do? We help people resolve disagreements about marriage, separation, divorce, parenting schedules, child support, alimony, property division, elder care, the family’s budget, distribution of inherited property, and other family matters.
How does mediation work? In a confidential setting, the mediator helps each party to communicate what is important to him or her and to hear what is important to the other party. With help from the mediator, the parties
- identify the issues that need to be resolved,
- focus on one issue at a time,
- discuss the possible solutions,
- come to agreement about parenting plans, financial, and/or other issues,
- prepare a draft of their emerging agreement, and
- review, revise, and possibly sign the agreement. I do recommend that each of the parties have an attorney review the agreement before they commit themselves to it.
What if my partner or ex-partner is completely irrational and unmovable? Often, mediation works anyway. Mediators find ways to help the parties move forward even though they were at an impasse. For most people, face-to-face meetings are most efficient and effective. For some clients, caucus mediation works better. The mediator meets with each party separately, asks questions, and carries information and proposals back and forth.
What if there is a history of violence or drug abuse in the family? The parties and the mediator must assess whether mediation can be safe and effective despite the nature and intensity of prior conflicts and difficulties.
What is the best time to start mediation? As soon as the parties have a pretty good idea of what they disagree about. Trying mediation before attorneys initiate expensive discovery processes can save the parties thousands of dollars.
Can a mediator give legal advice? No. We can give you information about state laws and local court procedures, and we can tell you about other resources available, but we cannot give legal advice. We are not allowed to interpret statutes, advise you about how a law would apply to your specific situation, or advise you about likely court outcomes.
Do mediators make lawyers irrelevant? No. It is usually best for the parties to get advice from their lawyers before or during mediation. We recommend having your attorney review a proposed agreement before you sign it.
How many sessions of mediation are needed when people are divorcing? The answer varies with the number of issues to be resolved, their complexity, and the ability and willingness of the parties to negotiate in good faith without strong emotions overwhelming the process. That said, a typical case takes 2 to 4 two-hour sessions, with some homework between sessions.
If one of us is skeptical, should we try mediation anyway? Yes. You may reach agreement on some issues even if you cannot resolve all of them through facilitated negotiations.
Could you be more specific about the financial advantages of mediation? In northern Virginia, many attorneys charge $300 to $500 per hour. We charge $250 – $350 per hour. To accomplish two hour’s worth of work, two spouses can pay two lawyers $900 to $1,500, or they can pay one mediator $500 – $700. Lawyers cost more because their hourly rates are higher and because they need more hours to get something decided. You pay for the time you talk with your lawyer and for the time your lawyer talks with the other party’s lawyer.
Is mediation always successful? No. If one party refuses to participate in good faith, the process will not work. If someone would rather spend $50,000 punishing an ex-spouse than keep most of that money somewhere in the family for the children’s benefit, then mediation may not succeed. If the parties have unrealistic expectations and are each convinced that the judge, whoever he or she is, will see everything their way, they may need to live through one or two court hearings before they are ready to negotiate in earnest.
If I already have an attorney, is it too late to try mediation? No. You can hire an attorney to give you advice and then do most of the work at a much lower cost in mediation. You can even retain an attorney to represent you in court and still do much of the negotiating with help from a mediator. That can be better than paying two lawyers to negotiate with each other on behalf of the two parties. Many attorneys are happy to have their clients work with mediators to resolve most or all issues outside of court.
What are the advantages of mediation?
- YOU, the people involved, the people who know your family well, make the decisions. You do not leave it to a stranger in a courtroom to tell you what the rules for your family will be.
- Mediation is MUCH less expensive than fighting in court.
- Mediation is MUCH less distressing than fighting in court.
- Mediation is much faster than working through the many steps of litigation.
This site is for informational purposes only. Nothing here should be construed as legal advice. For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for you, contact Colin Family Mediation Group at mediatorQ@gmail.com or 703.864.2101.
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