2/1/2022

How to Begin the Mediation Process

      In addition to our other family law legal services, our firm also has a mediation department.  We conduct both private mediation (for people who are voluntarily taking the initiative to try mediation to resolve their legal issue) as well as mediation ordered by a court through the Economic Mediation program.  Mediation is a wonderful tool that saves families legal fees, time and the anxiety and stress that comes from uncertainty and loss of control of your own destiny.  Sometimes the experience can also teach the people involved how to better communicate with each other to avoid unnecessary conflict in the future and thereby avoiding all the above problems as well.

Court-Ordered Economic Mediation

      If your mediation is being ordered by a judge, it is usually what we call “Economic Mediation.”  This means the purpose of our firm’s involvement will generally be limited to helping you resolve financial issues, not custody or parenting time issues.  (Most courthouses have separate mediators on staff used at no cost to litigants if a judge is going to order Custody or Parenting Time Mediation.) 

     If you want to use our mediation services for court-ordered Economic Mediation, your attorneys will need to choose a “Qualified Mediator” from your county courthouse’s roster.  The mediators in our firm will be listed in there.  If you cannot find our names in the court roster of your particular county courthouse, kindly let us know so we can correct that error.  In the meantime we will honor the discounted hourly rate and the two free hours we provide for court-ordered mediations through that program.

     Your attorneys will call our office to schedule your first mediation session.  They will then submit the name of our firm and the date and time of your first session to the judge’s staff.  The judge will then issue an order called an “Order of Referral to MESP Mediation Program.”

     Prior to the first session, your attorneys will submit to our firm whatever information or documents they think we will need to prepare for your first session.

     If you do not have attorneys and you are self-represented, the process I described above is still the same and you will follow the same steps. 

Private Mediation

     If you are not in a situation in which you are being ordered by a court to participate in Economic Mediation but you want to possibly retain our firm to assist you in resolving your legal issue through mediation, you are going to call our office and schedule a consultation. 

Before you call us, you need to think through the following:

     (a)  Do you want someone from our firm to be a mediator for your case?

            or

     (b)  Do you want someone from our firm to be your attorney in your matter, but you are interested in resolving the matter through mediation?

     This distinction is important.  Our firm’s role in your matter would be very different and the consultation you need to schedule would therefore be very different.  Also, once we serve in one capacity (even just during the consultation) we usually cannot then serve in the other due to a conflict of interest.  Even though some of our family law attorneys are mediators and our mediators are also family law attorneys, we can only serve in one of those two roles in any given case. Therefore, it is important to think about your preference for our involvement before you call. 

     If your answer is (b), you want an attorney from our firm to serve as your independent counsel in your matter but you really hope to resolve the issues through mediation, then you are scheduling a regular consultation with one of our attorneys.  That attorney does not need to be a mediator.  We can explain the mediation process to you during your consultation, speak with you about your possible positions regarding each main issue and advise you on the next steps.  We will help you obtain and exchange all the information and documentation you need in order to understand all of the pertinent facts before you are ready to mediate, choose a mediator and then prepare for the mediation itself.  If you would like, we can also accompany you to the mediation sessions to answer all of your questions along the way, speak on your behalf if needed and make sure all issues and reasonably anticipated issues are properly addressed and fleshed out in a fair and equitable way.

     If your answer is (a), then you want to be very specific with our Client Intake Specialist that you are thinking of retaining one of the mediators at our firm and you need to schedule a “Mediation Consultation.”  A Mediation Consultation is very different than our standard consultations.  First, it is a half hour long rather than an hour long.  Second, it is conducted by phone.  Third, both parties must be on the call participating in the consultation.  We cannot speak to only one of you during this consultation because we are serving a neutral role and cannot speak with or meet with only one of you at this stage.  If you cannot compare your calendars beforehand, both of you should be on the call to schedule the Mediation Consultation so our Client Intake Specialist can efficiently schedule it to take place on a day and time in which you are both available.  You do not want to lose time with too much “back and forth” in scheduling this consultation, because by the time you call back, what was once an available window of time on our schedule may have been filled by another case. 

     After you schedule your consultation, our Client Intake Specialist will email each of you forms to fill out to help us understand basic information about you and your family as well as your goals for your mediation experience.

The Mediation Consultation

     As explained above, the Mediation Consultation is approximately 30 minutes long, is done by phone, is done with both parties at the same time and is at no charge.  Unlike a regular legal consultation at our firm, the focus of a Mediation Consultation is very narrow.  The Mediator will explain to both parties the mediation process and the different approaches to mediation.  We will then answer all your questions about the process. 

     We will not be discussing your specific circumstances in detail or give you legal advice.  In fact, we will explain to you that when an attorney acts as a mediator in a case, they are prohibited from giving either party legal advice.  As mediators, we must maintain a neutral role and focus solely on facilitating a fair and equitable settlement.  If you want legal advice during the mediation process, you will need to retain independent counsel.  We will remind you that you have the right to do so and we welcome your attorney’s presence during the mediation session if you choose to go that route.  We want you to feel comfortable, confident and productive at your mediation sessions and we understand that having your own attorney present often goes a long way toward achieving that.  If you wish to involve an attorney but you do not know where to start in consulting with one, we would be happy to recommend several “mediation friendly” attorneys for you to consider contacting.

     The mediator will end the consultation by explaining our Mediation Retainer, which our Client Intake Specialist will email to you at the conclusion of the consultation.  She will also email you various forms to fill out regarding your facts and financials (if applicable) so all of those details are at our fingertips during your mediation session(s) and time (and your money) is not wasted trying to obtain it afterwards. 

      If you would like to try to resolve your issue through mediation we would love to help you.  You can call our office at 973-9960 or contact us through our Contact Us form to schedule your complimentary Mediation Consultation and get started.