Jennifer M. Caldwell
What is Mediation?
There are two main types of mediation -- Divorce Mediation and Children's Issue Mediation.
Divorce Mediation is about you and your soon to be ex-spouse reaching terms about your divorce, which often includes both property and children's issues. Ideally, the interests of each of the spouses, their accumulated property, and most importantly, the children, are supported and discussed without the time, costs, and legal limitations that a Court proceeding will have.
Children's Issue Mediation involves issues solely related to the children. This often occurs post-divorce in modifications of prior orders; cases where the parents did not marry; or when grandparents or other third parties are involved. In this setting, new orders or changes to custody, visitation, child support or other issues regarding the children's issues and needs are thoughtfully addressed in an atmosphere of respect and concern for the child's long term well-being.
In mediation, I meet with each party separately to discuss freely all of the issues. Then, with the assistance and guidance of your attorneys, we attempt to work through the issues necessary until a resolution can be reached. Generally, the parties continue to occupy separate rooms enabling the client and the attorney to discuss privately their thoughts and ideas.
If an agreement is reached, that agreement is typed and/or written and signed by all the members of the mediation. It becomes a binding and non-revocable document, finalizing all of the litigation.
The strengths of mediation are in the closure, the weighing of both sides, and the ability to compromise where necessary. It has been my experience that parties to mediation generally settle and feel better about the decisions that they have made, rather than having a Court impose a decision.
Will I Have to Sit at the Same Table as My Former Spouse/Partner?
No. I have parties work on their own rooms. This allows the client and their attorney to speak and process ideas and thoughts confidentially.
What Happens If We Don't Settle?
Occasionally, an agreement cannot be reached. When this happens, the parties continue with litigation towards a possible trial. It does not penalize the parties, other than the continuation of litigation, costs and stress.
What is Discussed at Mediation?
Everything. Every family has unique issues and concerns. The issues covered include, but are in no ways limited, to the following:
1. Distribution of Property (Assets/Liabilities)
2. Child Custody and Parenting Time
3. Child Support/Maintenance
How Long Does Mediation Take?
As each family is unique, so are the time requirements. Some mediations can be settled in a few hours; some take a full day, even a second occasionally.
Is the Process Confidential?
Everything that happens at mediation stays at mediation.
The only exception to this is when a settlement agreement is reached and signed. This agreement will be filed with the Court. Nothing else, including offers and communications made at mediation, can be used in litigation. This frees the parties to be as creative and flexible as possible without fear that it will be used against them in trial.
What Does the Mediator Do?
My job is determined by the issues a case presents. I will listen; keep the lines of communication open; brainstorm ideas; create options; reality-test the couple; and assist where possible in the decision making process. I strive to keep the parties focused on the issues at hand. Keeping focused on the issues allows me to assist in finding a path to move forward, rather than remaining in the past.
Does the Mediator Pick Sides or "Judge" the Case?
A mediator is neutral and doesn't "work" for either party. That means that I as the mediator cannot give legal advice to either party. I must remain neutral no matter what the situation. Also, I do not decide the result, as a judge would do. Rather, I attempt to assist the parties in formulating ideas that can eventually lead to agreements that resolve the case.
Do I Have to Go to Mediation?
Oftentimes, mediation is ordered by the Court. In those circumstances, the Court expects the parties to comply and at least go to the mediation and attempt to seek an alternative to Court.
However, actually coming to a resolution is completely voluntary at mediation. Each party has complete control over their decision to settle the case.