Mediators come from different backgrounds and professions. Choosing a mediator who understands your unique circumstances is extremely important.
Ask the potential mediator a variety of questions about their practice:
- Previous experience
- Professional affiliations
Once you are satisfied with the mediator’s qualifications, ask yourself if you feel comfortable talking with him or her. Do they strike you as knowledgeable and even-handed? Polite? Sensitive? Business-like? Will he or she be able to push the parties beyond some of the bumps in the road?
Asking friends and acquaintances for referrals is also a valid option.
The length of mediation varies according to each divorce. Divorces presenting few contested issues can be resolved in as few as two or three sessions. Eight to twelve hour-and-a-half mediation sessions is typical; however, certain issues can arise to prolong the process:
- Complex property settlements
- Child custody and support concerns
- Lack of party cooperation
Mediation sessions generally occur on a weekly basis for the length of the process. Some caucus sessions may require only one party’s presence in a given week.
Mediation fees in the NYC metro-area usually cost between $250 and $500 per hour. Sessions generally take an hour to an hour-and-a-half. The total cost will be determined by the length of time necessary to mediate the issues in your divorce.
All parties involved, including the mediator, sign confidentiality agreements at the beginning of the process. However, recently, one New York Court determined that a mediator could be compelled to testify in a divorce action following a failed mediation attempt.
There are many advantages to hiring a lawyer for mediation. An attorney retained during mediation can advise you of your legal rights during the proceedings and review and draft all settlement documentation. Your attorney can accompany you to mediation sessions upon your request though I generally recommend that attorneys be consulted outside of mediation sessions.
Mediation will usually resolve at least some divorce issues. Remaining issues can be litigated in court to reach a legal resolution.
Yes, there are certain circumstances and issues that a court is better equipped to handle:
- Domestic violence
- Child abuse
- Mental illness
- Substance abuse
In addition, sometimes mediation is not appropriate where there is a vast difference in “power” or “authority” between the parties and where a mediator will have to devote an inordinate amount of time and energy bolstering a weaker spouse.