Divorce & Parenting Plan Mediation Orientation

Congratulations for considering mediation as a service to assist you with your divorce and parenting plan or visitation needs.  Community Solutions assists people in navigating both divorce and parenting plan dialogue in order to create equitable and sustainable agreements. 

This document was created to help orient you to what you can expect from Community Solutions’ services, the mediation process, and what we will need from you to move forward with your divorce or parenting plan case.

About Your Mediator

A lot of fear can be generated around seemingly unresolvable conflict.  It can be especially frightening when the subject matter is divorce or parenting time, as the stakes can be high.  Your mediator will assist you in creating an approach to your situation that is more collaborative and cooperative than it probably has been for a long time. 

The mediator's job is to be neutral and unbiased.  She will direct the conversation to be more productive by helping you communicate your concerns and goals as well as assist you in hearing the concerns and goals of the other party.  By doing this, you create understanding.  Understanding does not mean agreement, but it will assist each party to better accept the situation, the other person, and oneself as being less than perfect in stressful circumstances that rarely bring out the best in anyone.  From this place, we can begin to develop an agreement that you can minimally live with and optimally even feel good about.

It is also her job to help explore the options that can resolve this in a way that best fits your needs and addresses your expressed goals and hoped for outcomes. 

Caveat:  If children are involved, we do mediate with a bias towards the child.  This does not mean that we will dictate to you your parenting solutions, but we will continually bring the conversation back to the best interest of the child around areas of disagreement. 

What we do not do:

We are not a judge, so we will not decide who is right or wrong; 

We are not therapists, so we will not counsel you; and

We are not lawyers, so we will not give legal advice;

However, we will share legal information with you, most of which is available on the internet or we have learned from speaking with the judges that make these decisions. 

Also, if you are struggling to find solutions to your specific issues, we are happy to share what others in your situation have found to be successful for them.

Benefits

Time Constraints:  Currently, divorce and family court dockets are overburdened, and it can take months to see a judge to hear your case.  Additionally, you will only have a set amount of time to present your arguments.  Currently, standard, uncomplicated divorce cases are taking 12-18 months to resolve in court.  Complex cases can take 2 years or more.

In mediation, you are not constrained by time.  If you feel you are progressing, we can set as many sessions as you need to resolve things. Even if you are only gaining agreement on a portion of the issues, we can document those agreements, and it will ultimately save attorney fees on the remaining concerns. 

Rules of Evidence: In court, you will be limited in what you can present to a judge to justify your arguments, as you will be constrained by the Rules of Evidence.  In mediation, you can present anything you feel will contribute to the resolution of the case.  Each of you will get to say what you need to say, and you can be heard, which is valuable for both of you.  Often, we can get so caught up in preparing for or presenting our side that we don’t get the chance to hear the other person.

Costs:  Mediation will likely be far less expensive than going to court.  It might take a small financial investment, but it will not compare to what a divorce or contested family case would cost if the need to retain lawyers becomes an issue.

    Mediation - $180/hour – each session is scheduled for two hours ($360).

    Document prep – The first draft of your mediated agreement is $360 providing there are no significant changes to the agreement made during mediation.  If     there are significant changes to the agreement based on further private negotiations between parties, it may be necessary to reconvene for further     mediation, and you will be charged the hourly rate for re-mediation or time needed to adjust the documents.

    As you contemplate the cost of mediation, please consider the following:

  • The average retainer for a family law attorney is $5,000 - 7,500 - for each party ($10,000 -$15,000).
  • The average divorce mediation settles within 5-9 sessions.  That is a total of $1,800 - $3,240 plus document prep fees.
  • The average parenting plan mediation concludes within 2-3 sessions.  Total $720 - $1,080.

Parties share the cost of mediation unless otherwise negotiated between them.  This calculates out to each person paying about 25% of what it would cost to hire an attorney.  Mediation fees do not include court filing fees.

Most Importantly: Mediation is your last stop, before litigation, where you retain control over the outcome.  Once your case escalates to trial, the judge decides the outcome of your parenting time, your asset and debt division - your situation. 

We have consistently heard this from the judges we have worked with during our mediation career, and recently, it was restated in a conversation with a local judge, “If I have a ruling that makes both parties unhappy, I know I have a good agreement.”  Some cases definitely require the assistance of a judge to litigate; it is up to you whether or not your situation is such a case.

NOTE:  Once you have mediated a divorce or parenting time agreement, you are welcome and encouraged to have it reviewed by an attorney of your choosing. 

What We Talk About In Mediation 

Depending on your needs, we typically will have a discussion around seven major issues. 

  1. Division of Debts and Assets,
  2. Spousal Support,
  3. Communication between parents,
  4. Legal Custody,
  5. Parenting time,
  6. Expectations During Parenting Time, and
  7. Child Support. 

As of January 1, 2020, a new law went into effect that states that equal parenting time can now be requested by either parent.  This can be rebutted by either party, and the judge may deny equal parenting but must present the denial with written findings that equal parenting time is not in the best interest of the child or endangers the safety of the parties.  This new law is in response to the overwhelming research that children do better in school, mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and are less likely to get in trouble, when they have similar access to both parents over what has been the standard parenting plan of the past where one parent only saw their children every other weekend.  Additionally, the presumption of the court now is that both parents are good parents, even if they were not the best partner.

What We Will Need From You:  Documents                                

Ours: 

  • Fill out, as completely as possible, the financial worksheet we provide you and return to us. 
  • Bring to mediation a copy of current statements for all active Asset and Debt accounts.
Court’s:  Please forward to us a copy of
  • Any filed documents that opened a case with the court
  • Standing court orders – temporary judgments for support and parenting plans
  • Former Judgments – previously court order parenting plans or orders for support.
  • Restraining or No-Contact Orders
  • Any other court documents pertaining to your case.
Yours:
  • Any other documentation you feel will be helpful to creating an equitable agreement and finding resolution.

Documents We Provide to You for Court Filings                       

Divorce and Family Court proceedings have become cost prohibitive for many people.  For this reason, the court has created and made available many forms that you can fill out and file yourself to accomplish a divorce or formalize a parenting plan.  You can find a link to those forms here.

In divorce and family court, there are two specific documents (Exhibits) we will draw up for you that will then be attached to these court created forms. 

  • A Mediated Agreement - this will outline the agreements made regarding your divorce. 
  • A Parenting Plan – this will outline the agreements made regarding your parenting plan. 
  • A Child Support Worksheet

Any or all will then be attached to your other court filings as attachments or exhibits. 

We do not provide or fill out court forms, nor will we file the paperwork for you. 

Voluntary                                                                                             

You may have received a court order to participate in mediation.  This is because the judge does not want to be the one who decides the fate of your issues.

We do not guarantee this will be an easy or comfortable conversation. It is highly likely it will, at times, be neither.  We ask that you trust us as your mediator, and trust this tried-and-true process. 

However, if at any time, you feel it is not the process for you, you can end mediation and seek other litigation or conflict resolution remedies.  We only ask that you agree to have a private conversation with your mediator to see if there is anything we can do to make you feel more confident in the possibility of a positive outcome, and therefore, keep the control of the end product in your hands.

Confidentiality                                                                                    

The dialogue and work product of mediation is legally considered privileged communication.  This means that it is confidential and inadmissible in court.  State law has provided protections around mediated communications so that parties can participate without the fear of things said or ideas considered being held against them later.  It promotes an atmosphere of honesty and good faith. 

There are other mandatory reporting exceptions to confidentiality in mediation which will be discussed once a session has convened.

Additionally, facts already known prior to mediation or things that are easily discoverable such as invoices, statements, or bills are not confidential.  A mediated agreement that is filed with the court is not confidential.

Exception:  You are free to discuss mediation with other relationships that would legally be considered privileged communication, e.g., attorney, counselor, priest, or spouse.

Good Faith                                                                                         

All parties to a mediation are expected to come to the table with a sincere willingness to explore solutions to the situation that resolves matters for the parties involved.  This is called good faith and is required for mediation. 

All parties must agree to be fully forthcoming with any information needed to resolve this case (e.g. income, assets, debts, concerns and considerations, etc.).  You agree to respectfully participate in sharing your side of things as well as listen to the other party share their perspective. It is not necessarily the goal to agree on perspectives, but to understand where each party is coming from, and why their needs are important for consideration in the resolution. 

Lastly, you agree to not commit to anything that you cannot fulfill.

Final Tip                                                                                            

If you have contacted us for mediation, it is because there is conflict in your life that is not getting resolved by any means you have tried up to this point.  Once your case has been opened with Community Solutions, we strongly urge you to resist further attempts at resolution and patiently wait for mediation.  Sustainable resolution is vulnerable at this point.  Once we get agreement from all parties to participate in a far more productive process, it is simply not worth the risk of losing the momentum gained through agreement to mediate just to make one more attempt at having your side heard or understood. 

We look forward to working with you.