Mediation & Reunification
Every mediation is different and every mediator’s approach is different. Here’s what you can generally expect at Angel Law Mediation.
Orientation Session: The first time we meet, we will have an Orientation Session where we will go over the general mediation process and the specifics of how it usually takes place. In this 1-2 hour meeting, we’ll talk about several important characteristics of mediation:
• Mediation is confidential (although there are a few important exceptions). In general, you can count on what you say during mediation not being repeated in court if you can’t reach agreement.
• Mediation is voluntary. Once underway, at any point in the process any participant can end the mediation and find alternatives to resolve some or all of the issues. We will usually test the reasons for the termination to be sure that the decision is well thought out, rather than a spontaneous response to a particularly difficult topic.
• The differences between legal information and legal advice. Mediators can provide information about processes and laws, but they cannot provide advice on how the law would apply to the specifics of the participants’ circumstances. There is a fine line between these two and we’ll discuss the differences.
• Full disclosure is critical to the process. Mediation is not a way to avoid providing information that might be important to anyone’s decision-making.
• Timing and costs of mediation.
• We will review an Agreement to Mediate.
If you decide to mediate a family mediation, we will provide you with a handbook of background materials including Virginia statutes that may affect your mediation decisions, and in most cases you’ll also receive financial forms and data sheets that will help you organize your financial records so we can be more efficient in our sessions.
Second Session: We’ll talk about the range of topics we’ll need to examine during the mediation sessions.
• You’ll make decisions about the order in which we’ll discuss the issues.
• We’ll talk in very general terms about the legal environment that might affect your case. For example, if we’re talking about property in a divorce case, we’ll talk about how a court might identify “marital property” and how a court might “equitably” distribute it. We have these conversations not to replace legal advice that you might get from your own counsel, but to give you legal information that can help you with decision-making in the mediation.
• We’ll also explore any immediate issues that need tentative resolutions while we’re working on longer-term agreements.
For a separation or divorce, we may begin to tackle some of the more pressing financial issues and decisions.
Detailed notes At each session, your mediator will take detailed notes. You’ll be actively involved in making sure that what you’ve said (and what everyone else has said) is captured accurately. The mediation is confidential (with exceptions), but the confidential notes will help everyone keep track of where things are while the mediation is taking place.
Decisions will get made at your speed. But they also don’t count until there’s a signed agreement. This way we can make progress without worrying that something that you decide now won’t make sense as other decisions are made later. Nothing is final until everything is final (unless there’s an interim written agreement).
Angel Law Mediation offers remote mediation services at no extra charge when parties can’t be in the same room due to schedules or other conflicts. Just because you’re far apart doesn’t mean you can’t reach agreements!The mediation process generally works best when all participants and the mediator are in the same room. .
• One party is out of town temporarily or permanently. Or all parties are away. 4-way phone conference calling
• One party has a problem being in the same room as another party. Video conferencing
• You want your attorney to participate but scheduling or costs prevent your attorney from physically being at the session. Internet connectivity which allows parties to watch everything remotely on their computer screen as it’s happening in our office.
Success in the reunification process will be achieved if both parents place equal faith in the professionals they engage. It is important that parents:
Engage a reunification therapist that they both trust and believe will work well with their children;
Engage a reunification therapist who understands the role of the parent coordinator and is willing to work in tandem with him/her;
Support each other’s role as parent to the children in words and actions;
Make decisions about the children in meetings with the parent coordinator and carry out those plans as agreed upon in the meeting;
Refrain from contacting the reunification therapist and parent coordinator to change an already agreed upon plan; and
Make changes in the plan only in the presence of the parent coordinator with both parties present.
Perhaps, most importantly, individual therapy for both parents is vital.
Each parent will need individual support to deal with the emotional stressors inherent in the divorce process and the reunification process.
Otherwise, parents are likely to engage their children, and or the professionals involved, in ways that are counterproductive or destructive to the reunification process. It is essential that the professionals involved have expertise in working with families experiencing high-conflict divorce, otherwise, they too can engage this complex process in ways that are counterproductive, and at times, destructive.