Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral person helps parties negotiate an agreement. The mediator may not make decisions for the parties, and the parties may end the mediation at any time. The mediator guides the parties through the issues, while assisting them to communicate respectfully and productively.
The process is very flexible, and can cost significantly less than traditional negotiation or litigation, as the parties share the cost of the mediator. Most importantly, the parties design their own solution, in accordance with their own values and goals.
The Mediation Process
Once both parties have indicated their willingness to mediate, the mediation process will begin.
Cathryn will meet with each party individually prior to commencing a joint session. She will do this to determine each party’s perspective on the issues to be resolved and to discuss the process with the participants, and begin to identify possible resolutions. She will also consider whether mediation is appropriate, and whether any procedural safeguards need to be put into place to address power imbalances.
At the first joint session, the parties begin by signing the agreement to mediate. The discussions then begin. Ground rules for communication are established, issues are identified and options are explored.
The number of sessions required depends on several factors. Many times the parties need to consider options and seek legal advice as to the implications of their choices. They will often need to gather information that will help to identify solutions and narrow issues.
Once an agreement is reached, Cathryn will draft a mediation report, and review it with the parties. As Cathryn is a lawyer, she can prepare this such that very little work needs to be done to turn this into a separation agreement. When a non-lawyer mediator is used, the document needs to be re-written into a separation agreement, costing the parties additional legal fees.
The parties are encouraged to seek independent legal advice during the process as needed, and prior to signing an agreement.
Lawyers are welcome as part of the process, as long as both parties agree. In some circumstances, especially when complex financial matters are being considered, it can be more efficient to have lawyers at the mediation session. This has to be balanced with the additional expense that the parties will incur.