Saturday, October 6, 2012

What to Expect at Your Mediation at Gassaway Family Mediation, PLLC

All family law cases are different, and so it is for all mediation sessions.  It is impossible to know exactly what your mediation session will be like, but there are certain things you can assume will probably occur, and certain things you should plan on, regardless of the differences in your case as compared to other cases.  This is not intended to be a primer on everything you ever needed to know about mediation, but I hope it provides some helpful information.


First, you should be on time.  If you can't find our office, call us. We are more than happy to help. You can also find a map here.  Map  In addition, we have parking readily available in our small lot, or on the street nearby.  You will not have to spend a large amount of time looking for parking. If  you think you might be late, a call to the office (or to your lawyer) will be helpful. We can often start part of the mediation process without one of the parties if necessary.  If you have to cancel, it is obviously best that you provide us with the most notice possible.

Most people, lawyers and parties, have time issues.  While they are all different, you should plan on at least 2 hours, and perhaps more, for your mediation session.As your mediator, I work very hard not to keep the process going if we are not making progress.  Keep in mind, however, that many cases resolve just when it seems they will never resolve.  You should trust your mediator, who knows what is being said in both rooms, with this decision.


You should be clear on what you need to bring to the mediation, and make sure you have it or can easily retrieve it from a computer.  Assuming you are represented by an attorney, you should make sure you and your attorney have a clear understanding of what you need to plan to bring to the mediation, and what he or she is going to bring.  It is a waste of your time and money when we spend time waiting for information to be faxed or trying to reach someone on the phone to collect information.


You should keep in mind what mediation is.  Through this process, we will examine the issues in your case and attempt to reach a resolution of those issues. It is as simple as that.  The mediator has no power, and cannot make you do anything you don't want to do.  Mediators are simply facilitators; through their training and experience they assist parties in arriving at solutions to their problems.  Frankly, there is no reason to be stressed about attending mediation.  (Needless to say, if you end up in court, the process is different.  Judges do tell people what they are going to do.)


I will accommodate your wishes concerning meeting together and meeting apart.  Some people are adamant that they want to meet in the same room.  Others are equally adamant that they do not want to see the other person.  If you or your lawyer will let us know how you think you'd like that to be handled in your case we will accommodate your wishes.


There are several important layers of confidentiality in the mediation process.  They are:

     A.  When meeting separately with either side of the process, the information I obtain will not be shared with the "other side" without your permission;

       B.    I will never speak to your judge about your mediation.  All the court can ever know about your mediation, and what happened in your mediation, is whether the mediation was conducted.  Offers, counteroffers, discussions, etc. are not admissible in court.  The mediator cannot be subpoenaed to testify in court.


Sometime people want to bring their new spouse, friends, parents, other relatives, to mediation.  Not all mediators agree with me, but in my experience, having these necessary support people there is a help rather than a hindrance, so I don't normally prohibit their attendance.  I do not allow third parties to attend meetings with both parties in the same room, absent an agreement that they be there.


When you and I first meet, I will ask you to sign an Agreement to Mediate.  If you want to review it in advance (which I encourage you to do), a copy of it can be found here.

Open mind
Open mind (Photo credit: edmittance)

Arrive with an open mind.  If I had a nickel for every time someone told me their case was not going to settle, and it settled, I'd have a lot of nickels.  It is normal human nature for people to develop and become enamored with their "position", and struggle with the concept of taking "less" that their self-professed "bottom line."  The point of mediation, of course, is to test those concepts and explore the possibility of reaching an agreement that is acceptable to both parties, even if it is an agreement neither had considered as a possibility before.


In cases where there are minor children involved, remember that you and your spouse (or ex-spouse) will continue to be connected to each other at least until they become adults, and often after that (with grandchildren, events, holidays, etc.)

Much has been studied and written about the effects of divorce, and continued animosity between parents, upon their children.  Frankly, I am often amazed at the lengths to which parents will continue their quest to "win", or worse, to destroy the other parent, when knowledgable people know without question that this behavior is bad for children.


Payment for mediation is due before you leave at the end of the session, unless you or your lawyer have made special arrangements.  My fee is $225.00 Per hour.  That is often equally split between the parties, but you and/or your attorney may choose to negotiate another payment arrangement.  I have handled mediations where we've spent valuable time negotiating the division of responsibility for my fee.  I encourage you to have that worked out in advance.


If your case does not come to a resolution in mediation, there are at least two things you should keep in mind.  First, if it was a typical mediation session, you learned much information that should be helpful to your future attempts to resolve your case  Second, most cases ultimately settle before trial.  It is not uncommon for the work accomplished during the first mediation session to form the basis for ultimate settlement of the case. 


I have been conducting settlement conferences (as an Adjunct Settlement Judge in the federal court) and civil and family mediations for at least 22 years. I have received much training.  I am a member of the Oklahoma Mediation Association, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the Academy of Professional Family Mediators.  I've been a lawyer for 32 years.  Most importantly, I enjoy my work immensely.
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