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Divorce FAQ's by (301)340-1811

         What Is the Role of Attorneys in Mediation?


In our experience the expense and time needed to complete a divorce mediation depends on two key factors: the inherent complexity of the issues and the level of cooperation and communication between the spouses. When couples can exchange information and effectively discuss settlement options between mediation sessions, the mediation process can move rapidly. For example, we have had couples with complicated finances and parenting issues who have completed their settlement discussions in just two 2-hour mediation sessions. However, it's more common for couples to need five to six 2-hour sessions, and some couples have required more that six sessions. Once the couple has completed their negotiations, we draft a marital settlement agreement, and then we meet with them to review the document.

Mediation is billed at an hourly rate, and for the reasons just mentioned, we cannot predict in advance the total cost of the mediation. However, our fees for a complete mediation, including the orientation, mediation sessions, and the drafting and revising of a comprehensive agreement typically range from $4,000 to $8,000.

We are aware that separation and divorce are times of financial hardship for most families because it's a financial stretch to support two households on the income that used to support just one household. With that in mind, we use a structured mediation process that is designed to be efficient. We provide encouragement and specific guidance so that clients can do as much work as possible on their own. Our goal is to complete the mediation in a manner that produces a mutually satisfactory settlement, without incurring unnecessary fees.

It can be helpful to remember that mediation is an alternative to the more costly route of attorney negotiations or litigation. A recent survey indicated that collaborative law often costs 3 times as much as mediation, attorney negotiated settlements 4 times as much, and a divorce trial more than 10 times as much as mediation.
Mediation Office of John Spiegel, JD & Donna Duquette, JD, LLC

Mediation can work well in both high-conflict and low-conflict cases. It is in the high-conflict cases where mediation, as an alternative to litigation, can often save the most time, money, and emotional turmoil.

We enjoy the challenge of difficult cases. Many are difficult only on the surface. Underneath are the same reasons to work things out amicably as in less difficult situations.

In some instances, when two people cannot be together, we will meet with each person separately and conduct a type of shuttle diplomacy.
Mediation Office of John Spiegel, JD & Donna Duquette, JD, LLC

At our office, you have the option of having John or Donna serve individually as your mediator or having both of us work together as co-mediators. (For ease of explanation, the following answer is written using "we" to mean the two of us-John and Donna-working as your co-mediators.)

Divorce mediations begin with an orientation session. This session lasts from 1 to 2 hours. We will explain to both of you in detail how the mediation process works and, after hearing from you about your family situation, we will set out a proposed agenda of specific issues that would need to be addressed in mediation. If you decide to go forward with mediation, we will schedule one or more sessions and give you your "homework" for the first session.

Mediation sessions (after the orientation) are generally two hours long, with a short break in the middle. We will set a natural conversational tone for each session and act as your guide, as we talk you through the issues in a thoughtful sequence. Where useful, we may meet separately with each of you, usually for about 10 to 15 minutes during the two-hour session.

The agenda for each session will generally have been discussed and agreed on in advance. At the beginning of each session we will review the prior session with you, noting what was decided and what remains to be done. Then we will review the homework and begin discussing with you the issues on the agenda, or address any pressing issues that have come up since the last session. When working on financial support issues, we probably will use the computer to do budgeting and to calculate the state child support guidelines. At the end of each session, we will discuss with you the agenda and the "homework" for the next session.

We will meet with you until all the issues have been resolved. At that point, we will begin drafting an agreement. After you have had a chance to review the draft agreement, we will meet again with you to go over it together. We will then prepare a revised version which will be ready for attorney review. We recommend to all our clients that you each have your own attorney review any draft agreement which we have prepared, before you sign it.
Mediation Office of John Spiegel, JD & Donna Duquette, JD, LLC

Mediation is a process in which the two of you talk together, with the guidance of a specially trained facilitator, to figure out your own solutions to your disputes.
Mediation Office of John Spiegel, JD & Donna Duquette, JD, LLC

Divorce mediation gives you an opportunity, as a couple, to work out the terms of your separation and/or divorce. The mediation process provides a humane and effective alternative to litigation. If you have minor children, the mediation will focus on three key sets of issues: parenting plan, division of property, and financial support. If you do not have minor children, the mediation generally will focus on financial issues: division of property, and financial support. Depending on your circumstances, you may choose to use mediation to work out a temporary separation agreement or, instead, a comprehensive agreement called a "Marital Settlement Agreement." Once the Marital Settlement Agreement has been signed, you can use it as the basis for seeking an uncontested divorce decree from the court.
Mediation Office of John Spiegel, JD & Donna Duquette, JD, LLC

As your mediators, we will guide you through the issues in a sequence that promotes thoughtful decision making, facilitate your communications with each other, and document your decisions. We will be neutral and unbiased. We will not make decisions for you or act as a judge. We believe you can make the best decisions for yourselves, and we can help you reach that point.

As mediators, we have been through this process hundreds of times. We know the issues to be addressed and appreciate the emotional turmoil that is involved. We can visualize the end of the process even when participants are having a hard time seeing the next step. Part of our role is to provide information and suggest options to consider. Often we can tell you common ways other people have handled similar situations, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. We can help you explore creative solutions when you want to go in new directions.

We will provide an environment that encourages attentive listening and good thinking. We will make sure each of you has a chance to be fully heard without interruptions. In difficult situations, we will help you set boundaries and encourage respectful behavior. Unlike litigation, in mediation many people learn skills of communication that can be useful in the future.

During each session we will also document the decisions that you have made. If you live in Maryland or DC, we will draft a marital settlement agreement for you. When signed, this agreement is an enforceable contract and can be used as the basis for seeking an uncontested divorce decree from the court. If you live in another state, we will draft a memorandum of understanding that can be taken to an attorney in your state.
Mediation Office of John Spiegel, JD & Donna Duquette, JD, LLC

We do recommend to all our clients that you each have your separate attorney review any draft agreement we have prepared, before you sign it. Some clients also find it helpful to consult with an attorney as they go through the mediation process. This helps them develop options to present in mediation or get feedback to the options already discussed in mediation. At your request we will give you referrals to attorneys who are supportive of the mediation process.

Most couples are able to complete the mediation process without having their attorneys participate in the session. In some cases it has proved helpful to have the attorneys participate. This option is available to all couples. Even when attorneys are present, the clients do most of the talking.
Mediation Office of John Spiegel, JD & Donna Duquette, JD, LLC



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