Georgia Daniels, J.D., Mediator in Pasadena
- When is the best time to begin mediation?
- What are the benefits of mediation?
- What can i expect from the first session?
- What about my "burning questions"?
- Do i need a lawyer as well as a mediator?
- Should my lawyer come with me to mediation sessions?
- How much will the mediation cost?
- How many sessions will it take to reach agreement?
- My schedule is crazy. can't we do this by email?
- Can i handle the court paperwork myself, without a lawyer?
- What should i read to prepare for mediation?
The best time is sooner rather than later, before the parties incur the expense and emotional turmoil of litigation. It frequently happens that one party is ready to begin mediating before the other, so some sensitivity to the feelings of the other party is helpful. If you are already in litigation, it is not too late. Most cases settle before trial, so it's almost never too late to mediate.
The benefits are many. In mediation, with the assistance of the mediator as a neutral facilitator, the parties create their own agreement to meet their needs in their unique situation. By contrast, in a litigated divorce (or other lawsuit), a judge decides all contested issues according to standard legal criteria that may not fit well with the needs of the parties. Mediation is confidential. Mediation is typically faster and much less expensive than an adversarial or litigated divorce or lawsuit. One of the most important benefits is that mediation can create a plan for how parties will relate to each other in the future. This is important for the well-being of the children of divorce. Planning for future relationship is also crucial to other situations involving families or partnerships, such as probate disputes and family business issues.
Because it is important to maintain neutrality, I (Georgia) do not meet individually with only one party before the mediation begins. Typically, I will have a brief phone contact with each party for scheduling purposes, and meet you together for an introductory consultation that may take about half an hour. At this session, we will talk about mediation, fees, and what you can expect from the process. If all parties are ready to proceed with me as your mediator, we will complete an "Agreement to Mediate" and schedule your first session.
You may have one or two questions that you really feel a need to have answered soon. Feel free to raise your questions at any time. Some questions are easy to answer and others may require more time and information for a complete response, and are best answered within the context of the mediation session.
Possibly. I recommend that all clients consult with lawyers at the beginning of mediation and near the end, before signing the settlement memorandum. My preference is for you to have all relevant information available to you. If you need a recommendation, I will provide some names of attorneys who will support mediation as your preferred approach to problem-solving. They may charge an hourly fee for consultation.
Some clients with limited issues and assets may prefer to decline legal consultation and instead do their own research by reading some of the excellent self-help books that are available. See the WHAT SHOULD I READ? section below.
The answer to this depends on many factors which we will assess at intake and throughout the course of the mediation. Generally, legal representation is not required at each session, but complex issues or power imbalances could weigh in favor of bringing your lawyer.
Please see my Services and costs page for a more complete discussion of fees. The quick answer is that the cost of the mediation is directly proportional to the level of conflict between the parties (higher conflict tends to mean more sessions will be required to reach agreement) and to the complexity of the issues involved. The typical litigated divorce in LA County may easily cost $20,000 or more per party for legal fees alone, plus other expenses. A successfully mediated agreement will cost significantly less than going to trial and will produce a result that is designed by the parties for their unique circumstances.
This is difficult to predict, as it depends on the complexity of issues, the level of conflict, and the way the parties process information. A good mediation should not be rushed. It is well worth the time taken to be sure that parties are fully satisfied with the agreement that they develop. A typical comprehensive divorce mediation may require four to seven sessions of up to three hours each.
Possibly. After the orientation and first session, we may be able to handle some issues in back-and-forth emails. My usual hourly rate applies to time I spend reading, considering, and responding to emails.
This, too, depends upon the circumstances of your individual case. Some clients consult with a collaborative attorney regarding the substance of the marital settlement agreement, and then file the paperwork using books and forms available from Nolo.com or other self-help resources. One popular book is How to Do Your Own Divorce in California, available from www.nolotech.com. Other clients are best served by greater reliance on attorneys. This is particularly true if there are significant assets involved, a family business, allegations of abuse, or unequal bargaining power or sophistication.
There are some excellent self-help books available regarding divorce and mediation in general. If you read only one book on divorce mediation, I would suggest Using Divorce Mediation, by Katherine E. Stoner, available from www.Nolo.com; it will walk you through a typical divorce mediation. A good resource for children is Mom's House, Dad's House for Children, by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D. The links on this website to Mediation Articles and Divorce Mediation contain articles where you will find a vast amount of information about these topics.