Common Questions About Separation or Divorce

What are the steps involved in divorce mediation?

In the first session, the mediation process is explained and any questions will be explored and answered. The following session’s issues will be discussed and decisions will be made by the couple regarding issues such as division of property, parenting arrangements, child support and other financial issues. Step by step the parties will make decisions about how they want the future to be and come up with an agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The process always considers the needs of all family members. Once the parties have reached agreements on the issues and the MOU is drafted, they are encouraged to consult individual attorneys for review.

The steps involved in other forms of mediation (family, domestic partnerships) are similar. It is a step by step process that identifies specific issues and mutually agreed on solutions. Mediation takes place in a private, comfortable office.

How long does mediation take?

Sessions will last from 1-1 1/2 hours and normally takes 3-4 sessions to get through the steps, depending on specific situations. The mediation process is determined by the parties involved, unlike the court process which can take years. Mediation is personal and unique. Every situation and family is different. You can take the time you need to discuss what’s important to your situation. It is family and children centered and focused.

What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?

The decisions needing to be made for either a legal separation or a divorce are the same. All the same issues are covered. If you choose to file a legal separation, whatever decisions are written will stand if and when you or your spouse chooses to convert the separation to a divorce. It is critical that you are in agreement with what is written in your document. Once you file either your separation or divorce, it is very difficult to make any changes unless you are both in agreement. NYS is now a no-fault state which means that it takes only one person in the marriage to say it is “broken” and file for the divorce. There is no longer a year waiting period of separation. Couples who choose to stay legally separated instead of divorcing may still be on their spouse’s insurance and may also still receive the benefits of filing taxes as “married, filing jointly”.

How will I benefit by using the mediation process over a traditional litigated divorce/separation?

At The Mediation Center, we believe there are great benefits to couples using the mediation process over litigating their divorce. Mediation saves money, time and stress while focusing on communication. The parties make their own decisions throughout the process based on what is best for their family, resulting in stronger agreements that last into the future. The mediation process is designed to help you and your family to move forward in a positive way. Mediated agreements are much more durable as you create them.

What do I need to know about the process?

Make an appointment for an initial consultation at The Mediation Center. There are several options when separating or divorcing that we can review with you. You will cover all the same information and make all the same decisions in mediation that you would in a court-based separation or divorce that uses attorneys. Decisions surrounding parenting, equitable distribution of property and support all need to be made. The process normally involves three or 1 – 1 1/2 hour sessions with the mediator, depending on the complexity of your situation. You pay one mediator by the session, on an hourly rate, as opposed to paying two separate attorneys, and there are no retainers taken as with an attorney. This process avoids having to go to court and keeps your costs down. A document is created at the conclusion of your mediation called a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), containing all of the decisions you have made together.

Do I still need an attorney?

We recommend all our clients have their agreement reviewed by an attorney. The attorney can then convert the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) into a legal document of separation or divorce and file it with the courts. The cost for the attorney is separate from the mediation fees. This is the only part of the separation or divorce process that requires an attorney. Clients may choose to use one attorney

How long does a mediated divorce or separation take?

The mediation process goes at the pace the couple sets. The process is not subject to schedules of attorneys or judges. You decide how often you want to meet with the mediator and how quickly you want to proceed. Most mediated agreements can be completed within a couple of months if you choose.

Will my rights be protected?

The mediator’s job is to facilitate the conversation and make sure you make informed decisions and cover all the areas that need to be discussed regarding the dissolution of your marriage. We recommend each person takes the final mediated agreement to a review attorney for legal advice and to make sure your rights are protected. Even though you have customized and agreed to the terms in the document, this gives you an extra level of confidence that you have considered all your options.

What if I want a separation or divorce and my spouse won’t come to mediation?

It is best if couples come in together for their initial session. Your spouse may not be as far down the emotional process or have come to terms with the break-up. Reassure them that the first meeting with the mediator is purely information and educational. It is completely voluntary. After that initial meeting there is no obligation to return if you feel that mediation is not a good fit for your situation. If your spouse still does not wish to participate in mediation we can discuss other options.

What if I am afraid to be in the same room with my spouse?

If there has been abuse in your marriage, whether physical or emotional, it may be difficult to be in the same room with your spouse. People who have been abused are still able to use mediation and be successful, rather than going through the court based system and having little control. Depending on your specific situation, mediations can be done with people in separate rooms, with the mediator going between the parties or via Skype or some other electronic means. We work with every couple to be sure specific needs are met in order to reach a successful and acceptable result for those involved. The safety needs of all parties is of the highest importance.

What do we do with all our debt?

One of the areas covered in mediation is debt allocation. This is in conjunction with asset distribution. The whole financial picture is considered.

Will I be alone the rest of my life?

Although you may feel alone now, most people go on to find other relationships. Once you get through this very difficult transition, things will get easier. Treat yourself kindly by taking good care of yourself during this stressful time, including getting help from a counselor if you think you need it. Spending time with friends and getting involved in new activities can help alleviate loneliness and prevent you from starting a new serious relationship before you are really ready. Creating a good support system is important.

There are so many unknowns for the future.

Divorce or separation is a major life event. You may not be able to predict your future, however, using mediation, you will create a customized agreement with your own decisions about your future, and this can take out much of the guesswork and give you more control.

Will my kids be okay?

Many couples fear that they will “mess up” their children by divorcing. Children can do well post-divorce. How the parents recover from the divorce and co-parent together is the biggest determinant of how well the children will do. Using the mediation process instead of litigation can play an important part in preserving the ability of the parents to continue to communicate about the children in a positive way following separation or divorce.

Will I lose control over my kids?

Using mediation, you and your spouse or partner will come up with a parenting plan that is based on your family’s unique situation, in order to best serve your own and your children’s needs. Mediation also provides a format for you both to talk about any concerns you might have over co-parenting the kids.

Will my family and friends hate me for getting divorced?

Divorce affects family and friends as well as the couple, and people will react differently to this life changing event. Sitting down and explaining your situation to those you are close to can help them understand. It may take time for people to accept your decision. Make sure you let them know you need their support as well. Remember this is about you and your spouse and making the best decisions for you and your kids.

How do we pay for the kids’ college?

All the finances will be looked at during mediation, including whether you want to pay for college and how it is best to do that. You will come up with a comprehensive financial plan for all your concerns.