Our Mediation Process
By deborah lawson
Our process is designed to help you and your spouse brainstorm and create ideas about how to best divide your marital property and the debts that are created during a marriage (no matter how long), as well as develop ideas on how to co-parent effectively while living separate lives. We call this The Uncoupled Life.
The Uncoupled Life is a unique settlement alternative to the expensive and time-consuming trial process we all know. Our non-traditional method combines legal and mental health experience, encouraging you to work together to develop and agree on terms that are in your best interests, both physically and emotionally.
Importantly, mediation is straightforward, transparent, and allows you both to make all the decisions yourselves, without involving the courts in an adversarial way, reducing the time, cost, and stress associated with divorce.
We use a conference-style mediation process in which everyone is in the same room, having a conversation about options and solutions. Although we each have years of experience in our fields, as your mediators, we are impartial. We provide information only. We will not “choose sides,” and will work with you both to develop options that work for everyone.
The idea is to build a team to handle the specific needs of your divorce. Our basic team consists of our two mediators (a licensed counselor and a legal expert) who handle the mediator role. The team can then be expanded to add additional members where necessary, such as a CPA/accountant, CDFA (certified divorce financial advisor), financial advisors, QDRO (qualified domestic relations order) preparer, realtor, etc., depending on what issues need to be addressed. The team approach avoids conflict because everyone is neutral (no taking sides), and it’s cost effective, because you share costs, rather than hiring two of everything.
Our typical mediation sessions are between two and four hours each, and are designed to move at your pace, and can be conducted virtually where needed. Our goal, however, is to complete all of the negotiations during the mandatory sixty-day period between filing for divorce and actually having the judge sign the papers; thus, our flat fee covers that sixty day period. During that time, you can schedule as many sessions as necessary for us to reach our goal – in-person, on the phone, or virtually. If we are not successful during that time, you can choose to continue at an hourly rate, or we can negotiate additional time on a flat fee basis, as necessary.
The actual “legal process” is kept to a minimum. After everyone signs the Participation Agreement at the first meeting, we will file an “Agreed Joint Petition,” telling the court that you are filing for divorce, but basically want the case to be parked until you bring a “Final Order” for signing. The team will then spend the next sixty days working out all the details and preparing the Final Order that you want the judge to sign, which is submitted and “proved up.” (Don’t worry! We’ll explain all of that in more detail as we get started.) Because there is no court involvement except for the judge’s signature, everything stays confidential and between the team. The only public record will be that a divorce Petition was filed and a Decree signed.
When you reach a decision on everything, as we expect you will, we will help you draft a “Mediated Settlement Agreement,” which becomes a contract between the two of you, and forms the basis of the Final Decree. The Final Decree is the actual order that the judge will sign to make the divorce official.