Family Mediation FAQ

Questions and answers about Family Mediation.

What is family mediation?

Family Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates the resolution of family disputes by assisting the parties in creating their own voluntary agreements. It is designed to be less adversarial than the traditional court process.


What issues are usually negotiated in family mediation?

Parental Rights and Responsibilities (Custody of minor children), time-sharing (visitation), child support, spousal support, division of assets and debts, and post-divorce disputes are typical issues that can be resolved successfully through mediation.


What are the benefits of mediation? Why choose mediation over litigation?

Mediation is designed to be less costly, less stressful, less time-consuming and much less adversarial than the traditional process of litigation. Compliance with mediated agreements is higher than with litigated agreements. Parties report more satisfaction. Fewer parties return to court with post-divorce disputes.


How long does mediation take?

The number of sessions of mediation depends on several factors:

  • Readiness of the parties for mediation;
  • Commitment to the mediation process;
  • Level of conflict and trust between the parties;
  • Complexity of the issues, status of legal proceedings;
  • Need for empowerment of one or both of the parties in order to establish a more level playing field.

There is no way to predict how long a full case will take, but between four hours and twelve hours is an average. Single or limited issues might take less time.


Does a mediator have to be a lawyer?

No. Mediators are specially trained professionals, who are not necessarily lawyers. Some certified mediators are lawyers, but a lawyer cannot be both an advocate and a mediator on the same case or have represented either party on a past matter. Many certified mediators are mental health professionals, accountants, teachers or paralegals.


Do you have to be married to go to a family mediator?

No. Parties do not need to have been married to go to a family mediator. There are many ways that mediation can be useful in traditional or non-traditional matters involving the family. Parties may come to mediation after their divorce has become final to modify parenting plans and finances. Unmarried parents of minors can be assisted in matters of parental rights and responsibilities, child support, time-sharing arrangements regarding the minor children or other like concerns.


Are there circumstances under which mediation may not be appropriate?

Mediation may not be appropriate when there is current or ongoing domestic violence that could interfere with both parties being able to fairly and fully participate in the mediation process or when either party is unable to participate fully and consciously in the process because of limited intellectual abilities, concurrent substance abuse, or a psychological disorder, such as severe depression, which would effect the rational decision making that mediation requires.


What if I'm uncomfortable talking with my ex-spouse?

It is important to disclose to the mediator privately early in the process that you are feeling uncomfortable, or any private concerns you may have. Mediators can be asked to schedule sessions where the parties meet separately at separate times instead of together.


Can I change my mind if I agree to mediate?

Yes. At any time you may step out of the process. Furthermore, if mediation is not successful, you are not prohibited in any way from pursuing other legal remedies or judicial relief.


Can I bring someone with me to a mediation session?

Some mediators will allow the parties to bring an attorney, therapist, or advocate along. It is best to request this in advance of the session(s) so that the mediator can give both parties the option of bringing someone with them. This may be an excellent way to feel supported so that you may better participate during the sessions. If this is not feasible, you may want to consider having a support person accompany you to and from the session simply for moral support.


Do I have to have a lawyer review the Agreement?

It is recommended that a lawyer for each party review the Memorandum of Understanding (Agreement) before you sign it, but it is not necessarily required. Talk to your individual mediator about this prior to any sessions.


What if I have a complaint about a specific certified family mediator?

The Family Mediation Certification Board certifies mediators and oversees the mediator's adherence to professional standards. You may put your concerns in writing and send them to the board to be reviewed.