Mediation is a confidential process that takes place out of the courtroom setting; parties meet with a neutral person called a “mediator” who helps them to navigate through difficult decisions that will ultimately lead to a final agreement.
When acting as a mediator, a licensed attorney is a neutral person who cannot give legal advice, but instead gives legal information and guidance to the parties during their joint mediation sessions.
Mediation can be an effective and cost-efficient way to address family law issues and can lead to an amicable resolution of the issues. Because the mediator is a licensed attorney, in her capacity as a neutral facilitator, she can provide clients with an agreement that they can take to court.
Attorney Allen is a neutral third party and she facilitates the process of communication in order to reach a global resolution of all of the issues in your case, which resolutions she will set down in a written agreement that can be presented to the court at a final hearing of your matter.
Attorney Allen has completed over 40 hours of mediation training and has been mediating for over five years. Attorney Allen has been practicing in the family law field for over 30 years.
Mediation is different from litigation in that the parties come to the mediation table with a desire to reach an amicable global resolution of all of the issues without the intervention of the court. Like collaborative law, mediation is confidential and focuses more on the needs and interests of the parties, rather than their respective positions, so that they are able to reach an amicable global resolution of their issues. However, unlike collaborative law, the parties may be entering into mediation without having first consulted with independent counsel. While both collaborative law and mediation actively involve both parties in the negotiation process, mediation clients may be doing all of their negotiations without independent counsel present, even if they have previously consulted with independent counsel. In collaborative law, clients have their independent counsel available at their collaborative law sessions as well as outside of those sessions.
Litigation is a court process which tends more toward adversarial positions and does not offer as much control to the clients as the mediation and collaborative law processes allow; however, for some clients, litigation is a necessary process in their case. In order for you to ensure which process may be most beneficial for you, it is important for you to seek independent legal advice in order to better understand your options and the process that may work best for you.
Some clients prefer no adversarial proceedings and do quite well in either mediation or collaborative law and feel more comfortable outside of a courtroom setting. At The Law Office of Helen Allen, attorney Allen meets with both parties for a brief discussion called a “meet and greet” where she introduces the parties to the concept of mediation. During the meet and greet, attorney Allen focuses not on the substance of your issues, but on the process of mediation so that you and your spouse can decide if mediation is best for you and your family. It is important for you to know that once you have met with attorney Allen for the purposes of exploring the mediation process, she cannot later represent either of you in any legal matter.
If you and your spouse wish to explore collaborative law, attorney Allen can provide you with information that you can share with your spouse that may help you decide what process is best for you and your family. Attorney Allen would also share information with you regarding other attorneys who practice collaborative law so that you can share that information with your spouse.
Collaborative law and mediation do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. In some instances, during a collaborative law matter, mediation may be suggested in order to come to a final resolution of your issues.
During our initial consultation, called a “meet and greet,” attorney Allen introduces you and your spouse to the proceedings of a mediation. Once you and your spouse have agreed to enter into mediation, you can schedule the first mediation session. Mediation sessions are informal meetings that take place in our office. We begin the process by providing you and your spouse with separate, independent questionnaires to complete. Your questionnaires are confidential and are not shared with your spouse, unless you request that your information be shared with your spouse. We start the first mediation session discussing your case which includes your children, family finances and any issues that you and your spouse may have that you do not agree upon; this process provides information for attorney Allen to facilitate helping you in reaching global settlement of your case.
During each mediation session, we establish the agenda for the next session so that all of the issues in your case are addressed and resolved during mediation.
We will schedule each mediation session for a period of two hours. You may or may not utilize all of the time devoted to your mediation session, but you only pay for the time that you are participating in a mediation session. If you feel that an issue being mediated may require a longer or shorter period of time, please bring this to our attention in order that we may schedule your session for an appropriate length of time.
After the meet and greet, attorney Allen cannot act as either party’s attorney, nor can she give either party legal advice.
Independent counsel is not a requirement of mediation; however, it is recommended that you seek independent counsel to assist you in understanding your legal rights and responsibilities. If you choose not to seek independent counsel prior to entering into mediation, it will be recommended to you during mediation that you hire independent counsel to review and advise you regarding any agreement that is drafted by attorney Allen setting forth a global resolution of your case.
In attorney Allen’s capacity as mediator, she is a neutral person and does not represent either party in the action and, therefore, does not make court appearances or accompany either party to court unless both parties wish her to be at the final hearing with them.
The Law Offices of Helen Allen does not charge potential mediation clients for the initial visit during which the process is explained in greater detail and your spouse’s questions are answered. If the parties determine that they wish to enter into mediation with our office, we charge the parties an hourly rate and the parties decide, between themselves, how they want to divide the cost of mediation. Payments for mediation services are “pay as you go” and are due at the conclusion of each mediation session. The cost for each session is determined on an hourly basis by the time expended. If you are billed for any services that we provide to you between mediation sessions, these bills are payable upon receipt, and are also the responsibility of the parties. No retainers are taken unless the clients request that attorney Allen draft their agreement; in that event, a small retainer is requested. Mediation is often the least expensive of the options available.
We have more mediation information throughout our website; please see our resource page which may provide you with more useful information.