Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s start with the traditional court-oriented model.
A divorce is happening, and it’s time to get an attorney. But one attorney cannot represent the interests of both of you – each of you will need to hire your own attorney, meaning the cost has doubled at the very beginning of the process.
Most everything your attorney does is shaped by the possibility of your case going to trial, where a judge ultimately decides the distribution of property, custody of children, spousal support, and other matters. Yet a small percent of divorce cases actually end up in trial. Most are settled through attorney-led negations once the process is underway. You have paid your attorney thousands to do a lot of work for a trial that rarely happens. You are paying attorneys to negotiate on your behalf – times two.
Divorce Mediation started in the 1970’s as an alternative to that process, a better way. It started with the realization that if most couples end up settling their case before trial, why put them through the emotional and economic expense of preparing for one? Why not empower them to negotiate a settlement themselves with the help of a trained facilitator, a mediator?
A foundational precept undergirding mediation is the understanding that if the two of you created this situation (and you did), the two of you also have the means and potential for resolving it most effectively. This is your conflict, and mediation allows you greater input and control in resolving it. But your relationship has also broken down, and you will need support and help along the way. This is the job of mediator.
A mediator will hold several structured, constructive conversations with the two of you together to help you resolve and reach agreement on the important matters of property distribution, care and custody of children, and spousal support.
More frequently asked questions:
Does A Mediator Have to be an Attorney?
Many attorneys have also been trained as mediators. Some are very good at it. Mediators can also be psychologists and mental health professionals, financial experts, even clergy!
Keep in mind that attorneys while serving as mediators cannot represent your legal interests – it isn’t their job when mediating. As mediator, his or her job is to help the two of your come to a fair and full agreement. The role of mediator remains the same, whether that person is an attorney or not. In the end, it comes down to your choice and what style and approach and sensitivities you are looking for in a mediator.
Do We Have to Use Attorneys?
In a word, yes, although in a lesser capacity. Through mediation, you will resolve most of the important questions surrounding your divorce. But you will need an attorney to review any agreements reached, to answer any legal questions, and to make sure you understand your rights.
At the conclusion of mediation, I will provide a detailed document called a Summary of Mediation, specifying all the agreements you have reached. By law, it is not a contract and cannot be. Each of you will need to take the Summary to your attorney, who will use that in preparing an enforceable Separation Agreement. It is possible to skip this important part of the process, but I discourage and do not endorse this practice.
You can begin Mediation before hiring an attorney. I typically discuss attorneys during the first session.
What Type of Attorney Should I Get?
That is entirely up to you, and you will need to find an attorney you are comfortable with. Keep in mind the major elements of your divorce will be negotiated during mediation, so you will be asking an attorney to provide advice, review agreements, and help in the preparation of a Separation Agreement.
I recommend getting an attorney who specializes in Family Law. There are different types of Family Law attorneys out there. Some promise to fight hard to make sure you get everything you are entitled to get under the law. This represents a strong stance in favor of litigation. What is unspoken is this posture often involves a protracted struggle with many motions, hearings, and high legal fees…
My second recommendation and appeal is to find an attorney who sees the value in, and truly believes in mediation as a first choice. The good news is there are many of them out there.
Won’t It Cost More Using Both Attorneys and a Mediator?
No! In the traditional model, most of what you typically pay your attorney to do is to negotiate on your behalf. Each of you pay your attorney to discuss matters with you, then make proposals to the opposing side, then get back to you – and this cycle repeats itself until all is resolved. In mediation, you have opportunity to negotiate face to face in the presence of a neutral facilitator. You will be paying one mediator instead of two attorneys. Mediation is a more efficient, cost saving process.
Is Mediation Always Appropriate?
Mediation is helpful in most, but not all divorce situations. If one of you fears immediate physical harm, especially if there is a history of domestic violence, mediation might not be a safe choice. If there is an unwillingness to disclose all financial information, or an attempt to use finances as a weapon, good faith is not present and mediation cannot proceed. If one of you is incapable of or unwilling to make decisions, or if there is a history of disregarding temporary agreements, mediation might not be useful.
What if there is Anger, Resentment, or Emotions are High?
Face it; in most divorces emotions will be high. The good news is mediation presents a much better way of moving forward. Litigation and going to court tends to further feelings of anger and hostility, for the system is designed to be adversarial — the “v” (as in versus) in a court case is telling! In mediation, you will work together to resolve issues. As mediator, my job is to provide an environment and process in which constructive and productive communication can take place, helping to reduce anger and resentment.
How Many Sessions? How Much Cost?
Your situation is unlike any other! It is therefore difficult for me to make promises about how many sessions will be needed to reach satisfactory agreement on all issues. There are many factors to consider:
- Do you have young children?
- What are the complexities of your situation?
- How will you follow through in doing needed preparatory work and assignments?
- How well can the two of you communicate and problem solve together?
The answers to these and other questions will influence how many sessions are required.
How well and quickly it goes – to a large extent, this is determined by you! My commitment to you is that I will work hard to honor your trust by not dragging the process out unnecessarily.
Each mediation session will last approximately two hours. My hourly rate is $150.
Will I Have to Pay Child Support?
The wording of the phrase “have to” is troublesome here. Instead, you have both the opportunity and responsibility of providing for the ongoing care of your children, financially and otherwise.
In North Carolina, guidelines have been established to help determine appropriate amounts of monthly support. These are guidelines only, though if your case goes to court, the court may rely on them heavily. In mediation, the Guidelines provide a useful starting point for discussion. Keep in mind the Guidelines are based on averages and may not take into account your unique situation – your family is unique, not average. I will help you determine an arrangement that is fair, and meets your children’s needs.
NC Guidelines are available here.
Half hour initial conversations and consultations are free.
Once you contact me to begin mediation, we will determine a time and convenient place to meet. I do not maintain a mediation office, which allows for flexibility. Evening, and a limited number of Saturday appointments are available.
Both of you are to attend the first, and all subsequent sessions. Prior to the first session, each of you will fill out and provide the relevant personal and financial information, available on the Forms section of this website, and are to bring it to the first session. To assist me in providing spiritual support, I also ask each of you to complete a short spiritual assessment, which is also on the Forms page. The assessment is between you and me, and will be kept confidential.
At the first meeting, I will go over and have each of you sign the Mediation Agreement, and also an Agreement on how the two of you will conduct yourselves during the Mediation process.
Get In Touch
Please Call Dr. Bill Steinberg at (919) 632-4904