How the Mediation Process Works

Reston Divorce Mediators Explain the Process

Helping Northern Virginia couples spend less time and money with divorce lawyers

Divorce mediation is a way for couples to resolve their differences amicably. Unlike litigation, mediation is not adversarial. This means the goal isn’t to win or to prove that the other spouse is a bad person or a bad parent. The aim of divorce mediation is to honestly discuss how to proceed with the family law matters once it is clear that the marriage cannot be saved.

Divorce Mediation Associates, Ltd. is different from other divorce alternatives in that the divorce lawyers are not active participants in the process. The lawyers can advise their clients and review any agreements, but they do not normally participate in the mediation sessions — they’re not in the room or on call. Our Reston divorce mediators have developed a process that focuses on the ability of spouses to reach their own decisions on property division, custody, child support, alimony, and all divorce issues instead of leaving them to chance.

What you should know about our way of conducting divorce mediation in Reston

Other divorce mediators will “shuttle” back and forth between two parities, retaining control over the outcome. Often that is called the “caucus” model of mediation and is usually related to what is often referred to as substance based mediation. That’s not what we do. When you work with Divorce Mediations Associates, Ltd., you and your spouse retain control over your own lives and futures. We prefer to use an understanding model of mediation where the process of mediation focuses on the needs, wants and interests of the parties. We assist you in that by the way we structure our sessions, regarding:

  • Time. Each session lasts about two hours. There are as many sessions as needed to reach an overall agreement or to conclude that some issues may need to be litigated. Sessions are normally once a week. Mediation sessions work around the job schedules of the participants as much as possible.
  • Who is present. The mediator, who may be an attorney or a mental health professional, and the two spouses are present and in the same room. There is no shuttling back and forth. We expect the spouses to speak to each other. If beneficial to you, a financial advisor or other specialist may also be present.
  • The purpose of each session. Each session has a specific agenda. We don’t try to reach an overall agreement in one session. We may focus on the children’s needs in one (or more) session(s), the income and assets in another, and so on until all the issues have been covered. We try to reach agreements on each agenda item before continuing to another discussion topic, but nothing is totally resolved until we pull it all together in a final agreement. While it is not therapy, in some cases we will allow the parties to air their respective grievances so that they may effectively move forward to resolve issues and reach an amicable marital settlement agreement.
  • How the sessions are conducted. The mediator explains that conversations are confidential and that neither side can try to curry favor with the mediator through private contacts. We explain what the aim of each session is and encourage dialogue between the spouses to identify the full range of concerns of each spouse. We may recommend that spouses independently seek out therapists or independent advice from attorneys.
  • Information exchange. The mediator gives each spouse a financial form to detail his or her finances. The form includes a thorough checklist of questions about income, assets, and debt. It asks if the debt is joint or separate, and how you determine that. If you go to court you will also have to provide all of this information through discovery.
  • An overall agreement. Once the issues for your divorce situation have been discussed, we work to forge an overall settlement. Unlike court orders resolving their case mediation agreements can cover many additional details and concerns to satisfy the needs of both parties. Our mediators are also experienced Reston divorce attorneys and mental health professionals who understand issues common to most divorces in addition to issues unique to your divorce. We are trained in mediation and have learned from doing past mediations. We prepare a written agreement if you request, acting as a scrivener of your understanding and then you are encouraged to review it with independent legal counsel before you sign it.
  • Legal involvement. We do not provide legal advice, though we will discuss legal issues and information with you. We encourage you and your spouse to seek counsel and advice from independent attorneys, and to have your attorneys review the agreement we put together with you. If you or your spouse still has lingering questions, we may advise scheduling one last mediation session with us to iron out the details. We cannot get you and your spouse divorced, but we can help you resolve your problems, and create solutions that are designed to help both of you pursue an uncontested divorce, and help you resolve the issues that would be litigated in an uncontested divorce. Once you have a comprehensive marital settlement agreement getting an uncontested divorce is relatively easy once you have satisfied the statutory criteria. While we cannot represent you to get that uncontested divorce we can recommend how you can quickly and economically pursue the final divorce.

Often, the mediator will seek to resolve the issues that are close to a consensus first, to help create a feeling of trust and to focus solely on the more challenging disputes. The mediator and the professionals will often suggest and help you discover alternative solutions to help forge a compromise settlement which will come closer to achieving the needs of both parties and their children.

Learn more about divorce mediation in Northern Virginia by calling us

Our divorce mediation is different than litigation or collaborative divorce. At Divorce Mediation Associates, Ltd., we have crafted a technique based on the decades of experience of our moderators and professionals. We understand the anxieties of divorce, the legal issues that need to be resolved, and the best ways to get couples to communicate. To discuss your divorce so you, your children, and your ex-spouse can lead productive, happy lives, please call us at 703-665-7592 to speak with a Reston-based divorce mediator or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We will meet with both parties during the initial consultation to discuss the process of divorce mediation and your needs.

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