What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which parties to a dispute work with a trained, neutral mediator who facilitates communication between the parties. The mediator helps the parties identify mutual interests and common goals; discuss possible solutions; and work toward a mutually agreeable resolution.
Who Does Mediation Help?
Go to the Services section on this website for an overview of who can benefit from mediation and some of the situations well-suited for mediation. Or click on the Services menu link at the top of the page and select the situation you would like more detailed information on.
Why Does Mediation Work?
Mediation works for so many reasons.
By working with a trained, neutral facilitator, the parties dig deeper and are often able to move beyond their legal “positions.” The parties can then gain a better understanding of their own interests and needs as well as those of the other party.
Mediators are skilled in helping the parties to understand the underlying reasons for the emotional minefields associated with their dispute and to help reduce the tensions while addressing the issues. Once the parties are able to communicate with this new awareness, they are often able to have a real discussion without the legal posturing. This allows them to identify mutual interests and needs as well as common goals; to pave a path forward for possible solutions; and to reach an agreement.
Who Pays for Mediation?
The parties usually share this cost in some fashion. The parties can agree to divide the costs in a way that makes the most sense for them financially. If they have similar incomes and resources, parties may decide to equally divide the cost. However, if one party earns significantly more than the other party, the parties may agree that the higher earner will absorb more of the cost. The fees are paid at each session for the session itself and any mediation services prior to the session.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
There is no charge for an initial phone consultation to learn more about the mediation process and to provide you with information that will enable you and the other party to determine whether mediation is a good fit for you. The consultation usually takes about 15 minutes.
Lucy’s hourly rate for mediation services is currently $280.00. Effective December 1, 2023, her hourly rate will be $300.00. Payments are made on a pay-as-you-go basis for mediation sessions and most mediation work. Lucy may request a deposit toward the preparation of a mediation agreement. In some situations, a flat fee may be appropriate. Parties often agree to split the their mediation fees in which case Lucy creates two separate invoices. Some cases work better with two mediators due to the complexity of the conflict or issues or the number of parties, by way of example. The hourly rate for two mediators is $400.00, but depending upon the above considerations, Lucy reserves the right to request a a different hourly rate. Mediation is an incredible value compared to litigation and other forms of dispute resolution.
Mediation services include:
Review of lengthy email or documents;
Communication with the parties, their counsel or other professionals;
Drafting agreements and revisions to agreements.
Lucy realizes she can charge a higher hourly rate for her services, but her purpose in creating Nichols Family Solutions is to make her mediation services available and affordable to many families. Nichols Family Solutions focuses on families with children and facilitating resolution of parenting and related matters amicably. The children are the real beneficiaries of parents resolving conflict and reaching agreements through the mediation process.
The overall cost will depend on the number sessions you need with the mediator. This is usually determined by the complexity of the situation, the number of issues to be addressed and the level of animosity between the parties. Most parties find it an efficient and cost-effective way to resolve their legal disputes out of court while creating agreements that best suit their family.
Nichols Family Solutions accepts most major credit cards and invoices through Square. No credit card fees are passed on to the client. You will be invoiced for work as it is done and since we do not require a deposit in advance, we do ask that you pay your invoice promptly upon receipt.
Does Mediation Have Future Benefits?
While mediation usually requires hard work by all involved, it is constructive in nature and helps folks move forward, past the conflict. Litigation and adversarial negotiations often perpetuate posturing by the parties, causing them to dig in even deeper to their positions and inflexibility.
These processes can be exhausting in all respects and are usually negative by nature, tearing the other party down and keeping parties stuck in conflict and in their negative feelings about the other party going forward. Interpersonal conflict and negative feelings deprive a person of a joyful, full and positive life.
Another benefit of mediation is that it can provide the parties with new skills to address future issues. After mediation, parties often gain a new set of tools to resolve future disputes either by themselves or with the assistance of a mediator, rather than resorting to an adversarial resolution.
What Are Some of the Benefits of Mediation?
- Have difficult conversations & make decisions before there is conflict or legal dispute
- Parties create family-centered solutions
- Reduce tensions & preserve family relationships
- Resolve legal disputes cost effectively
- Get unstuck from a negative place created by the conflict with the other party
- Parties stay in control of important decisions directly impacting their family and finances
- Often much quicker and less expensive than litigation and attorney-driven negotiations
- Mediation is a more flexible process and allows for broader, more creative solutions
- By resolving their own dispute, parties are invested and more likely to follow agreement
- Parties develop tools to resolve future issues constructively
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Work with a Mediator?
It is advisable to meet with a lawyer during the mediation process. When parties resolve their dispute during mediation and sign an agreement, the signed agreement is a legal contract with important legal consequences. Often the agreement is incorporated in a court order creating additional legal consequences. It is advisable, but not necessary, to consult with a lawyer during the mediation process.
Can a Mediator Give Legal Advice?
No. Even though mediators are often also lawyers, a mediator cannot ethically provide legal advice. Mediators are permitted, however, to provide the parties with legal information. For example, the mediator may tell the parties the definition of joint legal custody and give them a copy of the statute to read. Another example is that a mediator will also calculate child support based on Virginia law.
Are All Cases Appropriate for Mediation?
No, not all cases are suitable for mediation.
There are some situations where one party to the dispute believes he or she has significantly less power in the relationship and will not have a voice during the mediation process. When this is the relationship dynamic and a party is not able to meaningfully participate in mediation, the process does not work.
Examples of this disproportionate balance of power may occur if there has been recent domestic violence or when there have been financial threats or pressure by one of the parties causing the other party to be fearful of the other party or the ramifications for standing up for his or her interests. In these situations where one party is not able to meaningfully participate, mediation is not viable.
Mediation also cannot work if there is not full financial disclosure by both parties and unless both parties approach mediation in good faith.
Most cases are appropriate for mediation. A certified mediator will make a determination if your case is appropriate for mediation.
At What Point Should We Mediate?
It is always best to mediate before the conflict and emotions associated with the conflict become the central focus of communication between family members. However, mediation can be very effective at any stage of a family dispute, from having a difficult conversation to litigation. It is never too early or too late to attempt mediation.
What if We Cannot Reach a Full Agreement on All Issues?
While one of the goals of mediation is to reach a final agreement resolving all issues between the parties, sometimes this does not happen. Mediation can also result in the parties reaching a temporary agreement that the parties will try for a period of time and if it is working, they may choose to make it a final agreement. Sometimes, parties reach a partial agreement resolving some, but not all, issues. Even if an agreement is not reached during the initial mediation, the mediation process itself is often helpful to parties in overall communication and movement forward. This may allow for more constructive discussions, planting a seed for future resolution.
How Long Does It Take to Reach an Agreement?
This will depend on the parties and every case is different. Often folks reach an agreement quickly in one session. Sometimes it can take two or three sessions. Each session is scheduled for two to three hours. Most facilitative mediators find that after two to three hours, the parties can be quite exhausted. If there is forward traction, the mediator will set up another session.