Lian Zarrow offers divorce and family mediation as an alternative to the traditional, litigated divorce. Mediation offers divorcing or separating spouses and couples with marital problems a fair process for discussing and deciding for themselves appropriate arrangements for their children, support, conduct and division of their property.

How Mediation Works

The spouses jointly hire a neutral mediator. During a series of face-to-face sessions the couple works out a mutually satisfactory plan covering their children's living arrangements, the financial needs of family members, the retention or sale of their home, and the division of other assets and debts.

The mediation process and the resulting agreement are based on full disclosure of all assets, liabilities, expenses and income. Both parties are free to consult with a lawyer or other adviser at any time; in fact, it is recommended that each do so during the mediation process. The mediator does not give legal advice or recommend a particular solution. As questions arise, each party may seek independent legal advice. The mediation process is designed to reduce the adversarial element often encountered in a divorce proceeding, and to save time and money.

Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will write a draft for the spouses to review with their respective lawyers before they sign. The completed and signed agreement may be enforceable as a contract, and if it's part of a divorce, the agreement may be presented to the court for approval and to become the judgment of divorce.

Commitment Is Required

The mediation process will work only if the spouses are willing to make a good-faith effort to reach an agreement. There is no legal obligation to agree; any commitment to the process and its result comes voluntarily from the people involved.

The Benefits of Mediation

The mediation process can be significantly less expensive and less painful for the family than the protracted battles that often are part of a divorce or other family litigation. Studies indicate that divorce agreements usually are far better for the children involved than agreements imposed by court order. The structured process lets the spouses establish their own goals and design for themselves-with the mediator's help-the best way to achieve them. Most litigated cases reach settlement. Mediation may help the parties and their children come to an agreement more peacefully.

The Cost of Mediation

Most couples take about four to eight or ten hours of mediator time to complete their agreement. The amount of time required can vary depending on how complex their finances are, among other factors. No retainer is charged, and the fee for each session is payable at the time of the session.

Here are some observations about mediation:

  • The family usually knows better than anyone else what is best for its members.
  • When spouses can decide for themselves, feelings of frustration, anger and helplessness are reduced.
  • When spouses can talk and listen to each other, each feels less threatened by the other.
  • Compared to orders imposed by a court, plans that couples develop themselves reduce conflict, increasing the chances of compliance.
  • When parents can reduce their conflict over any issue, their children benefit directly.
  • People will change during and after the divorce. A plan worked out by the individuals involved can be more adaptable to changed circumstances than a court-imposed plan.
  • By hiring a mediator to help them work out an agreement, couples can save themselves time, money and frustration.