1. First Meeting.
The parties meet with the mediator for an orientation about the process and to reflect on their goals for a resolution. For some parties, the mediator will recommend initial meetings with each party independently. The mediator never provides legal advice to either party, but may serve to educate the parties about the legal process.
2. Initiate the Action.
If the parties have not already initiated a legal proceeding (parentage, divorce, domestic partnership dissolution), the mediator will educate the parties about the purpose of initiating the action and the required paperwork. Any person is advised to seek legal counsel prior to initiating or responding to any legal action.
3. Exchange Information.
Each party to a family law action is required by statute to disclose certain information to the other party. After the parties have met their statutory disclosure requirements, the mediator will facilitate the informal exchange of any additional information to the satisfaction of each party.
4. Neutral Experts.
In some cases, the parties will require the opinion of neutral experts before they are prepared to enter into a settlement. Such experts could include real estate appraisers, forensic accountants, business valuators, vocational evaluators, or other custody professionals.
Once the parties have sufficiently exchanged information, they are ready to negotiate a settlement. The length and number of sessions required to complete a successful mediation varies greatly depending on the parties and the complexity of the issues.
6. Summary Memoranda
If a mediation session concludes without a settlement, the mediator will generally provide the parties with a confidential and non-binding memorandum summarizing the session.
7. Independent Review.
If the parties reach tentative agreements in mediation, the terms will be memorialized in writing.
Once an agreement is reached, parties are strongly encouraged to have the agreement reviewed by independent legal counsel.
8. Put It In Writing.
After the parties have had an opportunity to review their agreement with independent counsel, the mediator will prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement, custody agreement, or other order suitable for filing with the court.