HOW DOES THE MEDIATION PROCESS WORK
There are many styles of mediation and several different approaches to the process. At Settlement Works, our method is designed to maximize communication and understanding between the parties, both of the issues confronting them as well as the legal concepts that affect those issues. We believe it is our proper role to educate the parties as to the basic law relating to divorce, property rights (such as community property and separate property), child and spousal support, custody (legal and physical) and visitation or time sharing. Our experience is that if you have an understanding of the law and what a court might do, you are in a much better position to make an informed and empowered decision about any specific issue. We also believe it is helpful to for you to get our opinion as to the strengths and weaknesses of your case, so you can arrive at a compromise that reflects a reasonable result within the framework of the facts and law of your specific situation.
We usually commence our mediation with all parties together in the same space, either with or without attorneys. We meet in the very comfy living room of the Concordance. We will briefly discuss and sign an agreement, that relates to the confidentiality of the mediation process. The general rule is that "what is said in mediation, stays in mediation." This is designed to permit a free exchange of ideas, positions and settlement proposals, without having to worry that they could be used against you in court or some other context. Nothing said in the mediation process is admissible in court, and with few exceptions, the mediator cannot be called to testify about what was said in any meeting or doing the mediation process.
Sometimes it is appropriate for us to break into separate groups. This allows for private discussions or strategy sessions in order to make or consider a proposal on one or many issues. These meetings are private and confidential. The mediator will only disclose what has been agreed on in the private session ("caucus"). On the Concordance, in addition to the main salon, there are several spaces available to meet (top deck, front deck, dock, kitchen/galley. Music piped through the boat provides for privacy of conversations. It is not unusual for these separate discussions to be the time when serious negotiation takes place and compromises reached.
Sometimes, especially in divorce, the emotions of one or both of the parties is too high to meet together, at least at first. Although no one is ever allowed to be abusive or disrespectful during the mediation, it is still understandable that meeting together can be difficult, especially in the beginning. The separate spaces of the yacht makes those separate meetings comfortable and possible.
After discussions and negotiations have taken place and an agreement has been reached, the mediator will prepare an agreement (sometimes simply a one or two page "deal memo" to bind the parties to the agreement which has been reached. These documents made be enhanced by later, more complete agreements, or they can stand on their own as legally binding contracts.
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