FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DIVORCE, MEDIATION AND CUSTODY
This page provides some simple answers to basic questions. I added this page to my website when many clients contacted me with general questions about divorce and custody. Please remember that this page includes only general information and divorce and custody in West Virginia and in the District of Columbia. It is not legal advice. If you have a question, please contact me and I will post my response on this page.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an informal way of resolving a legal dispute or other conflict. In mediation, the parties work with a specially trained and neutral third party to help develop a resolution to the conflict.
What is the difference between a judge and a mediator?
A judge will make the decision for you regarding your dispute as part of the litigation process. The decision will be based entirely on the law and will be made only on the information that the judge is allowed to consider according to the law. Typically, it takes months or years for a judge to hear the evidence and make the decision, although most of the time only a few hours of evidence is reviewed by the judge.
A mediator works with the parties to help them make the decision. The decision may be based in part on the law but may also consider the needs of the children or the parties and any other factors that the parties believe are important. Mediation can often provide a very fast way to reach a resolution, or it may take longer, depending on the needs and desires of the parties.
What is the difference between a mediator and a lawyer?
While Brenda is both a mediator and a lawyer, when she is working on your case as a mediator, she does not represent any party and cannot give legal advice. Brenda will not be going to court with you.
Will I have to hire an attorney?
In West Virginia, DC and Virginia, you are not required to hire an attorney to file a divorce or custody case. The courts have developed forms and a system to make it easy for your file your paperwork without a lawyer. After your mediation with our office, we will provide you with resources if you would like to file your divorce without an attorney as well as resources to help you locate an attorney who could accept your case for full representation, or simply review your agreement. There are also some attorneys that will prepare your documents.
Does the mediator prepare any paperwork?
Yes. In most cases, the parties in a divorce case reach an agreement on issues related to the property settlement and to child custody. Your mediator will prepare both of those agreements so that you may file them with the court.
How much time does mediation take?
Conflict often the result of many years of disagreement. Reaching an agreement may take time. In other situations, parties may have already developed the outlines for a resolution. Those situations require much less time. Your first mediation session will be for one hour. Thereafter it will be up to you to decide how long your session should last.
I'm not sure mediation is right for me, can I back out once we get started?
Yes. The only commitment you make is to show up at the initial session so that you may ask questions, get a feel for the process, explore whether the other party is willing to participate and to get to know us. Once the mediation begins, you may take a break or leave at any time.
My case is complicated, shouldn't a judge just decide it?
The judge is always available to make a decision, as part of the litigation process. However, unless you explore the potential of mediation, you may not know what you have missed.
How much does mediation cost? How do we pay for it?
Our office charges an hourly rate for mediation services. The parties are required to share the cost for mediation equally, although one party may pay the amount and be reimbursed by the other party. In cases where the parties cannot afford the mediation or when they have previously received mediation services through our office, we may offer reduced and pro bono rates.
Will mediation work when the other party is emotional, difficult demanding or controlling?
Mediation can produce a favorable outcome for both parties, even when one party may be difficult to negotiate with outside of the mediation process. However, mediation is not recommend in situations involving domestic violence.
Is there another option to mediation besides litigation?
Yes. In cases where mediation is not likely to produce an agreement, we recommend that the parties consider collaborative divorce. Find more information about collaborative divorce here.