Mediation is a confidential, out of court process, where the parties meet with a neutral to help them makes decisions that lead to a final agreement.
All of the attorneys at the Levitt Law Group are trained mediators. When putting on their “mediator hat”, a lawyer acting as a neutral mediator cannot give legal advice, but only legal information. Mediation can be a streamlined and cost effective way to address family law problems and come to resolution; a mediator who is also a licensed attorney is permitted even as a neutral to provide the clients with an agreement that they can take to Court.
Here are some frequently asked questions about Mediation. If there are other questions you have that you would like us to add to this list, which you think would be helpful to another client, please let us know!
- What is a mediator?
- What kind of training does a mediator have?
- How does mediation differ from litigation or Collaborative Law?
- What if I don’t want to litigate, and am interested in Collaborative Law or Mediation, but am not sure if my spouse will be willing to participate?
- What happens during the mediation process?
- Can a mediator act as our attorney or give legal advice?
- Do I need a lawyer if I am in mediation?
- Does the mediator come to court with us?
- What is the cost of mediation?
- Where can I get more information about Mediation?
A. A mediator is a neutral third party, who facilitates communication and information gathering between the parties, discusses with the parties whatever issues they have that need resolution, and works with them to help them reach agreement.
A. In order for your mediation sessions to be confidential, a mediator in Massachusetts must complete a 30 hour mediation training by law, M.G.L. c. 233 section 23C. The mediator must also have either four years of experience as a mediator or be accountable to a dispute resolution organization as defined by the statute. All of the attorneys at the Levitt Law Group meet the requirements of the statute.
A. Like Collaborative Law, Mediation is a confidential out of court process, designed to focus on needs and interests rather than positions, so that parties can be settlement focused. Unlike Collaborative Law, clients in Mediation often come to the Mediation table without counsel by choice, so they may not have an advocate in “real time” advising them in the mediation sessions. While parties in both Mediation and Collaborative Law have to be actively involved in the negotiating process, in Mediation clients may be doing all the negotiations themselves without an attorney present even if they have consulted an attorney. In Collaborative Law the client has the assistance of counsel both at the Collaborative Law meetings as well as outside of those meetings.
Litigation unlike Collaborative Law and Mediation is an in court process which tends to be more adversarial and provide parties with less control, but for some clients may be a necessity. It is important to get legal advice to understand your process options and what might work best for you.
A. Some clients do well in either Mediation or Collaborative Law; but some may do better or feel more comfortable in one but not both of these processes. At the Levitt Law Group we sometimes meet briefly with both parties if you are interested in Mediation, to talk not about substance but about the process so that you can decide if Mediation is best for you. It is important to know, however, that once one of our attorneys’ acts as a mediator in a case, they cannot later represent either party in any legal matter.
If you are also interested in Collaborative Law, we can provide you with information that you can share with your spouse that might help in the deciding what process to choose, and where to find a lawyer trained in Collaborative Law. In some cases, we use both processes. For example, in one of our Collaborative Law cases, there was a single post-divorce issue that the parties and counsel all agreed would be best served by Mediation! The processes do not have to be mutually exclusive.
A. Clients sometimes want to know what mediation “looks like”. It is informal, and takes place in the office. We start by finding out a little about the parties and their case, including their children and their finances, so that the mediator can be educated by the parties about their situation in order for the mediator to better help them. We establish agendas for each meeting so that we make sure we address all the issues. Sometimes we can address a limited issue with a conference call, but in person meetings are usually best.
We set aside two hours for each meeting, but parties are not required to use all of the time if it is not necessary. Some meetings are shorter or longer in length by design. Parties have an opportunity to be part of crafting the process as we go along, and should feel free to let the mediator know what is working and what is not so that adjustments can be made along the way, to ensure that the process is as efficient and productive as possible
A. The mediator cannot act as either party’s attorney, or give legal advice.
A. While having an attorney is not required in Mediation, it is recommended that clients consult with an attorney prior to starting Mediation to understand their legal rights and responsibilities; however if parties choose not to do that, at a minimum clients should have any agreement drafted by the mediator reviewed by independent counsel.
A. The mediator does not come to Court with the parties. The mediator is a neutral, and does not represent either party, and therefore does not accompany them to Court.
A. At the Levitt Law Group, mediation is based on an hourly rate, and the parties determine how they want to divide the cost. Payment is “as you go”, meaning payment is made at the end of each mediation session, and any billing for services provided in between sessions is also the responsibility of the parties. No retainers are taken except if the clients want the mediator to draft an agreement for them, in which case a small retainer is requested. Mediation is often the least expensive of the process options.