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About Mediation

What is Mediation?

There is a better way to settle differences than a costly courtroom battle. You can control the decisions that affect your family, your finances, your business and your life through mediation, a voluntary settlement process. A mediator is an impartial person who helps people in conflict make practical, informed decisions to resolve the issues before them.

How Does Mediation Work?

The mediator helps people examine their situation in terms of their needs and interests. Relevant information is gathered which may include budgets, business records, tax returns, property valuations, and the needs of each child. Settlement options are developed and discussed to be sure they meet everyone's goals fairly. Decisions are made by the clients which allow each of them to realize positive results.

What are the Benefits?

While the primary goal of mediation is to reach agreement, mediation also:

  • promotes communication and cooperation;
  • allows you to control the decisions that affect your life;
  • is typically less costly than litigation;
  • benefits children by reducing conflict;
  • is confidential, thus avoiding public disclosure of personal problems;
  • can be completed in less time than litigation, so you can more quickly move ahead with your life.

Does Mediation Work for Separating Couples?

Separation is sometimes used to give a couple a chance to get a better perspective on their relationship. Mediation can help create a custom-made separation agreement with provisions that meet each partner's needs. Interpersonal and financial issues are often included in the mediated separation agreement.

What if there is a Decision to Divorce?

People trying to keep their lives under control during this difficult time can realize great benefits from mediation. Mediators help families resolve conflicts involving custody, parenting arrangements, child and spousal support, and property and debt division. Mediators help couples separate their spousal roles, which are ending, from their parental roles, which are continuing. Clients learn to evaluate their present financial condition and to provide for their future financial needs.

With the mediator's help, temporary agreements can be reached to handle immediate concerns. Couples may then negotiate long-range agreements. After attorney review, the agreement may be entered as a court order or decree. Research show compliance with mediated agreements is higher than with court-imposed judgments. The result is less post-divorce litigation.

Can Mediation Help Divorced Parents Face Changing Circumstances?

When post-divorce modifications are needed, parents welcome having a safe, impartial environment to discuss parenting and support issues. When appropriate and desired, mediation may also include other important persons in a family, such as stepparents.

What about Habitation and Nuptial Agreements?

Mediation provides an atmosphere conducive to mutual trust in which it is easier to communicate concerns about the future and to protect legal rights. A good nuptial or habitation agreement can avoid misunderstandings and conflict during marriage or other shared residential arrangement.

Can Mediation Help Businesses?

Family and other small businesses may fear public exposure of difficulties. Mediation offers participants an opportunity to resolve conflicts in a private and confidential setting. The mediator has no decision-making power All decision-making power is retained by the principals of the business. Short- and long-term goals are carefully considered. The results are constructive for the individuals involved and for the business as a whole.

Cases Not Appropriate for Mediation Include:

  • Matters for which you want to establish legal precedent.
  • Family cases where there is ongoing physical or psychological abuse.
  • Cases where there is an extreme inequality of knowledge or sophistication of the parties.

Do I Give up my Options if I Choose Mediation?

No. In fact, if you have a case pending in court, you select mediation and then either withdraw from the process or conclude without a resolution, you may still have the opportunity to go to court on schedule.

How Do I Choose a Mediator?

1. Decide what you want from mediation.

Do you want a mediator who will suggest options, evaluate your case, and help move you towards agreement? Or, do you want a mediator who merely facilitates communication and empowers you to make your own decision? Mediator styles vary and you should clarify what type of process you prefer with the mediator prior to beginning the mediation. Determine if it is important that the mediator is familiar with the subject matter of the dispute.

2. Compile a list of mediator names

The clerk's office of every court in Virginia has a Directory of Court-Certified Mediators which you may refer to. Check local mediator listings in the Yellow Pages. There are also Community Mediation Centers. Ask friends, your attorney, therapist, or other professionals for a recommendation.<

3. Interview the mediator

  • Request resume, promotional materials, sample memoranda and references.
  • Inquire as to training and active certification status with the State.
  • Inquire as to type and amount of experience.
  • Inquire as to the mediator's style.
  • Determine whether the mediator adheres to any Standard of Ethics.
  • Inquire as to mediator's knowledge of the subject matter of the dispute.
  • Inquire if the mediator has a prior relationship with any of the parties or a personal bias, which would affect his performance.
  • Inquire as to the cost of the mediation services.

4. Cost

Generally, mediation is less expensive than costs involved in adjudication. Private mediators either charge a fee per hour or have a flat fee.

In some states, a dispute resolution evaluation session must be provided by mediators free of cost in court-referred cases. This is a preliminary meeting in which the neutral helps the parties assess if their case is appropriate for a dispute resolution process like, mediation.

5. Evaluate Information and Make a Decision

Determine which mediator has the qualities, skills, and qualifications you want. Consider whether you can afford the services, whether the mediator can work with your time flame, and whether the other parties will agree to the mediator.

How is the Mediator Different from a Lawyer?

The mediator is a neutral person trained specifically in facilitating the process of dispute resolution. Many mediators are professionals in other areas such as law, social work, counseling, education, or psychology. In their role as mediator however professionals cannot give legal advice or any other professional advice.

The role of an attorney representing a party in mediation is to provide them legal advice and to advocate for their client. The mediator 5 role is to assist both parties in working through the issues in the dispute to come to a successful resolution of the dispute. The mediator and lawyer(s) work in concert to ensure that the parties enter into an agreement that is in their best interest and based on informed decision making.

What is Mediation?

  • Mediation is negotiation facilitated by a neutral third person.
  • It is a chance to speak about what is important to you and listen to what is important to the other person.
  • It is a way for you to take control of your own dispute.
  • It is a voluntary process.
  • It is a confidential process.
  • It is process that can result in a binding agreement.

What are the Advantages of Mediation?

  • Generally High Success Rate in achieving a mutually agreeable settlement between the parties and avoiding the burdens of a trial.
  • Better Results because the parties themselves choose and agree on the resolution. You understand your dispute better than anyone and can address details that a court might not.
  • May Be Faster than waiting months or years for trial preparation, trial, and appeals.
  • Often Less Expensive than the expense of preparing for and going to court.
  • Negotiation is Facilitated by a neutral who has training and experience in helping people to resolve their disputes by mutual agreement.
  • The Parties Control the Outcome and often have a "'win-win" result as opposed to having the issues in dispute resolved by a judge or jury.
  • Preserves Relationships both family and commercial, by improving communication.
  • Produces Lasting Agreements as the parties are so invested in creating them.

How Does the Mediation Process Work?

There are no rigid rules governing the process of mediation. Generally, there are some common elements to the process.

Introduction: First, mediators will describe the process and their role. They will discuss the Agreement to Mediate form which states specifically that the mediator will not give legal advice, the parties should seek the advice of independent counsel, and the process is confidential.

Information Gathering: Mediators will ask each of the parties to describe their view of the dispute and what they may want out of any solution. The parties are given a chance to vent emotions and express views in a safe environment.

Issue Identification: Mediators assist the parties in identifying the main issues in dispute. Mediators will help the parties in understanding each other's interests and needs with respect to each issue.

Generating Solutions: Mediators will then encourage the parties to be-come problem solvers, look objectively at the issues, identify and discuss possible solutions. At times, mediators may use a technique called "caucus" in which they meet with the parties separately and in confidence. This can lead to fuller revelation of the parties' needs and to the development of options for a solution.

Agreement: Once the parties have reached an agreement the mediator or the parties' attorneys may record the terms of agreement. If the mediator drafts the agreement, the parties will be encouraged to have an attorney review the agreement before signing it. A signed agreement may be enforceable as a contract. If a case is pending in court, it can also be entered as a court order by the judge dismissing the case.

What Kinds of Disputes can be Mediated?

Almost any kind of dispute can be mediated. Some types include: family issues like child custody, visitation, support, and property settlement; community disputes like neighborhood, environ-mental, landlord-tenant, or land use complaints; insurance related cases; construction disputes; personal injury; commercial disputes ranging from small business partnership problems to multi-patty corporate disputes; workplace related disputes and special education disputes.


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The Virginia court gives primary consideration to the best interests of the child in determining custody. The court assures minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourages parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. In determining the best interests of a child, the court considers a variety of factors including the age, physical and mental condition of the child as well as each parent, the needs of the child, the role of each parent and the rapport of each parent, and the "willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child," family abuse, and "other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination."
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