Hiring a Fairfax, Va. Divorce Mediator may be the best choice for you if you and your spouse need help getting past a few hurdles on the road to a divorce settlement and desire a process that is quicker, cheaper, and less painful than litigating your case before the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Jonathan Kales named as a 2017 “Top Lawyer” for his work as a divorce mediator by Northern Virginia Magazine.
WHAT IS DIVORCE MEDIATION?
- A solution-oriented process in which an impartial, neutral individual, the mediator, meets with a divorcing couple and helps them to reach a mutual and informed, written divorce settlement agreement, which paves the way for a simple, uncontested divorce. This document is often called a Marital Settlement Agreement, Property Settlement Agreement, or a Separation Agreement.
- A process that works best cases where the conflict level, when compared to other divorces, is a 3 or lower on a scale of 1 to 10. In higher conflict cases, another form of alternative dispute resolution, the Collaborative Process is often a better option.
- A process that commences with both spouses and their mediator(s) signing an Agreement to Mediate.
- A safe environment in which a divorcing couple can communicate their needs and interests and those of their family with one another.
- A process in which the parties themselves are in control and empowered to make their own decisions and where there is a goal to reduce the tension of divorce.
- A setting where a Northern Virginia Divorce Mediator, if also a lawyer, may provide information about the legal system, how issues may be viewed by other lawyers or judges, and what alternatives there are for solving issues, but may not provide legal advice or be an advocate for either side.
BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH A FAIRFAX, VA DIVORCE MEDIATOR
Reduced Cost and Time
Mediation, almost always, costs less, financially and emotionally, and takes less time than a court case.
Spouses control the outcome, instead of a judge determining their fate.
Proceedings are confidential, to ensure that all options can be safely considered and discussed.
Mediation explores creative options, independent of legal parameters.
Compliance and satisfaction with mediated agreements tends to be higher than rulings imposed by a court, resulting in fewer post-divorce court hearings.
CO-MEDIATION: A BETTER AND UNIQUE MEDIATION MODEL OFFERED BY KALES & KALES
In most divorce mediations that Kales & Kales conducts, we utilize the co-mediation model. A co-mediation is a mediation that utilizes two mediators to help the parties reach a divorce settlement agreement. At our firm, those mediators are Jonathan and Amy Kales, the husband and wife team that makes up Kales & Kales.
Why co-mediation? Why is it better for divorcing couples?
Co-mediation can speed up the mediation process because two heads are often better than one. For instance, one mediator can jot down notes on a flip chart while the other mediator leads the discussion. Or, if there’s a need to caucus (meet separately) with the spouses, one mediator can meet with the wife, while the other meets with the husband, instead of the spouses meeting one after the other with a single mediator. Or, 1 mediator may have time sooner than the other to draft a divorce settlement agreement.
Co-mediators can charge more than individual mediators. However, at Kales & Kales, we charge at just Jonathan Kales’ hourly rate (i.e., the rate of one lawyer/mediator) for co-mediation. If you combine this with the efficiency of co-mediation, you could wind up paying less than if you retained a solo mediator.
In co-mediation, when one mediator is male and the other is female, this can help to lessen the possibility that one spouse will think the other has an advantage because the mediator is the same gender of that other spouse. At our firm, because all co-mediations are conducted by Jonathan and Amy Kales, each spouse always has a mediator of his or her same gender.
It can be challenging for one mediator to observe everything that’s happening during a mediation session. With co-mediators in the room, the odds increase that details aren’t missed.
By observing the co-mediators, spouses can learn how to better communicate with one another in their negotiations.
HOW DO I PREPARE TO MEET WITH A FAIRFAX, VA DIVORCE MEDIATOR?
To be best prepared for a Fairfax divorce mediation, some important steps are necessary, both practically and mentally.
- Imagine civilized discussions (not a joke) and bring a positive attitude to the table.
- Outline a few possible parenting arrangements. Consider what you might like to see in a day-to-day schedule and what might make sense as to holidays and other school breaks, factoring in what’s truly in your children’s best interests and fairness to your spouse.
- Assemble and organize your financial documents for the last couple of years. Do not show up for mediation with a grocery bag full of random papers, tattered, and stuck together by some mysterious substance.
- Aim for an equitable split of property and debts, understanding that it is uncommon for a divorcing couple’s standard of living not to take a hit when they divorce, as two households are always more expensive than one.
- Retain a Northern Virginia divorce lawyer to advise you between mediation sessions and to review any agreement you reach before you sign it. Mediators may provide legal information, but not legal advice.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DIVORCE MEDIATION AGENDA?
With the primary goal of divorce mediation being for the spouses to reach a written, divorce settlement agreement, a typical agenda focuses mainly on the questions that need to be answered to provide the substance of that agreement. The following is an example:
- Who will have legal custody of the children? What will the parenting plan (physical custody/visitation) be? Regular parenting schedule? Holiday parenting schedule? Summer vacation schedule? Other parenting provisions?
- What will happen with the marital home?
- What will happen with the retirement accounts?
- What will happen with the bank and investment accounts?
- What will happen with the vehicles?
- What will happen with the tangible personal property, besides vehicles?
- Are there other property items? If yes, what will happen with these?
- What will happen with any debts?
- Will there be spousal support? If yes, what will be the amount, duration, and modifiability?
- Will there be child support? If yes, what will be the amount?
- How will health insurance and unreimbursed medical expenses be handled for the spouses and for the children?
- How will tax issues be handled? Filing of returns? Mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions? Child dependency exemptions?
- What will happen with any life insurance policies?
- Will the spouses reach any agreements regarding the children’s college expenses? If yes, what will they be?
- Are there any other issues that need to be discussed?
I’VE HEARD MEDIATION AND THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS ARE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME: IS THAT TRUE?
There are some similarities between mediation and the collaborative process. Both are forms of alternative dispute resolution and both are used to help divorcing couples reach settlements and avoid court.
However, there are also key differences. For example, in mediation, the mediator is neutral and while he or she facilitates discussion and may provide legal information, a mediator is not permitted to provide legal advice. Legal advice, if the spouses desire it, comes from attorneys, but these attorneys usually do not attend the mediation sessions, as they are not officially part of the mediation process and tend to advise their clients following sessions. The attorneys, if not picked carefully, can take an adversarial approach, so it’s important to select a “mediation friendly” lawyer. Most Fairfax, VA divorce mediators are happy to make recommendations.
In the collaborative process, the attorneys attend meetings and take part in most settlement talks, providing on the spot legal advice and advocacy, but not in a way which is adversarial. Instead, a collaborative attorney focuses on making sure the interests of his or her client, and the client’s children, are met with solutions that are also in the best interests of the family as a whole.