Mediation is a dynamic and interactive process during which an independent person, called a “mediator,” who is neutral, unbiased, and impartially assists the participants in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediators use focused communication and negotiation techniques and encourage everyone to participate, actively, in the mediation process. It is "person-centered" focusing principally on the needs and interests of the participants. The mediator facilitates agreement, manages participant interactions and strives to keep communications open between participants.
The participants’ mutual agreement, once reached, can then be filed in court or referred to each participants’ legal counsel for review and comment. Mediation can result in an agreement all participants create together and since everyone participates in the process, the agreement is more satisfactory and involves fewer headaches later on. Mediation is suitable for many situations, including divorce, real property agreements, landlord-tenant disputes, neighborhood issues, business negotiations, and much more.
Mediation can be very useful to resolve some or all of the issues with the participants and reach an agreement that is satisfactory to everyone involved. Mediation can result in a much lower cost of dispute resolution, faster, and with less emotional stress than litigating a divorce or other legal matter. In the divorce process, a successful mediation can result in settlement of such issues as property and debt division, child and spousal support, and a parenting plan involving who will mainly care for the children and how the children will divide their time with each parent.
While the mediator may provide some education on the law, mediators do not provide legal advice to either participant, even if the mediator is also an attorney. Consequently, participants will consult with their own attorney for legal advice regarding their issues, or for review the final agreement, before signing it. However, consulting with your attorney can be simply for the purpose of seeking advice, to assure your needs are being met rather than because you want the lawyer to represent you in court. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, as a result of conflict, an imbalance of power or case complexity, an attorney may need to represent your interests in litigation.
Importantly, Mediation is both voluntary and confidential. Participants voluntarily agree to work together in the dispute resolution process and either participant may terminate the mediation process at any time. Your mediator and the participants keep all communications related to the mediation confidential and cannot use any information learned in the mediation process in court. Your mediator may not be brought to court to testify about what is said in mediation either. be used as a witness if the matter goes to court.
Usually, participants work together in the same room, but at times it may be useful for the mediator and participants to meet separately for a “caucus.” Rather than a focus on positions, the mediation will look for similar interests and common grounds to assist the participants in reaching mutually satisfying agreements. Healthy communications are encouraged with an eye towards reducing conflict. Mediation strives to help the participants understand the long-term implication of their decisions.
Mediation can be useful whether you have already retained legal counsel or not. Many times, retained attorneys refer their clients for mediation for assistance in resolving case issues and to avoid the expense and emotional drain of litigation in court. Courts in Oregon usually require parents to at least attempt mediation before litigating custody and visitation issues. By engaging in the mediation process early on, positioning and unhealthy conflict between parents and participants can be reduced, resulting in less cost financially and emotionally.
Your expectations. Sometimes only one session is necessary, however, the number of sessions necessary to reach a settlement depends on the participants and the complexity of the issues they need to address. Much of the time, my office works with participants who are represented, and you are welcome to involve your legal counsel in your decision-making process as well.
Usually, one of the participants makes a call to the office to schedule an appointment. At the initial conference, we’ll discuss the mediation process. If everyone wants to work together and we’re a “good fit,” we’ll talk about your situation, categorize goals and needs, and strive to address any urgent issues. After that, we’ll discuss documents, if any, that need to be brought in so everyone is on the same page in the process. We’ve discovered that unless everyone is working from the same facts reasonable decisions are difficult to reach. We work to create an atmosphere of a common understanding of each person’s goals and wishes.
There may be, and usually are additional meetings. Information is exchanged, discussion of the relevant issues takes place, and decisions are made. Once there is a final agreement, the mediator can draft the documents for you and your lawyer to review, if you have an attorney. You can usually plan for between 1 & 2 hours per meeting with some of the work being done by telephone or via the internet and email. We can do some of our work together by telephone and via the internet. How many meetings we need depends on your particular situation and what’s necessary to create a settlement acceptable to everyone.
The cost of mediation depends on how much time it takes to help you reach an agreement. Typically, in a divorce, a particular mediation case will take at least 2 to 4 hours. We usually ask for a refundable retainer to cover the initial projected cost of our services. The funds are held in our Client Trust Account until earned, and all amounts not used are refunded at the end of the case. However, you might expect between 6 and 20 hours could be necessary for a complete agreement. While mediation is not suitable for everyone or all situations, the process can result in reaching humane agreements and reducing the overall cost of resolving your issues. On the other hand, each participant is welcome to hire their own separate lawyer, and each pays a substantial sum of money to their lawyer to fight things out in court.
Attorney Michael Cougar has been helping individuals and families in the Medford, Oregon area for over three decades. He will provide the trusted direction you need to create a settlement that will work for both parties involved. Reach out to Michael today to take advantage of his mediation services in Medford, Oregon, and surrounding areas.