Divorce Mediation is a sensible alternative to a traditionally litigated courtroom battle. It is a confidential, voluntary process whereby both spouses negotiate their Agreement together with a neutral mediator in a non-threatening environment. In the state of New York, spouses have no need to enter into a courtroom. All mediation sessions take place in private offices
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Law & Mediation, PLLC generally utilizes a co-mediation team in its divorce and family mediation cases. Co-mediation involves having two mediators work together as a team. Some of the advantages of this approach include: the mediation team can better represent participants’ diverse characteristics, a participant has a better chance of feeling a sense of trust with at least one of the two mediators, the participants have the advantage of the combined skills of two mediators. For Law & Mediation, this co-mediation style means that there will be both a male and female mediator in the mediation session with the participants having different but complimentary professional backgrounds. The reasoning behind this is that in general males and females can hear and react to things differently and this also “balances” the room removing any possibility of either party feeling any gender bias or one party or the other feeling that an alliance has been struck with a particular mediator.
This co-mediation team guides the couple through the decision making process, assisting many families in resolving disputes and reaching amicable agreements with regard to the division of marital assets and debts, financial support, and when applicable children’s living arrangements considering the children’s best interests. The motivation behind mediation is to offer couples control and flexibility over decisions that can have a huge impact on them, their future and especially their children. The needs of each person are carefully considered and the final agreement reflects these needs, interests and desires as much as possible.
Sessions, on average, last 1 ½ to 2 hours. After reaching an Agreement, the mediator writes up the Agreement in draft form and reviews it with the spouses prior to giving each spouse a final copy. Each party is free, and encouraged, to retain an attorney’s advice, before, during and after the mediation process. The Agreement is binding on both parties once it is signed. Thereafter it is submitted to a Court of law. The parties have the option of living pursuant to this Agreement or filing an action for uncontested divorce. By creating their own Agreement, couples are more likely to comply with its terms. Statistics show that compliance with mediated Agreements is higher than with court imposed judgments because it is voluntary and based upon mutual satisfaction not by what a Judge perceives as the best interests of the divorcing couple.
Divorce mediation is not psychotherapy, marital counseling, or legal representation. Mediators with backgrounds in law or mental health (or other areas) do not represent or counsel mediation clients during the family mediation process, but rather serve as neutral facilitators of the decision-making process.
Law & Mediation, PLLC offers a free initial half-hour consultation to discuss the aspects and analyze the needs of your particular case. This meeting will also serve as an opportunity to answer any of your questions and to explain the mediation process. If after the consultation both parties wish to begin mediation they may schedule a session to meet together with the mediator. There may also be individual sessions (caucus sessions) with the mediator when appropriate.
Skeptics of the divorce mediation process typically ask how it is possible for two angry spouses to negotiate with one another. The answer is simple: mediators are trained to help the couple focus on their plans for the future, while helping them separate the emotional issues from their financial decisions. Even the most furious of couples can reach an agreement through mediation.
There are many reasons why couples choose mediation instead of litigation. Mediation is less expensive, quicker and less traumatic on the couple and their children. The mediation process in total may cost the “couple” between $3,000 and $10,000, while traditional litigation can individually cost “each spouse” $20,000 to $100,000. Mediation sessions are scheduled at a couple’s convenience accommodating work schedules, offering early morning, evening and weekend hours, and considering each spouse’s financial and emotional needs. In litigation couples schedules are influenced by frequent delays and legal requirements caused by busy Court dockets and Court processes. These delays increase costs, waste time, and create unnecessary stress and anxiety on all members of the divorcing family.
The needs of the children are often overlooked in the chaos of a divorce. Consequently, children may be left to fend for themselves because a parent is depressed or emotionally unavailable. Some children become the scapegoat for their parents’ emotional turmoil, while others may actually be forced to assume parental roles. Even worse, children may be used “as spies” to gather information for a parent. In many cases, the children are being manipulated and left with life – long scars. The children often blame themselves for the break-up, feeling enormous guilt and developing irrational fears of loss or rejection.
Mediators, help educate the divorcing couples on how not to place their children in the middle or use them as pawns or prizes. Couples who choose mediation instead of litigation do so, in many instances, not for themselves but for their children. When children are involved, one of the primary goals of mediation is to focus on what is best and least disruptive for them. More importantly, mediation enables the parents to control the decision-making process, using their values and belief systems, rather than have these personal decisions imposed upon them by a Court of law.
* In order to assist mediation clients who are representing themselves, our comprehensive divorce service includes the preparation and filing of the legal paperwork necessary to obtain a final judgment of dissolution of marriage, including a written Separation Agreement or Stipulation of Settlement. Law & Mediation, PLLC does not provide legal representation to its mediation clients, but encourages each party to consult with an independent legal representative.
Additional Practice Area Information
Supreme Court and Family Court both have jurisdiction over family custody and visitation in New York State. Custody is involves two components, the first being to determine the primary residence of the child (where the child lives the majority of the time – the parent at this residence is considered the custodial parent) and the second to determine how major decisions (education, health, religion, and activities) will be made. The time spent with the non-custodial parent is either called a visitation schedule or parenting access schedule. This schedule addresses where the child(ren) will be on weekdays, weekends, vacations, overnights, meals, holidays, school year and summer schedules. Also discussed are methods of transportation and communication, as well as specific meeting places and times.
In mediation parents are encouraged to place the best interests of the children first and any plan should be realistic considering work schedules and child’s involvement in activities, etc. Parents oftentimes discuss in detail how to take care of their children, ensure time with both parents, and best meet their children’s medical, emotional, social, educational, spiritual, and other developmental needs. This will assist the children to adjust to different household rules, parenting styles, and their parents’ strengths and challenges.
Topics may include:
- Establishing where a child will live the majority of the time (custody)
- Developing an interim and/or permanent parenting plan
- Renegotiation and memorializing changes to an existing parenting access schedule and plan for more or less access
- Non-compliance or enforcement of parenting access schedule/ visitation (when a parent is not following parenting access schedule/visitation)
- Discussing a child’s educational plan, “Individual Evaluation Process” Special Education or other needs
- Relocation of one parent and its impact on custody, parenting access and child support
- Addressing concerns regarding safety of a child when with a parent
- Exploring concerns regarding who has access to the child or cares for the child during a parents time with the child(ren)
- Discussing why children do not wish to spend time with a parent
- Concerns about a child’s safety when with a parent due to alcohol or drugs
- Exploring change of custody requests from a parent or child
- Requests for grandparent or extended family contact
- Discussing a child need for therapy and or family counseling
- Preparing for a child’s enrolment in college
- Discussing a child’s medical needs
If you and your partner were legally married or validly entered into a same sex civil union or domestic partnership in New York or any other State and fulfill the current New York State residency requirements, you can now get divorced in New York. The Mediators at Law & Mediation have been helping same-sex spouses with issues involved in the break-up of their relationships well before New York passed the Marriage Equality Act. The Marriage Equality Act, effective July 24, 2011, amended the New York Domestic Relations Law to grant same-sex couples the ability to center into civil marriages in New York and to recognize that marriages between individuals of the same-sex legally performed in other jurisdictions are entitled to recognition in New York in the absence of express legislation to the contrary.
Since the Marriage Equality Act came into effect all marriages, whether between same-sex couples or different-sex couples, are treated equally under the law of New York. With all our relevant experience, we are fully capable of navigating for same-sex couples New York matrimonial laws including equitable distribution of marital property (property and debt division), tax issues, health insurance, spousal maintenance, child custody, support and parenting access.
We have helped many gay and lesbian partners amicably end their marriages, same sex domestic partnerships or civil unions and we would welcome the opportunity to help you.
The 2006 the NYS matrimonial commission described a Parent Coordinator as “a combination educator, mediator and sometimes-therapist who helps parents develop conflict management skills and decides disputes if they cannot. Parent Coordinators typically supervise and manage chronic, recurring disputes such as parenting time conflicts on behalf of and under the direction of the court and help parents to adhere to court orders”
At Law & Mediation our Parent Coordinators are trained by and follow the Cooperative Parenting Institute Model of Parent Coordination which offers children the opportunity to grow in home environments free from being caught in the middle of any parental hostility and to foster constructive co-parenting alliances to help the co-parents disengage from the physical and emotional relationship of marriage, teach them how to effectively manage conflict and understand the impact of separation and upon their children.
Parents are either court ordered to attend parent coordination sessions or attend under joint stipulations from their attorneys’ or through their mutual consent. Parent Coordination is not therapy and is different from mediation as it is educational, not confidential, monitors compliance, at times confrontational, and may be required to report to the court and testify.
Whether you are a judge, attorney or co-parent please contact us for further information. See our Contact us page.
Top 10 Signs That It’s Time to Call a Parenting Coordinator:
- Your monthly legal bill exceeds your rent or mortgage payment;
- You spend more time in your attorney’s office than with your friends;
- Your vacations are spent reviewing depositions, drafting motions, hiring investigators, etc. etc.;
- Your children are exhibiting classic signs and symptoms of children of high-conflict divorce, such as failing grades, sexual promiscuity, and drug use;
- You spend more time in the courthouse than on the golf course;
- The judge assigned to your case knows you by name and recognizes your face in the supermarket;
- You seem to be paying for your attorney’s kids’ education instead of your own;
- Your attorney doesn’t seem to want to take your phone calls anymore, and only reluctantly responds to your emails;
- You seem to be having an ongoing, friendly relationship with your local process-server; and
- You’ve hired and fired multiple attorneys, and just can’t seem to find one who “gets” you.
From the Huffington Post September 2, 2013 author Diane Danois JD