Parties can engage in mediation either by way of their voluntary agreement or as the result of a Court Order. In family law cases, court ordered mediation generally addresses the issues of custody and access for the children. Once in court ordered mediation, there is often the capability to expand the role of mediator to address property and other divorce related issues. When mediation is court ordered, the selection of the mediator is generally done by the court from an approved list of mediators. Alternatively, attorneys may agree on a particular mediator with whom they have had good experiences.
Voluntary mediation can be undertaken by the parties at any time. The selection of the mediator is entirely up to the parties and is not determined by the court. Like any other selection of a professional, care should be given to investigate a potential mediator. Attorneys, counselors, other individuals going through the same process, are good sources of information and of suggestions for a mediator who may be suited to your needs.
When dealing with a family law matter, the recommendation is made that the mediator be a family law attorney who has had significant experience in litigation and as a mediator.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for divorce mediation:
- Consult with an experienced family law attorney. Prior to attending mediation, you should have a consultation with an experienced family law attorney. Through that process, you will be educated on what issues will need to be addressed in mediation. This process will enable you to get some guidance on those issues and to give those issues additional thought prior to actually arriving at the mediation session. In this way, you can create for yourself your own checklist of issues that you wish to have discussed and decided, and prepare possible alternatives for how each issue is resolved. In this fashion, you can spend time thinking about pertinent issues without paying a mediator for his or her time while you are considering these issues for the first time.
- Enter the mediation process with a mindset of cooperation.You should enter mediation with the mindset that the process is a cooperative one where the parties and the mediator are all working towards reaching an agreement that will relieve the parties of the adverse effects of going through the litigation process. The parties must be open minded when entering into the mediation process as ideas that perhaps did not occur to you previously could come out during the mediation process. The parties must recognize that what is said in mediation cannot come back and be used against each other if the case does go to litigation. That is the case so as to foster open communications and creativity in the possibility of solutions.
- Set aside negative feelings and focus on finding common ground.Emotionally, it may be difficult to sit in a room and try to work through this process with the spouse you are in the process of divorcing. Unhappy differences usually have brought you to this point, and emotions are high. In order to try to make the best of the mediation process, you need to prepare yourself prior to walking in to try to put aside feelings of anger, fear, or betrayal as those will interfere with your ability to make good decisions.
Focusing on what will happen in the present and the future as opposed to dwelling on negative incidents between you and your spouse in the past will put you into a position where your work is more constructive rather than destructive. One must also recognize that in a negotiation, seldom does one party get everything he or she wants. Negotiation, which is what occurs in mediation, is a compromise. You must have that in your mind when you enter the mediation process. Despite your best efforts, emotions may well come into play and if they do, try not to let them keep you from being able to refocus and pick up in the constructive process where you had started.
Mediation, as opposed to divorce litigation, requires the cooperation of the involved parties. Mediation does not work for everyone, however, with the help of a trained mediator and good preparation, the process gives divorcing parties an opportunity to create their own resolution of their issues and to preserve a more peaceful relationship for the future. If you need an experienced family law litigator and/or mediator, contact Linda Sorg Ostovitz, Offit Kurman, at (301) 575-0381.
ABOUT LINDA SORG OSTOVITZ
Linda Sorg Ostovitz is a family law attorney. Her legal experience spans more than 32 years. In this time, she has served as a leader, educator and advocate. Mrs. Ostovitz holds a prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Currently, she serves as President for the Business Women’s Network of Howard County, by which she was chosen Woman of Distinction for 2014. Mrs. Ostovitz represents clients in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore Counties. Her practice focuses exclusively on divorce litigation and mediation, child custody and access, child support, alimony, business valuation, as well as property and asset distribution. In addition to providing legal representation in court, Mrs. Ostovitz provides mediation services to help families come to a fair and legally-sound conclusion outside of the traditional court proceedings.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. With 120 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our eight offices serve individual and corporate clients in the Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Northern Virginia markets, as well as the Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City metropolitan areas. At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.
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