Mediation In Family Law
What a concept — resolve your divorce or legal dispute without endless courtroom time, attorney fees and frustration. Mediation is slowly becoming part of the legal process in western Michigan but has been used in other counties throughout the state for decades. It is the best way to work through disputes, if there is a good trained family law mediator.
Shon Cook is a trained family law mediator. The training requires 40 hours of classroom study and training, observation of two mediations and participation in two more mediation. Shon has mediated dozens of cases for the Court of Appeals, the Muskegon Family Court and privately. Often parties will hire Shon to mediate disputes without attorneys involved. Shon can then mediate the entire process, including the preparation of documents to help parties resolve their entire divorce. Talk about an efficient way to get through a divorce, with the least amount of stress! Mediation can occur at any stage of the divorce process, even before a divorce is filed. The sooner the parties start getting the issues on the table and working through the divorce, the better it is. If Shon mediates a divorce without attorneys, here is her process:
- Meet with one of the parties or both to explain the mediation process, costs, fees and get information from the client.
- Meet separately with each of the parties to go through the domestic violence screening protocol. This is required to ensure that each party feels safe in the mediation process.
- Send the parties an engagement letter, again explaining the process, requesting information be brought to mediation and setting a date for the mediation.
- Each party signs an agreement to mediate that sets forth the terms of the mediation and the confidentiality of the process and pays the retainer.
- Attend mediation, which is set for three hours. At the mediation, the parties identify issues, and we work on resolution of each issue, one by one. Parties may be represented by an attorney at this process or may proceed without an attorney. At the mediation, Shon can help mediate the preparation of the forms to start the divorce, as well as the mediation agreement and the final Judgment of Divorce.
- The mediation agreement is signed setting forth all the agreements reached. The Judgment of Divorce is then prepared by a separate attorney or by the mediator by agreement of the parties.
If time permits, all the issues and documents can be done within a short period of time, rather than spaced out over months for the complete legal process. A good mediator keeps the parties on task, prevents high conflict, and works toward resolution by offering various options and outcomes. The process is completely confidential, and the mediator cannot be called to testify at any time if the mediation is not successful.
Some of the mediation forms we use can be found on this site. They include the Agreement to Mediate, the Mediation Handbook, and the fee agreement. If you have questions about this process or wish to learn more, please call our office at 231-246-4807 for a consultation or send an email message.