Steps in the VakilHelp Mediators Mediation Process
1. Introductory telephone interview
Before you agree to mediation, you should speak on the telephone with the mediator. This is an opportunity to see if you feel comfortable with the mediator’s personality, skills, training, approach and experience. This conversation should include a brief description of the mediator’s role, the role of lawyers, what to expect at the first meeting, and the degree to which the mediator will or will not evaluate the parties’ positions. The mediator will briefly explain the terms of her mediation contract. You should be satisfied that the mediator will approach your mediation in a way that makes you comfortable. Any other questions you may have, such as fees, location and availability, should be canvassed at this time.
2. Signing the contract
It is important that you sign the agreement to mediate before you meet with the mediator. This is a detailed agreement, which addresses such things as the impartial role of the mediator, confidentiality, mutual promises of honesty and good faith the importance of making full disclosure, and fee arrangements.
3. First meeting
The mediator will meet with each party individually. This meeting lasts about one hour. The mediator will ask you questions about the history and nature of the relationship, the reason for its breakdown, the issues to be resolved in mediation and what you want to accomplish. Each party will be asked specific questions about violence and abuse and whether special arrangements need to be made to address safety and empowerment issues. Any cultural differences between the parties or between the parties and the mediator should be addressed at this time as well.
4. Joint meetings
The mediator and the parties will meet at the mediator’s office for these sessions. They usually last between one and three hours. There will be some discussion at the beginning of the first meeting about the ground rules that the parties and the mediator will agree to respect during the mediation; they include such things as courteous behaviour, refraining from interruptions, and being truthful. Each meeting will begin with the creation of an agenda, and each party will be given equal and full opportunity to discuss the issues that matter most to him or her. If needed, the mediator will meet separately with each party from time to time; sometimes it is necessary to conduct entire meetings this way, using shuttle diplomacy.
5. Obtaining legal advice
Although the mediator can guide the parties through steps such as custody/access arrangements, financial disclosure, child support, spousal support and property division, the mediator cannot give either party legal advice on his or her rights and obligations under the law. Parties are required to obtain independent legal advice before finalizing any proposals discussed in mediation. The mediator will encourage the parties to contact their legal advisors whenever they need legal advice during the process.
6. Number of meetings.
The total number of meetings will depend on many factors, including how able the parties are to communicate with each other inside and outside mediation, the number and complexity of issues, whether any outside experts need to be retained to prepare opinions or valuations for the parties, the amount of financial and other documentation required by the parties in order to make informed decisions, and how quickly the parties are able to make decisions. Some mediations are completed in the first joint meeting and many others continue for four or five meetings or more.
7. Conclusion of mediation
The mediation process is designed to allow parties as much time as they need to make careful, considered and reflective decisions. When decisions are made by the parties, the mediator will document them in what is known as a memorandum of understanding. This is a reflection of the mediator’s understanding of the parties’ agreement; it is not a binding agreement between them. By drafting a memorandum of understanding, the mediator is allowing the parties one last opportunity to reflect on their agreement, obtain legal or financial advice, seek out opinions from anyone else necessary, and be sure that they are voluntarily reaching this agreement. The Memorandum of Understanding is drafted by the mediator in such a way that it is relatively easy for the parties’ lawyers to finalize a binding legal agreement.
You should expect a call from the mediator sometime after the process is completed. The mediator will want to know if any agreement reached was formalized and will ask for any feedback you may have about your mediation experience