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What Do You Really Get Out of Mediation?
If you've never been to mediation, you might not be totally sure what you actually get out of the whole process. For instance, is it just someone to scribe your agreements? Is it just a conversation? What do you actually get out of the whole process?
There's so much more to mediation –– and many of the "end products" that mediators can provide actually go much deeper than a standard pleading. For instance, mediators help people reach agreements if possible, and come to terms that are at least acceptable to everyone involved even if they didn't get every single thing they wanted. What's more, mediators can help navigate the preparation and processing of court pleadings, and may also offer extra add-on services to help clients get the best results, including things like:
1. Mediated Settlement Agreements
This is the most common end product of a mediation process, and consists of a document that includes a rundown of the express agreements reached at the table. So for instance, if you and a partner come in to negotiate some new ground rules for child custody, this document could have those listed. If you're trying to settle a business dispute with someone, then this document would include the next steps the two of you agree to.
A couple of important things to know about mediated settlement agreements:
1) They are contracts and can be enforced in court if something goes haywire. We're not talking some sort of handshake agreement, these things are serious.
2) They represent commitments parties make to each other and often go beyond minimum legal requirements. One of the reasons mediation is such a good option for so many people is that it allows for creativity and proactivity in problem solving. These types of agreements are often much more involved than a court-dictated agreement would be, which is often better for everyone involved.
What this really means: you get clarity on where the issue stands after mediation, and a legally binding document to fall back on if things go sideways.
2. Session Summaries
Some people call these progress notes, meeting notes, minutes. In multiple session mediations, some clients request an extra service in which I keep track of meeting takeaways, which could be homework, goals and intentions that we can use to keep the mediation on track and weave into the final mediated settlement agreement, consensus items, options generated in brainstorms, as well as basic facts we need to keep track of (such as asset and debt lists, values of items, and so on), and put them all together into session summaries. Session summaries are private and confidential, so you can feel free to brainstorm options you later might decide don't work for your situation.
What this really means: You have a document that keeps the mediation grounded and on track, and helps everyone remember what we did in prior sessions.
3. Parenting Plans
Just what it sounds like –– a parenting plan contains information about an agreement parents reach in mediation as they figure out how to both do what's best for the children involved. This includes things like scheduling agreements, specifics regarding custody, values that parents agree to espouse in their co-parenting, and financial agreements that the parents come to, among other things.
What this really means: you have a document that clearly lays out the expectations and boundaries with your co-parent so you don't have to renegotiate every little thing all the time to make sure your children get what they need.
4. Gaps Summary
Sometimes, mediation just gets difficult. Whether people are getting stuck on one issue, or they're so far into the middle of the mediation that they've forgotten what their priorities are, it's hard to move forward until we all figure out where the conversation has gotten to.
To make this happen, I can put together a gaps summary, which highlights any gaps in their agreement. For instance, people might disagree completely on a topic, or they might just need to flush out a detail of an agreement they are working on. For instance, a customer might have agreed to pay money to a contractor, but they haven't discussed how or when the money will be paid, or parents might agree on who has the children on Christmas Day but haven't discussed logistics of when and where the children will be picked up or taken to. Gaps summaries are private and confidential, so you can feel free to dig into all options that have been offered or considered.
What this really means: you get a clear sense of where the negotiation stands and a reminder of what's really important. A gaps summary can also often unearth common ground that wasn't obvious before.
5. Financial Worksheets
Some people just see numbers really easily in their heads. Many others don't, and can really use a clear overview of where the numbers stand, which is where these worksheets come in. I have template worksheets I offer parties and they can be in charge of them, or they might ask me to do this for them depending on their comfort with spreadsheets, feelings of overwhelm, or they are just plain too busy to do these work-ups. Worksheets created during mediation are private and confidential, to allow you to play around with the numbers to find the best solution for all involved.
What this really means: you get a clear sense of exactly what's going on with the numbers, which makes it easier to compare options during the brainstorming phase.
Whatever issue you've got on the table, mediation can help –– and with a whole suite of documents to provide clarity, grounding, and next steps, you'd be amazed at just how much easier it can be to come to an agreement.
If you have an issue that you'd like some help with, contact me! Or follow my blog for free tips on better ways to resolve disputes.
It's good to know what actually happens at mediation. I like how you said that there are a lot of end products that mediation can bring. Knowing that, I'll be sure to tell my sister to try and go for this instead of an ugly divorce.