FIRST MEDIATION SESSION.
The first joint session is usually scheduled one to two weeks after the initial telephone meeting. In this first session, we will explain the mediator’s role as a Neutral in further detail, discuss the mediation process, stress that each party may wish to obtain independent legal counsel throughout the mediation process, and agree on an agenda between the parties to work through the relevant issues. From there, we will begin assisting you in the real work of discussing options and developing an agreement on all necessary matters. It is helpful and often necessary to determine “homework” for the parties to better prepare for the next session.
SESSION LENGTH AND APPOINTMENT TIMES
We schedule all sessions as two hour appointments. Like most Attorney-Mediators, we have found this to be an optimal length of time for working with the mediator regardless of the number of parties in the mediation session. Shorter appointments simply do not allow the parties to remain focused and work through/resolve your issues. With longer appointments, mediators and clients often get too fatigued to continue meaningful progress. On occasion, particularly with parties coming from a long distance, or even from out of State, we do schedule longer sessions since more frequent sessions are simply not practical, given the travel times involved for one or more parties.
SUBSEQUENT MEDIATION SESSIONS
Generally, mediation will continue every few of weeks until the issues presented by the parties are resolved. This allows the parties time away from the mediation process to consider and discuss with others their emerging plan. It also provides each party an opportunity to gather and research information of importance for themselves and prepare for the next mediation session. We continue with our session in this way, until all issues have been discussed and resolved and an agreement reached. This schedule can be adjusted to meet the clients’ needs, availability and travel logistics.
MEMORIALIZING YOUR AGREEMENT
Although optional, many clients ask us to memorialize their agreement in a written Final Agreement. Unlike the items discussed in the Mediation sessions, this agreement can be shared with and/or filed with other parties and, in the case of a Divorce or Estate situation, presented to the Probate Court for approval and incorporated into any court action, if needed. Depending on your situation, the agreement can be titled “Memorandum of Understanding”, “Compromise Agreement” (in the Estate Administration scenario) or “Separation Agreement (in the Divorce scenario) . Please note that if the agreement is a Separation Agreement for a divorce/domestic matter, the parties cannot sign this Agreement until it has been reviewed by each parties’ independent counsel.
Our Attorney-Mediators hourly rate is $345.00 per hour. Each Mediation session runs for a minimum of TWO hours. This fee can be paid by one party or shared between the parties. Payment in full must be made prior to reserving a Mediation session. Payment can be made via Check, Cash, Debit card, Mastercard or Visa. Cancellations less than three days (72 hours) prior to the appointment are charged the full session fee. Cancellations earlier than three days are charged a $75.00 fee.
TIME NEEDED FOR MEDIATION PROCESS
The time needed for Mediation will depend on the topics being mediated. Unless previously arranged between the parties, one agenda item for the first session will be a review of the main issues to be mediated and the parties commitment to a set amount of sessions, if more than one session is necessary. The parties will be encouraged during the telephone intake interview to make a list of items and/or issues they wish to resolve through mediation to fully utilize the two hour session. As outlined in the description of our mediation process (Memorializing Your Agreement), additional time in drafting any Agreement, and meetings to review, and if applicable, revise or edit the Agreement must be paid for separately via a retainer fee.
A BRIEF TOUR OF THE MEDIATION PROCESS
Step 1: Initial Telephone Calls.
The first step in the mediation process is to speak by telephone with both parties before scheduling a mediation. During this call, our staff will ask you to complete a short questionnaire. The questions include your contact information, a short statement of the issue(s) you wish to mediate, questions regarding the relationship of the parties involved and whether there is any history of domestic violence, restraining orders, etc. among any of the parties. As we are Neutrals and do not represent either party, the same questions will be asked of both parties prior to confirming the first mediation session. It is the responsibility of the second party to contact our office for this short questionnaire/interview. We will not contact the second party on behalf of the first party. Payment can be made by one or both parties. Only the scheduling of the first session will be coordinated by our office. Afterwards, the parties must determine their own availability and payment before scheduling future sessions. Sometimes, this issue is mediated or decided near the end of the previous session.
Step 2: Before Meeting
After we have spoken with both parties and scheduled a convenient time for the first session, we will forward a letter confirming the time and place of our first session. In that letter, we will provide you with an outline of mediation topics each party provided. We have found that many of our clients appreciate the opportunity to organize their thoughts and collect information and documents in advance of our first session. Ordinarily, we begin with both parties together in our first session. . Occasionally, however, you may prefer that both parties meet individually with us before a joint session. This may be necessary with longstanding and/or higher conflict situations where there is a history that one or both parties wish to discuss privately.
WHY CHOOSE MEDIATION?
At our office, the parties meet together in a safe and comfortable environment with a Massachusetts Attorney-Mediator, who will serve as your Neutral and impartial mediation professional. As your mediator, we will assist you in considering each of the issues at hand as determined by the parties. Mediation is a process where your discussions are private and the atmosphere is comfortable and informal.
MEDIATION IS COST-EFFECTIVE.
Mediation is cost-effective. Your individual meetings with separate attorneys, their telephone calls with you and each other, settlement conferences, and preparations for court appearances generates a great deal of expense and often extends the time required to obtain resolution.
MEDIATION ALLOWS YOU TO REMAIN IN CONTROL
Mediation allows you to have a say in your own situation, and to help shape the future of your relationships, including personal, family or business relationships (although often a mix of all of these). Together, the parties will make the choices for some of the following depending on the purpose of the mediation:
- how major decisions about your children will be determined;
- who will inherit what portion of the family estate, business or real estate;
- how to fairly (and legally) divide ownership in the family farm and farm enterprises among those family members and related (or unrelated parties) who constitute the future of the family farm while fulfilling the needs and desires of those who currently own the Farm (usually the Elders) for their retirement, health care and future needs;
- how families and in-laws can provide for end of life care for their Elders while accommodating the needs and time constraints of the next generation;
- how to arrange for and pay for ongoing care of an Elder when liquid assets may not be readily available;
- how to work with second marriage situations with Estate Planning options accommodating the concerns of children from both marriages, as well as the new spouse, especially with possible future long term nursing care concerns.
The above matters are determined by you, the parties, without intervention by lawyers or judges. Mediation Allows for More Satisfying Solutions.
We call this ‘collaborative problem-solving’ as the parties are part of the solution. This allows for more detailed planning and more creative and satisfactory outcomes. In the collaborative work of mediation, it is much easier to discuss the separate visions of each party’s needs and circumstances, and then structure agreements to achieve all parties needs.
FACILITATION VS MEDIATION
Our Attorney-Mediators also can provide facilitation services in which the Attorney-Mediator actually represents one party but helps facilitate a discussion to meet the needs of the client. One example is an Elder needing home care and possibly nursing home care with some family members doing more than others. Often the Elder feels they are a burden to that one child more than the others with concerns of reimbursing that child for the assistance while still wanting to be fair in the final distribution of their Estate upon their death. A ‘family meeting’ may be in order. Our Attorney-Mediator can facilitate this meeting with the family members, their spouses, adult children, etc. with (or without) the Elder (the client) to work out the issues of care, finances and payments to providers before the Elder’s death or the exhaustion of financial resources. The hourly rate remains at $345 per hour, minimum of two hours, regardless of the number of participants (determined by the Elder in our scenario here) or the topics to be discussed.