The mediator acts as a facilitator who encourages discussion and ultimately negotiation between the parties. The mediator uses several methods to accomplish productive session(s). From the onset, the Mediator will set and enforce ground rules in order to set the stage for success. The Mediator gathers information through questioning and clarification, the Mediator narrows in on individual and common interests, assists parties with their communication, encourages understanding, helps parties to explore numerous options, and will always insist on respectful dialogue between the parties.
It is important to appreciate that mediators are not allowed to offer legal or any other forms of professional advice. Parties are strongly encouraged to obtain independent legal advice and to consult with other professionals if they are needed. Independent legal advice enables parties to enter the negotiation process knowing their legal rights and obligations, information which is invaluable when making decisions. Accredited mediators are bound by a Code of Ethics which requires them to refrain from offering any legal or professional advice to the mediating parties. The role of the Mediator is solely that of a neutral third party. This means that they may not impose any decision onto the parties nor do they have any vested interest in the outcome of any decisions which may be made. Rather; any agreement(s) if reached, will be designed and proposed by the parties themselves.
In all cases, each party will attend a one hour separate meeting with the Mediator prior to commencing the joint sessions. This preliminary and confidential session allows each party the opportunity to tell their side of the story, voice their concerns, and let the Mediator know what they are hoping to resolve. This meeting is also a chance for the Mediator to screen parties in order to ensure that mediation is appropriate for their situation, and/or determine whether or not they are appropriate candidates for mediation. In certain circumstances, special safeguards must be implemented in the mediation sessions. These may be for safety concerns and other valid reasons.
During the initial session; the Mediator will ask many questions, and conversely will also answer any questions that the parties may have prior to attending the joint Mediation sessions.
If the parties decide to proceed with the Mediator, they will receive contracts to mediate which are read and signed. The Mediator will also hand the parties a complete list of the financial items which they need to gather prior to attending the financial session. Lastly, parties will receive a Parenting Plan checklist so that they may begin to think about the numerous items that they may wish to implement in their respective parenting plans.
After the individual sessions, joint sessions will be scheduled for the parties at a mutually agreeable time. On average, joint sessions are scheduled for two hour increments. In Family mediation, the Parenting Plan Session and the Financial Session are booked for separate times.
In the event that mutual decisions are reached between the parties, the Mediator will put the agreed upon items into a special document called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOA). Each party is then responsible to take the MOA to their individual lawyers for review. The parties will then assign one of their lawyer's to transfer the MOA into their Separation agreement.