Mediation in domestic relations settlements has evolved in some very useful and creative ways since the movement began in the 1970’s. To us “state of the art” means three things:
Experience really counts in effective mediation
We have decades of experience and we have mediated in thousands of cases. Since we started mediating in 1980, over 3,500 separating and divorcing couples have trusted us to help them work out fair and practical settlements.
Our philosophy of mediation
Separating/divorcing spouses who come to a mediator do so because they need impartial help in getting through a very difficult time and creating a legal structure around their new situation.
Our job is to provide the things that help to reach that goal:
Impartial legal information
Review of the practical options
Tested conflict resolution techniques
Useful forms for organization and preparation
Reliable sources of information
Referrals to other professionals as needed
Draft agreements to edit and fine-tune
We believe in “being there” to provide the assistance that our clients may need, when they need it. But we also don’t believe in doing things for people that they can do for themselves. One of the most important tasks of a mediator is to help our clients determine where they need our help, and to what extent they can work out parts of the settlement by themselves.
Our job is to work ourselves out of a job. Once the end product – namely, a fair and workable written agreement – is achieved, the mediator’s job is over.
Click on the link under “Going Through the Mediation Process”
for more ideas as to how you can most effectively participate in the process.
Useful resources at a difficult time
However a marital settlement is reached, it takes preparation. There are things you need to do for yourselves to make sure that your interests are protected. Some of these resources include:
Financial worksheets of several kinds
Support guidelines worksheets
References to basic legal sources
Useful books and websites
We don’t forget the human dimension
Many of our clients are experiencing difficulties in coping with the divorce process. High-tech is nice, but we always remember that ours is a service profession for real people. Not everyone has a computer. Not everyone has e-mail. We try to help everyone work through the process in an effective way, based on each person’s own background and experience. And we always try to keep in mind how important the agreement is to each person’s future. These things are part of what impartiality is about.
Referrals to other helping professionals
In our complex world, everyone needs expert help from time to time. People who use the mediation process at times may need the kinds of additional assistance that can be provided by some of the following professionals:
Experienced, wise, fair family law attorneys
Counselors (such as psychologists and social workers)
Real estate and personal property appraisers
Impartial custody evaluators
Business and pension appraisers
We can give you referrals in all of these categories.
For example, there are many really excellent domestic relations attorneys. These are lawyers who see their roles as providing straightforward and useful advice and fair, effective representation. We also recognize that some lawyers in domestic relations practice seem to delight in feeding the fires of controversy. And there are lawyers who dabble in domestic relations cases without having the knowledge and experience to appreciate how effective settlements can be worked out. We have an extensive referral list of lawyers we respect.
Technology has an important role
In the world of the 21st century, technology plays an important part in settlements. E-mail is a very useful means to exchanging information between mediation clients and the mediator. A website, such as this one, plays an important role in conveying useful information about the mediation process, so that our mediation clients can work toward a settlement with reasonable, clear expectations.
Technology provides easy access to sources of information and forms. DVD’s that describe the mediation process will also be available.
Our office has ambiance, but it’s also “high-tech”
The office of Family Mediation of Greater Washington is designed to reassure clients and help them focus without distractions. The setting is one of warm colors, original art, and oriental carpets. The work area is a conference table with pads of paper, pens, and calculators available. There are always drinks of various kinds (including bottled water) and snacks available free of charge. We have an open refrigerator. Our magazines are current.
We have an oversize LCD screen on which we can look together at expense worksheets, support guidelines, and legal sources. This can be especially helpful when we scroll through a draft agreement in order to edit it.
If there is something you need (such as an Excel financial worksheet or support guidelines worksheets), or the file of a legal source, we are usually able to e-mail it to you. All of our office computers are connected wirelessly to the internet and to a color laser printer.
We often work through draft agreements
Once we reach the point in mediation when a draft agreement is useful, it will be prepared and sent to you by e-mail in a Word or WordPerfect format. The draft will be tailored to your individual situation and will be in readable English, not “gobbledegook”.
Fine-tuning an agreement in the mediation process is very important, because in the final analysis what you take out of mediation is an enforceable, legal agreement. For the long term, it’s what is in the written agreement that counts.
Everything is integrated
The setting at Family Mediation of Greater Washington is calm, businesslike, and sensitive. We respect our clients, and we try to foster a climate of respect that will affect how settlements get done.
The process is confidential
There is a comprehensive statute that protects the confidentiality of mediation and the exchanges in mediation sessions. We take this obligation very seriously. (Virginia Code 8.01-581.22)