Description of Mediation Services

What is Mediation?

Photo of Joanne Fryer, Esq.Mediation is a voluntary and non-adversarial settlement procedure. For a divorcing couple, mediation provides a way of resolving disputes without resort to litigation or the threat of litigation.

Even under the best of circumstances, the ending of a marriage is usually a painful and difficult experience for both spouses, as well as for their children and other family members. The traditional, adversarial divorce process may lead to increased hostility between husband and wife and can sometimes make the resolution of property and parental rights issues even more difficult. Litigation of marital issues certainly has its place and is often unavoidable. Couples who wish to seek a relatively consensual divorce, however, may be able to resolve most or all issues by non-adversarial means.

In mediation, the husband and wife meet jointly with a mediator, who helps them to make their own fair and informed decisions about property and financial issues and about matters concerning their children. Typically the mediation process involves a series of meetings with the mediator, and results in a binding agreement between the parties that will be submitted to the court in connection with the divorce proceeding. Each spouse is entitled and encouraged to consult with his or her own lawyer (or other advisor) at any time throughout the mediation process.

What is My Role as a Mediator?

I am a lawyer and am licensed to practice law in the State of Maine. It is important that you understand, however, that in serving as a mediator I will not be representing either of you as an attorney, nor will I be representing you jointly. While each of you is free to hire a lawyer to represent you and to serve as your advocate, a mediator's role is to remain neutral and not to represent either party against the other. As your mediator, I will inform you of relevant factors (legal and otherwise) that I believe you should jointly consider in attempting to reach agreement. I will help establish an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between you, and will encourage each of you to be creative in resolving problems. I will intervene when emotions hinder fruitful discussion. I will not, however, serve as judge or jury - it is your responsibility to reach your own fair and informed agreement.

Once agreement has been reached, I will draft a very detailed "Separation Agreement and Property Settlement." When signed, this agreement will be binding on both of you and may be presented to the court in the divorce proceeding.

I will not assist you in obtaining the actual divorce. You are each encouraged to retain a lawyer for your divorce proceeding, although you are permitted by law to represent yourselves (i.e. to act "pro se").

What are the Roles of the Husband and Wife?

The husband and wife are voluntary participants in the mediation process - there is no legal obligation to settle divorce-related issues through private mediation. However, in order for the mediation to succeed, the husband and wife must each be willing to make a good faith effort to reach a fair agreement. It is also essential that full disclosure of financial matters be made to each other and to the mediator.

What are the Potential Benefits of Mediation?

How Much Does DMS Charge for the Mediation?

For each mediation session, DMS charges $120 to $160 per hour (based on income). Generally speaking, it takes 3 to 6 sessions to reach a final agreement on all mediated issues. This does not include an introductory 30-minute session, for which there is no charge or obligation.

In addition to the hourly fee for the mediation sessions, DMS charges a flat fee (generally $550, based on assets and circumstances) for the "Separation Agreement and Property Settlement," including a second draft if necessary.

The parties are also charged for copying and telephone costs and certain other incidental expenses. In cases involving complex tax, pension, or other financial issues, it may be necessary to retain an outside appraiser or other specialist to evaluate matters required for a fair division of marital property.

Further information concerning the costs and benefits of mediation may be obtained at the introductory session.