Here are my answers to questions posted by firstwivesworld.com bloggers:
Question: Can an agreement reached in Mediation be re-negotiated at a later date? Do both parties have to return to the table?
Answer: An agreement signed in a divorce settlement is a binding contract. It can always be changed if both of you agree that it should be changed, and how. Then (in NY, at least) you can amend the agreement by signing a summary of the changes before a notary public.
If you are not both in agreement, then the terms of the original agreement will determine what your obligations are. If one of you feels strongly that the agreement is no longer working, you can always come back to mediation to discuss the problems.
Question: About how many sessions does it take for most couples to reach an agreement in mediation?
Answer: The majority of couples who have mediated divorces have around 2 - 4 mediation sessions. Although that seems surprisingly short to many people, once we get an overview of your situation, and begin to clearly define and understand the precise points on which there is disagreement—and why—things begin to fall into place; and the resolution creates some momentum, which can create additional goodwill, and cause more solutions to emerge.
Question: My soon-to-be ex and I are interested in mediation, and I think we have each other's best interest in mind enough to be successful. But I'm afraid once we actually get into the nitty-gritty, things could get ugly and take ages to resolve. How does a mediator determine if a couple just isn't suitable for mediation, and how long could it take them to determine that?
Answer: This question requires a 3 part answer.
First — the emotions you are feeling are VERY normal. Everyone who starts mediation fears that they will not be able to resolve their differences. If you could resolve these things yourselves you would not need a mediator (or any professional) to help you with your divorce.
But you can solve really tough problems in mediation if, as you say, you both have each other's best interest, as well as your own, in mind. I have seen it happen over and over again - and it's always inspiring, exciting and breathtaking to watch people find great solutions to the difficulties presented when restructuring your family.
Second — a couple would not be suitable for mediation because of one of the following reasons:
• Someone is actively using an addictive, mood-altering substance;
• One spouse is very controlling or bullying or domineering of the other spouse, such that the other spouse cannot freely and openly in the presence of the bully, or during mediation sessions, or fears retaliation if she disagrees;
• One spouse is seeking revenge or destruction of the other, because he/she has not fully processed the anger arising out of the end of the marriage;
• One spouse has hidden assets, or a pattern of not honestly disclosing the financial aspects of the marriage, or is not willing to provide complete access to or information about the assets. (You are the best judge of this — if he's a crook during the marriage, he's not going to be honest during the divorce.)
• One spouse seeks to reconcile, and hopes that mediation will accomplish that.
Any of these circumstances will demonstrate quickly (within 1st or 2nd session), to an experienced mediator, that this is not the right process for you. In these kinds of cases, my radar goes up, and my associate or I would you, after the first meeting, to verify what I thought was going on - and then I would refer you and your ex to another process.
Third — if you are not in any of these categories, I would say that if you both desire to settle things in mediation, you will settle things in mediation. It really is darkest before the dawn - but if you persist, you will find a resolution to your conflicts.
I am continually surprised by the wonderful solutions that can come out of people being persistent — continuing to talk, to communicate, to share ideas about what will and won't work. If you both want to walk away without having to wince when you think of your behavior during the divorce; if you both honestly hope that the other also can go forward and have a decent life; if you both, for the good of your children, hope that the other will also be strong and thrive, after the divorce, and be able to continue to be a good role model for your children; then you will be able to solve and finish your case in mediation.
Three Tips For Finding The Right Mediator For You, by attorney and certified mediator, Rachel Fishman Green
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