Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How Does Mediation Work?
A: Mediation is a facilitated conversation between two persons involved in a dispute (usually at our office, a divorcing couple, or two parents) and a neutral third party (the mediator, Mr. Chernetsky). A mediator is trained both to assist parties in having constructive discussions that help to resolve disputes, and in the case of divorce cases, to be sure that all necessary subject areas are addressed. The parties sit with the mediator around a conference table in a private meeting space.
Q: How does the process begin?
A: In a divorce mediation case, following a client's initial inquiry, Mr. Chernetsky will meet with both parties for an intake meeting, where he explains the process and costs, gathers basic information about the parties and answers any questions they may have. For other, simpler, types of disputes, Mr. Chernetsky may simply gather basic information by telephone prior to meeting in person.
Q: How long does a typical divorce mediation take?
A: The typical session lasts about two hours. In a typical divorce mediation, there will be three negotiating sessions, although each case is different. The first session is used to create a Parenting Plan (if the couple has minor children). The second session is devoted to the division of assets and liabilities. The third session deals with support-related issues, where appropriate (such as spousal support, child support, educational and health care expenses) as well as several smaller topics (such as a framework for the resolution of future disputes). The final session of each divorce mediation is used to jointly review the Memorandum of Understanding (see below) for accuracy and completeness. In some cases, additional meetings are needed to tie up loose ends.
Q: How often do divorcing couples meet?
A: You control the pace of the process. Some couples complete the entire mediation process in ten weeks. Others take eighteen months. There are many variables which might dictate how quickly you wish to proceed, and any pace you desire is acceptable.
Q: What is the Memorandum of Understanding?
A: The Memorandum of Understanding is the document produced by the mediator which records all of the agreements reached by the parties to a mediation.
Q: What does it mean that a mediator is "neutral"?
A: Even though Mr. Chernetsky is an attorney, when he acts as a mediator, he must remain neutral. That means that he will not advocate for either party, nor will he provide legal advice to anyone, such as suggesting the best course of action for parties to follow or predicting how a court might resolve your dispute if you left mediation. If the parties agree that it is useful, he may describe approaches taken by other couples for discussion.
Q: Are we divorced as soon as we finish mediating?
A: No. Although you will by then have resolved all of the issues presented by your divorce, you must take two additional steps after completing mediation if you wish to be divorced: first, each spouse should have the Memorandum of Understanding reviewed by an attorney who can give you legal advice, which Mr. Chernetsky cannot do as mediator; then, one of those attorneys should file a divorce case so that you may ask the Court to approve and adopt your agreements as an Order of the court, granting a divorce. The drafting attorney will take the agreements described in the Memorandum of Understanding and turn them into a Separation Agreement to be filed along with other forms for the court. Some couples are satisfied simply by having resolved their disputes and never actually get divorced at all. It is up to you. Mr. Chernetsky can provide a list of attorneys who are accumstomed to making divorce filings based upon Memoranda of Understanding.
Q: Is mediation right for everyone?
A: No. One of the purposes of the intake meeting (in divorce cases) or telephone screening is to determine if mediation is right for your family. Because the mediator is neutral and no attorneys are norally present, a participant must be able to act as an advocate for himself or herself. Some persons are unable to do so, or are uncomfortable doing so. Such persons may need the zealous advocacy of an attorney acting on their behalf in a courtroom.
Q: Is the mediation process confidential?
A: Yes. Because it is important that the parties to a mediation can discuss their disputes without fear that their statements or ideas might be used against them in the future if the mediation does not succeed, mediation is respected as a confidential process. Before commencing mediation, you will sign an Agreement to Mediate in which you promise, among other things, not to attempt to introduce anything about the mediation in court should mediation fail. Courts are respectful of such agreements and generally enforce them. Mr. Chernetsky will not discuss the substance of your conversations with anyone else, except as you may direct him to do (for instance, if you wished to involve an expert to resolve some difficult issue).
Q: Why would an outside expert be consulted?
A: In some cases, various issues arise for which expert advice is advisable. For example, some participants own an asset which requires an expert to value it properly, such as a business, or a coin collection. Some types of retirement benefits (such as old-fashioned pensions) may in some cases require a financial expert to determine their actuarial present value. A real estate agent might provide an opinion as to the value of a home.
Q: Is divorce mediation cheaper than litigating a divorce with separate attorneys?
A: Yes, very much so. In a litigated divorce, each spouse may be asked to provide a retainer of thousands of dollars, and depending upon the complexity of your case, costs can escalate quickly. Mr. Chernetsky charges a flat $50 fee for a divorce mediation intake, followed by an hourly rate (on a sliding scale tied to your total household income) for the time spent by him in mediation and in writing the Memorandum of Understanding. In a typical case, a couple will pay Mr. Chernetsky for 12-16 hours of total time, depending of course on the complexity of their situation.
Q: What payment methods are accepted? When do we pay?
A: Cash, personal checks or credit cards (with a 2.75% processing fee). The couple pays for each session at its conclusion. Mr. Chernetsky sends an invoice for the Memorandum of Understanding prior to the document review session, and that fee is payable at the final meeting along with whatever time charges apply for that day.
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