GUARDIAN AD LITEM

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Q: I just filed for divorce and I have always been the stay at home parent.  My spouse suddenly wants to have the children half the time.  We just had a temporary hearing and the judge appointed a Guardian Ad Litem (or GAL).   The Judge did not explain what a Guardian Ad Litem is, what they will do in my case or why one is needed?

          A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is an individual (most often an attorney – but does not have to be) appointed by the court to represent the child/children’s best interest in a custody action.  The court can also appoint a GAL for an adult who is alleged to be incompetent to make their own decisions. 

          Most jurisdictions will require that a GAL complete a specialized training program.  The GAL is basically the “eyes and ears” of the court.  The GAL will conduct an investigation and will make recommendations to the court.  The court is not required to follow the recommendations of the GAL, but if the GAL is very experienced, it is likely that the court will put a lot of weight on the recommendations.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Dating During Divorce

DATING DURING DIVORCE

            One of the most frequent questions I hear during my initial meeting with a client is: When can I starting dating?  To a client who has been suffering in a marriage with limited or no sexual relationship, it is not unusual for the client to believe that when they have made the decision to end their marriage and told an attorney that the marriage is “over,” they should be free to “move on” with their life, i.e. start looking for a new partner. My advice is “not so fast.” 

            It is common for couples to spend a lot of time and money planning a wedding.  Applying for a marriage license and participating in some type of ceremony also takes time.  Unless you and your spouse have agreed on every single issue involved in the dissolution of your marriage, you are not going to be quickly divorced.  It will take a certain amount of time to  reach an agreement with or without attorneys or with mediators and/or arbitrators.  If you are unable to resolve any disagreements be prepared for a lengthy process. Dating during the divorce can vastly complicate the process and impact the time for ending the marriage. 

Q: After I move out of the marital bedroom, am I free to date other people?

            It is important to understand that you are married under the law until you have an official document stating that you and your spouse are no longer husband and wife.  In most states that document is known as a “Final Judgement of Divorce.”  In many states sexual relations with any person other than your spouse is adultery and a crime.  Fortunately, district attorneys have more significant criminal cases to prosecute so there is rarely a prosecution, but it is still a crime.

Q: If I start a new relationship while my divorce is pending, can that affect the settlement?

       Absolutely.  It is possible that your new relationship can affect the outcome of custody or visitation, as well as the amount that you pay or receive as child support and/or alimony.  It can also dramatically affect your ability to negotiate a property settlement with your spouse.

Q:  My spouse is very angry that I want a divorce.  My lawyer told me that my spouse can’t prevent me from getting a divorce.  So, what difference does it make if my spouse is angry that I am in a new relationship?

         Your lawyer is correct to the extent that your spouse cannot stop the divorce.  However, an angry spouse can enormously complicate the divorce, and lengthen the time it takes for the divorce to be finalized.  As a result it is very likely that your lawyer will have to devote more billable time to your divorce, which will result in your paying  larger legal fees.  It is to your advantage to maintain a “cordial” relationship with your “soon to be” ex-spouse.  This translates into taking “the high road” when responding to emails, and when you are forced to interact with your  spouse.  To the extent that you can “suggest” to your family members to refrain from negative comments about your spouse, do it.  There is nothing to be gained by provoking anger in your spouse.

Q:  I am in a new relationship, and my divorce is “close” to being final.  Can I introduce my children to my new love?

      There is no such animal as “almost divorced.”  You are married until you have a signed divorce decree in your hand. In some states, it is a crime to have sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse.  It is impossible for me to imagine a situation where it would benefit your children to meet your new love while you are still legally married.  Your children’s parent is still your spouse.  The younger your children are the more likely that they will be confused about your new relationship.  If your children are older, it is possible that they will be angry at you for having a new relationship.  If your case is not resolved amicably, the court may be deciding custody, child support, spousal support, division of assets and debts. The judge may have concerns about your judgement.  Keep in mind that judges in family law matters have an enormous amount of discretion and can penalize your actions.

Q:  My spouse filed for divorce and I am very depressed.  My friends tell me that I need to start dating and having sex.

       Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful experiences in one’s life time.  It is stressful whether you are the party that filed for the divorce or if you are on the receiving side.  It is normal to be sad.  Although your friends are trying to help you “move on,” dating has its own set of stressors.  There are many qualified professionals who can assist  you to develop coping strategies so you can get to a better place.  I recommend that my  clients   make  an appointment with a therapist experienced in working with individuals going through divorce.  If you meet with a  therapist, and you do not feel “connected,” ask for some additional recommendations.  Your attorney should have therapists they have identified as being particularly helpful working with individuals going through divorce. I have witnessed many clients go from “caterpillars to butterflies” during the divorce process.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

How to Be a Better Long Distance Parent – Part 2

Continuing our discussion  of how to be a better long distance parent, the following are some additional questions I commonly hear when a long distance parenting relationship is imminent.

Q:  My child is 4 years old, what suggestions do you have for things to do to help improve my long distance relationship with my child?  Because of the expense I can only visit her about three times a year?

Some preschool children are able to speak clearly and love to talk on the phone.  But there are other completely normal children who do not feel comfortable on the phone.  Skype or Face-time is generally easier for children.  Of course, the children will need an adult nearby to set up the session.  If it is possible, let the children show you some of their favorite toys and friends.  Ideally, it would be great to have a set time to talk and skype with your children.  The most important piece of advice is to be flexible.  If during your “regular” skype time, your child has a play date, try asking if it would be possible to have your child and his friend skype with you.  Keep the session short and be up-beat.  Remember to thank your ex for arranging the session.

Continue to send video clips, letters and emails as often as possible.  Try to send something at least five days a week.  Remember this is your opportunity to connect with your children.  When you speak with your child, talk about the activities you did together, i.e. going to the zoo, visiting relatives, etc.  When you travel to see your children take a lot of pictures and videos, so that you can share the memories again and again with your children.

For children that like to do puzzles, send puzzles that you have started for your children to complete.  They can show them to you on Skype or Face-time.  Children love to receive snail mail with little “surprises”, stickers, baseball cards, pictures of you and your family and pets.

Q:  I have twin girls that are 8 years old.  I only get to see them twice a year.  I lived with their Father until they were 7.  I miss them very much.  What can I do to improve my relationship in between “live” visits?

It is very difficult for you and your girls to be so far apart.  Hopefully, since you lived with them in the same household until a year ago, you have a lot to build on.  It is extremely important that you call and email your children’s teachers so that you receive the same reports on the children’s progress as their Father.  If one of the girls needs extra help in a school subject, make sure that you are aware of tests that are coming up.  Try to schedule a special Skype session to tutor your child.  Use technology such as www.gotomeeting.com to work together.  When you visit, if it is possible, stay at a hotel with a kitchenette so that you are able to prepare meals together.  If they are mature and the distance is not too great, they should be able to fly to see you soon. Most airlines allow unaccompanied minors to fly after age 12, for an extra fee.

Q:  I have a teenage daughter who is 15.  Her mother and I had a brief relationship, but I have always paid child support.  I see my daughter less than three times a year.  I would like to get closer to her, but I do not know how to start.

It is a challenge to get closer to teenager children – even when they live in the same household!  As parents we want our children to develop their individual interests and make friends.  It is normal for teenagers to want to spend more time with their friends than either parent.  Try not to take it personally.  At some point in your daughter’s life, she will want to be closer.  Until that point, stay very involved with her schoolwork and athletic activities.  If it is possible, try to attend a few of her athletic games or practices.  If you are financially able to take her on  special trips from time to time, that would be great. If a trip is out of your budget, how about tickets to a local concert or an athletic event.  Girls (of all ages)  particularly love to receive little gifts, such as teddy bears. Gift certificates for restaurants or even coupons for food discounts are thoughtful.

Try to have some kind of contact with your daughter at least twice a week.  It can be as simple as an email with a video, a silly card or a little gift, i.e. earrings.  The important message is to keep the dialogue open.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

How to Be a Better Long Distance Parent – Part 1

In my practice, I often see couples who divorce and then one parent moves to another city or state. Obviously, that makes parenting a challenge, particularly with younger children. It’s not an ideal situation, but if parents make an effort, and use sensitivity, such parenting plans can work.

In general, when one parent relocates (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) the “left behind” parent is forced to be the long-distance parent. Your relationship with your children becomes much more formal.  This is particularly true when it is necessary to fly to visit your children. Statistically, children often lose contact with the long distance parent’s extended family, which for children is another significant loss.

Below are some questions I commonly hear when a long-distance parenting relationship is imminent.

Q: My ex “picked up” and moved without discussing it with me.  I am very angry.  What should I do?

It is important to remember (even if you have to write it on a sticky note and put it on your mirror) that you are the adult.  No matter how angry you are with your child’s parent, you need to give your children unconditional love.  Your child did not initiate the move.  If you are having trouble dealing with your anger toward your ex – get therapy.  It will not only make your relationship better with your children, it will help your children adjust better to their new home.

Q:  How can I work together with my ex to help the children adjust to the move and ensure that the relationship with my child’s non-custodial parent continues?

Children will adjust to the move when both parents work together and are committed to the notion that the relationship between the children and the long-distance parent continues.  Unfortunately, in an acrimonious divorce it is hard to focus on the child and commit to fostering the relationship your children have with your ex.  If you are unable to talk to each other, write an email or a letter.  If you are the custodial parent, make sure that you are writing to your ex at least weekly and giving them information about your children.  Also, make the process easier – suggest visiting times and recommend where to stay, and possible activities during the visit.

Q: What are some suggestions for helping long distance parents with babies up to about 2 ½  years old?

Here are some things you can send your child to help them remember you:

  • Cards:  (either e-cards or snail mail) cards at holidays and special occasions.  Snail mail is better, if possible.

Video clips of you singing their favorite songs and stories, using their names and special attributes

  • Send colorful, fun stickers, paper cut-outs.
  • Send a lot of photos of you, your family and friends.

Q: I am the relocating parent, and I want to encourage our children to have a good relationship with my ex, but my ex is very angry at me for moving and remarrying.  What can I do?

Sometimes, there is nothing that you can do to please your ex.  However, make sure that you are never badmouthing your ex, even when you may be furious at something they did.  This includes talking to your friends and complaining when your children are within hearing distance.  Save your complaints for a time when your children are not around.

Be available when your ex wants to speak with your children.  Of course, if your ex is calling at inconvenient times, it would be best to give him “windows of opportunity” for calling.  Work with your ex around his schedule.

Consider using an on-line program like “Our Family Wizard” (www.ourfamilywizard)  to share information about the children. It is not advisable to send your ex a request for his/her share of a doctor visit, if you have not communicated with your ex the reason for the visit and the follow-up.

It is important for your children to have pictures of your ex in their room.  They see you all the time!

When your ex is visiting your children or they will be visiting him/her make sure that the kids are prepared for the visit with appropriate clothes.  If they have a homework project resist the urge to “save it” for their visit.

When your ex leaves or the children return home from a visit, be prepared for them to have some “down-time” for the transition.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

When Should You Get a Second Opinion for Your Divorce Case – Part 2

Q: My Friend, (relative, co-worker) says that my lawyer is not any good, what should I do?

            (continued from Part 1)

            If your friend, relative or co-worker tells you that your lawyer is “getting it all wrong,” it would be helpful for you to ask him/her to tell you what they mean.  For instance, if your friend tells you that the “Mother always gets primary custody,” it is important to know what is their source of information.  If your friend’s knowledge comes from another friend, maybe you should consult with that person’s attorney.

            Prior to meeting either in person, telephonically or via internet you need to prepare carefully for the second opinion consultation.  A medical second opinion does not require any preparation by the patient.  It is routine for hospitals and physicians to send lab results, slides, test results etc. to another physician. The patient does not have to provide any additional data.  It is entirely different when a client is seeking a second legal opinion.  At a minimum, you need a copy of your complete file.  In addition, prepare a chronology of your matter, prior to the current situation.  Finally, prepare a list of the concerns that convinced you that you need another opinion.  Experienced family lawyers know and understand that sometimes a “fresh” set of eyes and ears is helpful to get a different slant on the situation which may help to resolve all or some of the issues.  Be prepared that having a new attorney may increase your total legal fees, but the most important factor is your comfort.  In complex situations there may not be a solution that will be one that you want.  When there are bad facts, you need to keep in mind that lawyers are not magicians.  Experienced attorneys can minimize the effect of bad facts – but those facts cannot be erased.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

When Should You Get a Second Opinion for Your Divorce Case – Part 1

Q: My Friend, (relative, co-worker) says that my lawyer is not any good, what should I do?

            It is very common for well-meaning (or not so “well meaning”) friends, family and co-workers to voice their opinions about your divorce or other family lawsuit.  Almost everyone will volunteer their opinions about your unique situation.  Most “advice – givers” are well meaning, and sincerely want to help you.  The old saying to take their advice “with a grain of salt” – could not be more true. 

            I am making the assumption, that when you selected your attorney you carefully examined her/his credentials, experience and at the time you decided to hire him/her you felt a connection.  Then, the hard work started – both yours and your attorney.  It is the responsibility of the client to be completely honest and forthright to their lawyer.  Keep in mind that an attorney is an expert on law and you are the expert on the facts.  It is not uncommon for individuals going through the emotional roller coaster of a failed relationship to unintentionally omit very important facts.  Sometimes, the left out or distorted facts will completely change the attorney’s litigation strategy.  Therefore, prior to consulting with another attorney, it is essential that you reiterate in writing the facts of your case to confirm that both of you are on the same page.

            It is routine for lawyers and clients to disagree about how a case should be handled.  If you disagree with your lawyer’s handling of the case, tell her/him immediately.  Lawyers that handle complex family law matters are very much aware that there are no “magic” solutions to resolving child custody, division of assets and debts, and spousal support.  Personal relationships involving abuse, addiction, infidelity etc. have a long history and these situations do not have straightforward solutions.  Family law attorneys understand that a family law matter is devastating to the client and that the client needs to be comfortable.  Sometimes, there is nothing that can make a client feel comfortable, short of waving a magic wand to make the other party “go away.”

            (See Part 2 for continuation.)

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

MEDIATION IN FAMILY LAW CASES

Q:        Why is mediation in a family law case so much more complex than mediation in other legal actions, such as real estate law?

Family law cases are often complex disputes involving many areas of the law.  It is not unusual for a party to have tax, real estate, bankruptcy and criminal issues in addition to disagreements about custody and child support.  Another reason for the complexity in family law cases is that it is very common for issues, such as child support to go on for many years.   Most families will move at least once every five years.  With a move and children the amount of child support can change and so can the parenting plan.  When cases are mediated the parties will have an opportunity to plan for future contingencies to a far greater extent than in the courtroom.

Q:        Is mediation appropriate for every family court case?

Not every case will benefit from mediation.    It is important to decide whether your case is appropriate for mediation.  Although many judges have a “rule” that they will not hear a case unless the case is first mediated,  it is not uncommon for judges to have an “exception” to their rule.  In cases where there is domestic violence, mediation is unlikely to be effective and can be potential dangerous for the victim.

In jurisdictions where you have a choice to mediate, it is important to discuss this issue with your attorney.  You need to know if your spouse wants to reach an agreement.  Does your spouse have some motivation for wanting to settle quickly?  Does your spouse want to prolong the divorce for a monetary gain?  Is there a downside for either spouse if the case is concluded with mediation and not a trial?  There are some clients that for whatever reason they want to “have a judge hear their side of the story”, so that they can humiliate their spouse.  There are other clients who do not want to part with “their” assets unless a judge tells order them to do it.  In cases where it is apparent that one side will not settle, it is better to plan for a prolonged trial and budget for it.

Q:        Is there a “right” or a “wrong” time for mediation?

It is important that both sides have sufficient knowledge of the financial aspects of the marriage.  Each party should have whatever documents they need from the other side well in advance of the mediation.  If custody is an issue and there is a guardian ad litem will be writing a report, the parties should have sufficient time to “digest” the report before mediating.  It is unrealistic to think that mediation will be successful if one party is surprised by the guardian’s recommendation.  Emotions need to be put aside enough to participate in mediation.  Sometimes it is extremely effective to have a court date set close to the mediation date so that the parties know that if they do not reach an agreement, there will be substantial legal fees to try the case.  However, a close court date can also be a motivating factor not to settle.  You know your spouse better than anyone else involved in the litigation and can make the best decision as to whether mediation is likely to succeed.

Q: What are the qualifications of a mediator?

Mediators take special courses to be qualified as a mediator. In addition to the courses, many courts require that mediators observe several experienced mediators conduct mediations.  Each state and some local courts provide their own rules concerning who may be qualified as a mediator.  Mediators can be practicing attorneys, retired judges or other professionals, such as therapists or accountants.  The qualifications vary greatly.

Generally, it is very helpful to have an experienced professional who has mediated many cases similar to yours.  For instance, if your case involve a small business, it would be very helpful to have someone with a strong financial background mediating your case.

Q:   How are Mediators chosen?     

It is common for courts to have a list of mediators who have complied with their specific qualifications.  If you and your spouse or ex agree (or your attorneys) on a mediator that is not on the “list” for your county, it is possible to request that particular mediator be exempt from your local rules.  If you and your ex (or your attorneys) have not agreed on a mediator, the judge will assign the mediator.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

5 More Reasons You Should Not Delay Getting a Divorce in 2014

The decision to file for divorce is never easy – and it shouldn’t be.  After all, you and your spouse made what was supposed to be a life-long commitment “til’ death do you part.”  But “things” happen.  Sometimes the things are within our control, i.e. extra-marital relationship, substance abuse, etc., but sometimes there are life changing events that are beyond anyone’s control, i.e. illness, loss of job, parent’s illness, etc. I am assuming that you have sought professional help from a qualified mental health professional and have tried to persuade your spouse to participate in marital counseling.  Experienced marital therapists have told me that for a couple to “know” if the marital counseling is helpful, it is necessary to see the therapist once a week for four months.

  1. Your children are learning what marriage is like from yours.  This is particularly true if you have young children at home.  Do you want your children to have a marriage like yours?  Children have the “right” to be raised in a family with love, commitment and honesty.  Do you want your children to be treated by their future spouse, the way you are being treated?  The sooner that your children are no longer witnessing the hostile environment in your home, the better it will be for them in their future relationships.
  2. You will be more productive in your job and career, if you are not carrying the weight of being in an unhappy relationship.   It is very difficult to achieve your potential when most of your energy is being devoted to getting through to the next day.  Motivating yourself to work harder to acquire more financially is very difficult when mentally you are out of the marriage.  Who wants to earn more, when the likelihood is that whatever you earn will have to be shared with your current spouse?
  3. You are tired of making excuses to your friends and family as to why you are attending alone.  Holidays are full of parties and family dinners.  It is becoming harder and harder to explain to others that your spouse had “another commitment” when you do not even believe it.  Family members and close friends have “known” that “something” was not right in your marriage.  It will be a relief for you not to have to lie.
  4. You are tired of feeling obligated to attend work-related social events with your spouse when he/she asks.  In good times, being “the designated spouse” can be fun.  It can be a tremendous source of pleasure to be with someone you love very much in their work environment and see them achieve professional accolades.  But when you do not want to be married to your spouse and have little or no interest in the career or the people they work with, it can be torture.
  5. You are depressed at looking at your spouse in bed, or at the table and keep wishing you were somewhere else – anywhere.  All the magic has long gone.  Whenever you see pictures of you and your spouse in happier times, you can’t remember the feeling.  It is time to be proactive and get divorced.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

5 Reasons to Get Divorced in 2014

The decision to file for divorce is never easy – and it shouldn’t be. After all, you and your spouse made what was supposed to be a life-long commitment “til death do you part.” But “things” happen. Sometimes the “things” are within our control, i.e. extra-marital relationship, substance abuse, etc., but sometimes there are life changing events that are beyond anyone’s control, i.e. illness, loss of job, parent’s illness, etc. I am assuming that you have sought professional help from a qualified mental health professional and have tried to persuade your spouse to participate in marital counseling. Experienced marital therapists have told me that for a couple to “know” if the marital counseling is helpful, it is necessary to see the therapist once a week for four months.

1. You and Your Spouse Are Not Getting Younger. Divorce is never easy. The saddest divorces I have handled have been with couples where one or both of the parties have a serious health problem and/ are older than sixty-five. No one knows how long we are going to be on earth. But the longer that you and your spouse are unhappily living together the less time you both have to find happiness, whether it is with a new person or alone.

2. Holidays are for your children. Your children will always remember when their parents divorced. They do not need to associate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, etc. with their parent’s divorce. You have been unhappy a long time. Suck it up for a few more weeks.

3. Making a New Year’s resolution to get divorce is a task you can delegate to someone else. Most New Year’s resolutions require a significant effort on your part, i.e. losing weight, committing to being on time for appointments, etc,. A divorce is something you can hire someone to do.

4. You do not want to spend another holiday season pretending to be “merry” and “happy.” It is mentally (and physically) exhausting to appear “happy” to the outside world, when you are very sad and are constantly wishing that you were someplace else – anywhere than where you are right now

5. Your spouse deserves to be with someone that loves him/her. Although you may feel guilty about wanting to divorce your spouse and your friends and family may criticize your decision to divorce your spouse, you are actually doing your husband/wife a favor, so they will be able to meet someone else to share their life with who is committed to being the partner they deserve.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

PROCEDURAL ASPECTS OF MEDIATION

Mediation is a complex area. My clients often find that it offers an excellent way to work out their divorce and family law issues without the pressure of a trial.

Family law is unique in many ways.  No matter what a court can do to terminate a marriage, it cannot end the family.  Family relationships continue until death.  That is another reason to work hard to end the legal relationship as amicably as possible.  For families, there will be happy occasions, (i.e. graduations, weddings, confirmations, etc.) and sad occasions, (i.e. funerals, illnesses, accidents, etc.) when you will be face to face with your ex.  Once you have gone to court and testified against your former spouse or partner it is very difficult to be in the same room with them.  It is much easier to put your feeling aside and be civil to your ex if you have not heard them testify against you.

If you are thinking about divorce or have a problem with another family law matter, call me and we can discuss how I can help you.

Q: What does a Mediator do?

 A Mediator will not make decisions for you.  A Mediator will listen to what you and your spouse or ex are saying, and ask questions to make sure that they understand each party’s position.  If one side needs more information, such as how the taxes will be affected by the settlement, the Mediator may suggest that the parties speak with an accountant and then return to the Mediator with a solution to the tax issue.  Mediators are problem solvers and will suggest different ways to achieve the result that will satisfy the parties.

Mediators will work on making sure that each party truly listens to the other party.  It is very common in a divorce, when emotions are high, that neither side will listen to the other.  After all, you are getting a divorce or have a serious family law issue and most likely poor communication between you and your spouse or ex has contributed to the conflict.  It is not always possible for the Mediator to get spouses or exes to agree – but if the Mediator can assist the parties in seeing each other’s perspective, that will go a long way in resolving the divorce amicably.   

Q: Is a Mediation confidential?

Yes! Another advantage of mediation is that it is a confidential process, unlike appearing in court. Court files are public records.

One of the fundamental principles of mediation is that it is a confidential process.  What happens in mediation stays in mediation.  It is routine for mediators to review the “Guidelines of Mediation” and have each party sign them prior to beginning the mediation session.  With the exception of child abuse or domestic violence, where mediators in most states have an obligation to report, everything said in mediation is confidential and neither party can testify to what the other party said during mediation.  Nor can the mediator be required to testify as to anything stated in mediation.  Most mediators will take notes during the session(s), but will destroy their notes at the conclusion of the session.

Q: What happens after the mediation? 

At the conclusion of a successful mediation, the mediator will write up summaries of the areas of agreement.  Although everyone is usually tired and ready to go home by that time of day, it is vital that the details of the mediation session be stated in writing and signed off by the parties and their attorneys.  If it is at all possible, my strong preference is to have a court reporter take down the agreement.

Usually the mediated agreement will not be as detailed or formal as a final settlement agreement.  If attorneys are present at the mediation session, usually one will “volunteer” to draft the formal agreement.   I routinely include language stating that if there is any dispute with the wording of the formal agreement, the mediator will serve as an arbitrator to resolve the language issue.  It is very discouraging to have a settlement “fall apart” over a minor matter.

Q: Do I have to be in the same room as my spouse/partner in mediation?

You do not have to be in a room with your spouse/partner.  However, if you know ahead of time that you prefer to be in a separate room during the mediation, it is a good idea to advise the mediator as early as possible to make sure that there will be a separate space available for you (and your attorney).

Q:  Can I bring my family, friends to mediation?

Yes.  However, if you will be having a joint session your friends and/or family will not be allowed to be in the room.  Some mediators may allow your friends and/or family to attend the joint session, if your spouse/partner does not object.  It is important to keep in mind that your friends/family will not be living with the decision and it is only yours to make.  However, if you will feel more comfortable with your family/friends then it is fine to have them.

Q: How long does mediation take?

It is impossible to predict how long a mediation session will last.  If you have childcare responsibilities it is advisable  to make arrangements for someone to pick up the children at school or daycare, If you know at the time the session begins that you will have to leave at a specific time, advise the mediator.  The mediator will be able to make a decision as to what time to conclude the session, and may set a date to resume.  However, keep in mind that any agreements that are not put in writing and signed by the parties will not be binding.  The mediator can write up a “partial settlement” and schedule future mediation session(s) to complete a settlement.

Q: If I own a business, can I bring my accountant to the mediation session to speak with the mediator?

Most mediators appreciative having financial experts at the mediation.  The accountant should be prepared to speak with your spouse/partner and their attorney to answer any questions regarding their work.  It is important to keep in mind that the accountant attending the mediation is not under oath, and will likely not have been qualified by the court as an expert.

Q: Can I bring my child’s therapist to the mediation when we will be deciding on a parenting agreement?

Yes.  You should take any experts that will be helpful to the mediator.  If you have any question as to whether your particular mediator has a different policy, the best advice is to ask permission as far in advance of your scheduled mediation as possible.      

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.