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The Mediation Process in Family Cases
Initiating the Proceedings
Many people contact our offices by email and our front office staff generally obtains preliminary information and may answer your basic questions about the mediation process and our suitability for your divorce or family matter. During this call or calls, we will describe our mediation process, especially as it pertains to your particular family circumstances. We then speak with both spouses or parents before scheduling, to emphasize that we are neutral and there to assist both of you, regardless of who first contacted us, and to learn of special issues that may influence the way we work with you. Please note: we won’t initiate a call to the second party because our process is a voluntary one and we can’t work without your spouse or co-parent’s willingness, but we will follow-up and return calls promptly.
Before the Meeting
Based on the information gathered prior to scheduling, we will determine the optimal amount of time for the session. The factors may include whether attorneys will be present, how far the parties must travel, and how complex the issues are. Multiple sessions may be recommended. Parties who tend to be in more conflict with each other, have more persistent child custody and parenting difficulties, or who have more complex marital estates or more challenging support, tax planning, or retirement issues will often require more time.
After scheduling a mediation session, we will forward a letter or email confirming the time and location, and provide further details of the process, a list of helpful information to assemble, and some background law in Colorado that will direct and facilitate your efforts to prepare in advance.
The Mediation Session
In mediations with Sheila P. Carrigan, she ordinarily begins with both parties together. However, parties can meet individually with Ms. Carrigan during or before a joint session, which can be helpful in high conflict situations, when there is substantial history that one or both parties wish to discuss privately, or when there are issues of partner violence or abuse and security concerns.
In the session, Ms. Carrigan will ascertain the central issues of your dispute and from there will establish the proper approach to mediate an agreement. She will then assist you in the real work of discussing options and developing an agreement on all matters.
Memorializing the Agreement
If agreement is reached in mediation, we generally recommend that our office draft the written memorialization. The written agreement between spouses or parents is the capstone of the mediation, and is reviewed by a judge or magistrate. If approved, this document becomes part of the Court’s decree, and will govern your after-divorce relationship with your former spouse or co-parent. The document reflects your agreements, and we work hard to ensure it is understandable to you and the opposing party without the need for legal interpretation, while remaining fully enforceable in a court of law.
Review of the Written Agreement
When any written documents are ready, we meet with you to review and revise the draft. Once complete, review of written agreements by an independent attorney is optional, but recommended. We generally do not permit couples to sign any agreements at our office, since we believe you should have the opportunity to review it carefully away from any pressures of meeting together.
See our FAQ page to learn about the costs of our services for divorce and family mediation.
The parties must agree to make full and honest disclosure to each other and to Ms. Carrigan of all relevant information and documents. Failure to disclose this information may result in the agreement being set aside.
The parties and Ms. Carrigan must agree that all written and oral communications, negotiations, and statements made in connection with mediation will be treated as privileged settlement discussions and are absolutely confidential. Ms. Carrigan will not reveal the names of the parties or matters discussed in the course of mediation unless expressly requested to do so by all parties. It is understood that Ms. Carrigan is not required to maintain confidentiality if there is reason to believe that any party is in danger of bodily harm.
The parties may choose to withdraw from mediation at any time it is agreed that if this occurs, best efforts will be made to discuss this decision in the presence of all parties and Ms. Carrigan. If Ms. Carrigan determines that it is not possible to resolve the issues through mediation, the process can be terminated once this determination has been conveyed to the parties.
Ms. Carrigan will not give legal advice to either or both parties. She does not take sides, give advice, or render decisions. She does not represent either one of you, or both of you as an attorney. If you are not represented by an attorney we urge you to have any memorandum of understanding or any other documents issued in the mediation reviewed by an attorney before signing them and/or filing them with the court.