FAQ General

I am a law enforcement officer. Can I attend mediation in uniform which includes carrying a handgun?

No handguns or other weapons are allowed in the mediation session, and uniforms are discouraged.

What does it mean if a client refuses to sign an agreement?

When this happens, it is typically because:

  1. the client’s attorney advises against signing the agreement, OR
  2. the client did not have the authority to reach an agreement (influence of spouse, parent, etc.), OR
  3. the agreement does not meet the client’s needs (needs changed, bad faith bargaining, coercion).

I make strong and thorough efforts with all clients to guard against the above possibilities.  I ask them to regularly consult with attorneys.  I often include stepparents in the mediation session (as observers rather than negotiators).  To avoid intimidation and coercion, I can meet separately with clients, and I spend time reality testing with clients to make sure the proposed solutions address their stated concerns. 

Why won’t you schedule an appointment before talking with the other party?

For me to schedule without talking to a party looks like I am already taking sides and I must avoid the perception of bias.  It also appears that I give no regard to the other party's calendar which can also seem rude.  This jeopardizes a balanced process from the beginning. 

What is the difference in outcomes between joint and separate sessions?

If both parties are able to: 

  1. explain what they want and why it is important to them  
  2. negotiate on their own behalf
  3. bargain in good faith 

it is faster and therefore, cheaper to meet in joint sessions.

What takes the most amount of time (more expensive) are joint sessions when one or both parties:  

  1. doesn’t know, can’t say, or won’t say what they want and why it matters 
  2. can't or won't negotiate on their own behalf 
  3. bargains in bad faith.  

This can be due to a variety of factors:  

  1. stress-caused inability to concentrate
  2. coercion
  3. fear of anticipated reaction or retaliation or both (often expressed through a history of failed agreements – apparent past agreement(s) with non-compliance) 
  4. mediation premature – client hasn’t yet decided their highest priority(ies).

An option is for the mediator to meet separately with the parties (can be in person or by telephone), which provides an opportunity to guard against the potential problems mentioned above. 

Won't it be a waste of time and money since we aren't going to agree?

The large majority of clients believe mediation will not be successful.  However, 2/3 of the cases settle some or all of the issues in mediation!  So, please feel encouraged that mediation may make a positive difference for you!

How do you keep from being manipulated by the other person?

Attempts to control me and/or the mediation process are common. I have been trained to not allow any client to control the process. When scheduling mediation, if a client indicates they are too intimidated to speak freely, I can structure the mediation differently. For example, I may schedule separate sessions, use a lot of caucusing, ask parties to have their lawyers present or another advocate of their choosing, etc. 

Does my attorney attend?

Mediation is not like a traditional settlement conference, but attorneys are welcome to attend. However, I will only have attorneys present if both parties are represented by counsel and both attorneys are present.  If I am asked to let the attorney speak for the client in such a case, I must also be able to speak directly with the client. 

Mediation is an interest-based negotiation process. This means negotiation focuses on meeting the underlying interests in a fair and balanced way. Clients must be able to articulate their interests in mediation. Often, for a variety of reasons, the attorneys are not completely aware of the client’s underlying interests. 

All mediation agreements are subject to approval from your attorney. Because of that and the fact that you don’t sign an agreement in my office, attorneys do not often attend mediation.

Will I be pressured to give in?

It is true there is some pressure to settle the dispute. This pressure usually comes from your own decision that the alternative to settlement is more expensive, or exhausting, or time-consuming, etc. But you will not be forced to agree to something you don’t want. Agreements in mediation are voluntary.

What if the other person lies in mediation?

This concerns a lot of people, but the truth is, many people lie in mediation. And those that don’t often have two completely different perspectives. Thank goodness, finding the truth is not normally necessary in order to arrive at a settlement!

Do you draft the mediation agreement?