This involves my working with BOTH parties to work out the details for a divorce agreement, or for an agreement on any other family law issue. There are two ways this can occur. The only difference is how I am required to handle the "conflict" issue. This is governed by what communications have occurred as of the time you want to start mediation.
If you think you may be interested in mediation, I would highly recommend setting up your telephone appointment as a conference call with all three of us so that we have not set up a conflict inadvertently. This whole issue is confusing, but hopefully this brief explanation will help you to understand this distinction: My "client for conflict purposes" is almost always the first person with whom I speak, as I cannot have independent conversation with one person about the merits of the case without creating a "conflict of interest," so we must establish how we are handling this before anything else occurs. You can schedule your telephone appointment, but if you think you may want a mediation appointment, we should not discuss the actual issues of your case or any details about your case during that telephone appointment if I am speaking with only one party. Different attorneys handle this issue very differently, so we should discuss my policies about conflicts if it may be an issue in your case so you will understand how the conflict rules impact you and your situation.
In both Mediation options explained here, while we are working together at our joint meeting, there is no difference in the information provided by me or the process used to reach an agreement. The only difference between the two situations is how I am required to handle the "conflict" issue, which governs how I can communicate with you later.
OPTION ONE: "Limited Mediation" (also called a "three-way meeting): In a situation where I have consulted with one person already, or have discussed the merits of the case with that person ever, and now you both want to come in together for me to help work out the details for your agreement (or for any other reason), then the party with whom I was previously working with is the "client for conflict purposes" (the "client party") and I cannot independently communicate with the other party later, unless we all three are communicating together (in person, on the phone, or via email). The "client party" is still able to have independent communication with me at a later time, if necessary. One example of when this option is used would be in the case where the "client party" is the one handling the divorce, and the other party is participating actively only in the negotiations and discussions needed to reach an agreement and is otherwise letting the "client party" handle all the paperwork, appointments, and discussions necessary to start and finish the divorce. Another example is when I have previously been contacted by one person regarding your case and have, by that communication, established that person as the "client party" and now you both want to come in to finish things and work out the details of an agreement.
OPTION TWO: "Full Mediation": This involves my working with both parties together from the very beginning through the very end of the process. We never have any communication about your case except joint communication with all three of us. If you prefer this option, I would highly recommend that when you schedule your free telephone consultation, you set up a conference call so we all three are speaking at that time (you will need to arrange telephone conferencing). If you do set up your free telephone consultation with only one person, and you want to do full mediation later, please let me know at the beginning of our conversation, as I will not discuss the merits of the case during that discussion. Full mediation is a choice which you select, but once selected, cannot be changed later. We stay with joint communication until the case is resolved.
Full Mediation is also used when both parties are represented by other attorneys, and in this situation, my services are utilized solely for reaching the terms of the settlement agreement. If this is your situation, you and your spouse will need to have each attorney fax me a letter providing permission for me to mediate with you.
In both of these mediation options, the process is the same: We work together by going through a specific systematic process to gather all relevant information, facts, and documents, then analyze the issues, discuss options and alternatives for a resolution of all issues, and work through the details to come to the terms for a settlement of all issues. The end result is a written settlement agreement, which you are both free to take to other attorneys to review, if you like. The agreement that is reached through this process is the end result, and eventually becomes your court order. The only difference between the two options is my ability to communicate with you, and limitations on that ability.
If you both WANT to resolve your case by agreement, then there is almost always a way to achieve that. The INTENT to reach that goal is the key, not the nature of your assets, nor your ability to resolve issues on your own, nor even your ability to communicate with each other. The desire to reach an agreement is the key. The costs you incur for mediation are usually a very small fraction of the costs you would have in a contested situation.
If you are scheduling a mediation appointment, you both will need to come in 10 minutes early to read several documents before we start, and please make sure that you both have read this Explanation of Services and Fee Schedule before you come in.