Mediation involves having a neutral third party (the mediator) help the negotiation process. Mediation focuses on both individuals’ interests, needs and concerns. Unlike court hearings, mediation sessions take place in an informal conference room setting.

In mediation, the parties commit to work jointly to resolve their conflicts without court intervention. That means the individuals involved are in control of the decision-making process. You jointly decide what is fair and all participants have a vested interest in reaching a reasonable agreement. Mediation keeps the details and decisions regarding your divorce, estate administration or other family law conflict, including division of property, support, alimony and parenting arrangements (custody), both private and confidential.

The mediator cannot provide legal advice to any party and does not make decisions for the parties. Instead, the mediator serves as a neutral third person to help the parties interact and solve problems in a purposeful and non-threatening manner. The mediator guides the mediation conversations, helping the parties decide which issues they will address and keeping the conversations on track. As a mediator, I help my clients have the difficult conversations necessary for them to reach their own decisions associated with their divorce, estate administration or other family law issues.

Although attorneys usually do not attend the mediation sessions, the parties can be represented by their own attorneys. The parties can consult with their attorneys outside of the mediation sessions for legal advice and to review the terms of a proposed agreement. The attorneys also prepare the formal contract to legally finalize the agreement reached in the mediation process. Since the parties are paying one mediator to help reach a resolution and consciously limiting the use of their attorneys’ time, there can be a financial advantage to mediation. The parties may decide to involve other individuals such as financial or parenting experts in the mediation process to provide specialized knowledge and help their decision-making. Some divorce, estate administration and other family law situations are complex and involving outside experts can make the process work more efficiently and effectively.

Individuals may use mediation to resolve almost any conflict that arises with any other individual or business. In the area of family mediation, you can address divorce; division of assets; financial issues such as child support, spousal support and alimony; and child custody and co-parenting arrangements. Individuals can also negotiate the terms of a prenuptial, postnuptial or cohabitation agreement through mediation. Mediation can help family members effectively resolve conflicts in estate administration.

Mediation is an ideal method for unmarried couples to resolve issues involved in ending a relationship. The court process does not treat unmarried couples in the same way as married couples for most purposes, but many unmarried couples consider their relationships equal to marriage. In mediation, unmarried couples are not forced to use the court’s definition of their relationship and can decide the best way to resolve their conflicts, even if it is not based on the standard the court would use.

The mediation process can have long-term effects on how individuals interact, even after the mediation has ended. Effective mediation is based on facilitating communication between the parties. That does not mean you need to communicate effectively before starting mediation. If you could do that, you might not need a mediator. It means you must be interested in resolving your conflict by agreement and be open to learning and engaging in more effective communication techniques. Many people experience more effective communication and problem-solving in mediation and make conscious efforts to apply those techniques in other interactions.

I am an experienced mediator and I conduct private mediations regarding divorce and other family relationship changes in my Cumberland County office. Although my office is conveniently located for mediation clients throughout central Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg, Carlisle, Hershey, York and surrounding communities, I will also travel to other locations if needed. If you are interested in using mediation to resolve divorce, estate administration or another conflict, please contact me.