Additional Options for Co-Mediation -- Attorneys, Financial Neutrals and Child Specialist
There are some additional options we can add to co-mediation. These decisions will be up to you and the other spouse or parent, and it is basically additional things you in a sense can order ala carte as part of the process.
Sometimes, for example in a divorce, rather than spending time in sessions with the four of us (co-mediators and two parties) seeking to settle financial issues, we would have the two of you gather your financial records and meet with a neutral financial professional, to analyze the records and sit down to try to resolve the financial issues. At the very least, this process can nail down the financial facts and avoid spending excess time during mediation sessions.
The financial neutral can prepare or help in preparing the Financial Affidavits required in almost every family law case, and in going through scenarios for equitable distribution of assets and debts. Equitable distribution in a divorce is basically what the term suggests – equitably dividing the assets and debts, which as a starting point is typically a 50/50 distribution of the net-assets of the marriage – but there can be a number of different ways of arriving at a 50/50 split.
The financial neutral can assist with the looking at the income and expenses of a business and arriving at net business income of the business, or in valuing the business, if either of those items are at issue; or assist with valuation of pension plans; help in presenting different alimony scenarios; or “present-value” calculations -- for example sometimes there can be a lump-sum payment in lieu of monthly alimony.
Just like MHP’s or neutral financial professionals we use in a Collaborative Divorce, the neutral financial professional for co-mediation will be someone specifically trained in assisting clients in divorce. Meeting with the financial neutral can be a much more efficient way to resolve the financial issues. Sometimes we would have the financial neutral present at the co-mediation sessions. One of the things your co-mediators do is talk together to help figure out the most efficient way to move the case forward
The parties can choose to have attorney’s present during the mediation if both of you agree. By way of comparison, Collaborative Divorce is governed by Florida Statutes and Court Rules, and the parties and attorneys sign a participation agreement which provides that neither attorney is permitted to represent the parties in contested litigation in the future. There are definitely advantages in my opinion to that “disqualification” rule, but co-mediation as I’ve mentioned is more of an ala carte process, and the two of you can choose to not require disqualification of your attorneys in the event of litigation. It is definitely a different feel though for clients to be sitting in a room trying to work together with an attorney for the other party, who could at some point be going after them in litigation, versus someone who is there solely to try to help the two you settle the case in way that satisfies both of you as much as possible.
An additional option in co-mediation or collaborative divorce is to include a Child Specialist. Child Specialists are common in other states for mediation or collaborative law, but still new in Florida. In a case where there is a minor child or children and a Child Specialist is retained, the Child Specialist meets with the child(ren) and then reports back to the rest of the team.
The Child Specialist is a different role than a therapist – not conducting therapy to treat the child(ren), but rather bringing the child’s voice and experience into the room, to help the parents make decisions regarding the children, and also as a reminder of any effects of what is going on the children. Just as the for role of the MHP in Co-Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, it is important for the Child Specialist to be trained in the process to be sure all the roles are clear, so all proceeds smoothly – this may not seem important but is. It is similar to the reason most professions have ethical rules about dual roles – important for everyone to have clear in their mind what their role in the process is. In a difficult case, you’re going through enough and there is probably lots of uncertainty, and it will be important and helpful for the professionals to be very clear and positive about the process.
It’s a bit to think about, and one of the things we do if we meet for a consultation is talk about your options. An accompanying page on this website goes through a Comparison of Co-Mediation and Collaborative Law. One of the things you pay your collaborative professionals for is to advise you regarding the process.
A final consideration is that the added support, for example of the MHP, can help the process be more curative, creating the potential not only for a settlement but for some improvement or transformation in the relationships, and the value of that moving forward. There can be value in a better relationship for co-parenting children, or in moving forward without or with less anger; or with the sense that you arrived a fair settlement.
In adversarial litigation, after months of fighting you can have a trial at which you receive a ruling by a Judge, possibly hearing the facts of the case for the first time. The Judge’s decision at trial might seem fair to you, or it might seem extremely unfair. You might end up with the sense that there was no justice in the result, just a result, or that the decision was not good for your children. You might feel like you won, with the related result that perhaps the other side lost, or vice versa. Or it’s possible the result could be balanced and fair, with both sides coming away feeling that the dispute was resolved about as well as it could have been – there are many fine family law judges, and there is certainly the possibility that this will be the result. My opinion, however, is that co-mediation or collaborative law is a better process, and gives you a better chance of a positive result for all involved.
Please call me at (954) 636-7498, and we can discuss Co-Mediation or Collaborative Law for your family law matter.