Co-Mediation is a process like mediation, but in addition to you, the other spouse or parent and me, we add in a mental health professional (MHP) as a co-mediator/facilitator, to help the process run more smoothly; and for the important purpose of helping each party discuss their concerns about issues that are making it more difficult for the two of you to come to a settlement.
Typically these co-mediation meetings will be led by the MHP with my helping (along with the parties) to raise issues to resolve, and providing information about legal issues and options for resolving issues. If the case is simple, the extra resource (and cost) of having the MHP may not be needed. There are cases where the two of you are basically in agreement, and you just need a little help resolving a few issues, and making sure everything is written up properly in a way that adequately addresses the legal issues.
It may be hard to envision as you're reading this on your computer, phone etc., but the MHP can provide some real and valuable help when the parties have strong feelings or disagreements about one more issues. It is definitely not therapy, but rather giving each party a chance to explain their concerns with a person who is skilled in keeping the process productive. Sometimes people can be locked in quickly arguing their positions back and forth with each other, and it helps to take a step back and ask, ok, what are the reasons you’re concerned about that this item, what are your concerns. Once it’s talked through, often options for meeting some of both of your interests become evident.
Although the MHP will be licensed mental health professional, they also need to have gone through training specifically for collaborative law/collaborative mediation, and will not be doing therapy – i.e. won’t be there to focus on working through personal issues or fixing someone or the spouses’/parents’ relationship solely for the sake of working on the relationship. An important benefit of the process is that relationships, e.g. as parents can improve, someone can get in the habit of dealing with issues in a new way, and people move forward with more peace, but the primary focus during the meetings will be on a productive way to talk through and settle issues. In my experience, a settlement that is reached where both sides feel like they had a chance to address their concerns, is something everyone is more willing to be ok with going forward, versus ongoing conflicts or issues after the case is over.
The MHP is one more person in the room with his or her opinion, which is additional information that goes into the mix, and can help one or both of you move a little towards a settlement. Also, with two mediators in the room it’s easier. It can be more difficult sometimes for a single mediator to see everything, keep the process running smoothly, and be sure no one’s concerns are missed. There are MHPs I like working with, and have had the experience of working with them and find that it works well. During co-mediation with a MHP present, it also makes it a little easier for me to write up the settlement agreements as we’re going along.
An additional significant benefit of the MHP is that they will often be a professional with experience with children’s issues who can help (when there are children involved) in preparing the parenting plan (a special type of settlement agreement that addresses time-sharing with the children, decision making, transportation, etc.). Often the MHP can help us all to keep the focus on the well-being of the children versus the adults’ or legal issues.
The trade-off of having the additional mediator versus one mediator is additional cost. I think all in all, co-mediation, other than in simple cases, is better but it is more expensive. There is some savings in cost of having the process go more smoothly or quickly, of probably a higher chance of success in a difficult case, and the potential cost saving of avoiding future conflict or litigation – i.e. the cost savings of having an agreement that sticks, and leads to less future conflict; or the efficiency of my possibly being able to write up the settlement agreements more quickly when the MHP leads the meetings; but the actual cost of each meeting is higher.
If you reach a settlement in mediation, you can avoid a trial which can at times be the awful experience of a decision being made quickly by the Judge, in a way that may or may not seem fair. Co-Mediation, or Collaborative Divorce, allows both parties to talk through their concerns, and arrive an at solution they agree to, not decided by someone else.
Please call me at (954) 636-7498 and we can discuss co-mediation as an option for your family law issue.