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.
During co-mediation sessions, the MHP along with me as a Fort Lauderdale attorney serving as co-mediator help guide the parties through the issues you and the other person in the matter identify as needing to be resolved. I can help provide information about legal issues and options for resolving issues, and the MHP has additional expertise regarding children's issues, and expertise in leading and helping keep the process positive. If the matter is not complex, the extra resource (and cost) of having both an attorney and MHP may not be needed. There are cases where the two of you are in agreement for most things, and just need help resolving a few issues, or assistance regarding or options for how to structure some of the provisions 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, but the MHP can provide real and valuable help when the parties have strong feelings or disagreements about one more issues. It is not therapy, but rather giving each party a chance to explain their concerns with a person who is skilled in keeping the process productive, and with me as a Fort Lauderdale co-mediation lawyer there also to help guide the process as well. 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 what are the reasons you’re concerned about this issue, 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 and mediation, and will not be doing therapy. An important benefit though of the process is that relationships, for example as parents, can improve -- former spouses or parents 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 as a Fort Lauderdale attorney having handled litigated as well as collaborative or co-mediated matters, settlement that is reached where both people feel like they had a chance to address their concerns, is something everyone is more willing to be ok with going forward, versus having 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 toward a settlement. Also, having two mediators in the room can be helpful. 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 found that having a MHP present can be very helpful. During co-mediation with a MHP present, it also makes it a little easier for me to prepare 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 are some potential savings in cost from having the process possibly go more smoothly or quickly with fewer or less time in meetings; of probably a higher chance of success in a difficult matter, and the cost saving of potentially avoiding future conflict or litigation – i.e. the cost savings of having an agreement that is lasting and leads to less future conflict; or the efficiency of my being able to draft the settlement agreements more quickly during our meetings (versus outside of the meetings) when the MHP leads the meetings; but the cost of each hour is higher with two mediators present.
If you reach a settlement in mediation, you can avoid a trial which at times can be the awful experience of a decision 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 at a solution they agree to, not proscribed by someone else.
Please call me at (954) 636-7498 and we can discuss how I can help as a Fort Lauderdale co-mediation lawyer, as an option for your family law matter.