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Saratoga Divorce Mediation - Michele Martin

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Divorce Hotel?

Divorce Hotel is a new way to get divorced in just a few days, all from the confines of a luxury hotel. Divorce Hotel is an innovative concept that gives couples the opportunity to work out their divorce agreement over the course of two to three days away from the distractions of home and work and in a beautiful environment. Learn more about Divorce Hotel here.

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What is Mediation?

Mediation, a type of alternative dispute resolution, is a method of resolving disputes in which individuals or groups in conflict meet with a neutral person (mediator) who assists them reach an agreement that resolves the dispute. The mediator remains neutral and does not judge, determine merit, or favor one side over the other.

It is a confidential voluntary process, where all agreements are reached by those most impacted by the conflict or dispute and the outcome. Mediated solutions are typically seen as "win-win" solutions to conflicts or disputes.

Some important aspects of mediation:

  • Resolution is always voluntary. Those who participate generally choose to participate. And in most instances can be ended, by either party, at any time. More and more divorce or child custody cases (as well as other types of lawsuits) may be referred to mandatory mediation. Although mandatory, any agreements reached continue to be voluntary.
  • The parties agree to the resolution of the dispute. No one comes out of mediation with an order to do something they have not agreed to.
  • Mediated agreements are as legally binding as any contract. In addition, since the agreements are reached with the full cooperation and involvement of the parties, adherence is greater than judgments rendered through the litigation process.
  • An effective mediator facilitates communication. Often those who come to mediation are absolutely unable to discuss the conflict calmly. The presence of a mediator (a neutral third party) tends to mitigate the communication difficulties, and an effective mediator actively guides the parties towards a cooperative solution.
  • Mediation is cost effective. Mediation tends to be significantly less expensive than litigation. When people chose to resolve disputes through the more traditional means of each getting lawyers, the fees almost always are higher and the process significantly longer. What can take 6 to 10 hours of mediation can take ten times that amount in billable time for attorneys, which equals $10,000?s of in attorney fees.

The final agreement consists of terms that both parties willingly agree to and feel good about. The agreements reached in mediation allow the parties move forward, past the dispute, focusing on where they wish to go in life.

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How does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA™) professional help divorcing couples?

The financial ramifications of a divorce can be devastating. But, with proper planning and expert help from professionals specializing in financially equitable divorce settlements, you can increase your chances of arriving at a settlement that fully addresses your long-term financial needs — and your spouses too. What’s missing in most divorce processes is financial expertise. As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA™) professional can forecast the long-term effects of the settlement. By using a CDFA professional, both partners have a clearer view of their financial futures. Only then can they approach a settlement that fully addresses the financial needs and capabilities of each.

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What Divorce Options are Available to Us?

Litigated Divorce

This is the “traditional” divorce process where lawyers are retained. It is by nature an adversarial process and is most often how couples “fight it out” – using attorneys to represent them.
In a litigated divorce each person gets their own attorney to represent them. Ethically attorneys can only represent one person or side in any action, so the divorcing couple cannot retain a joint attorney.
Once retained, each attorney gets all of the financial and other pertinent data (discovery), reviews it, and creates a settlement offer. Due to the adversarial process, the attorneys focus on the areas of advantage and disagreement between the couple. Each divorce lawyer attempts to work out a settlement that favors their client. During the process communication between the couple is often funneled through the attorneys. This is an adversarial process of letting the attorneys “fight it out” and, as a result often increases the conflict between the divorcing couple. A litigated divorce is a drawn out and costly process, regardless of the couples initial intentions. It is even possible that the couple will not be able to reach a full divorce settlement through their attorneys and the terms of the divorce are settled through a trial.

Collaborative Divorce

A lessor known option for divorcing couples, collaborative divorce can be looked at as a hybrid of the litigated divorce and a mediated divorce process. Couples that choose a collaborative divorce do agree not to litigate and have to obtain new counsel should the collaborative process end unsuccessfully. At a minimum, in a collaborative divorce, each person retains his or her own trained collaborative divorce attorney. Additional collaborative divorce professionals may be brought on as appropriate including divorce coaches and neutral financial or child specialists.

Regardless of the number of professionals retained, all must be trained in collaborative divorce as it is a different process than a litigated divorce. Like a litigated divorce the attorneys work out a divorce settlement agreement. Like mediation, and unlike a litigated divorce, the collaborative divorce attorneys build off of the areas of agreement and work with the other collaborative professionals retained by the couple to quickly create a settlement that meets the needs and wants of the couple. Since the collaborative divorce attorneys and professionals are focused on building on the agreements, the process is significantly more efficient and cost-effective than a litigated divorce – despite the additional professionals involved.

Divorce Mediation

The most peaceful and efficient means of creating a divorce with the assistance of a divorce professional is divorce mediation. In divorce mediation a couple chooses a neutral professional mediator who is trained to facilitate effective communication and agreement between the divorcing couple. Building off the shared areas of agreement no matter how small, the mediator enables the couple to quickly create a divorce settlement where both spouses are in full agreement as to the terms.
Often known as the path to a “win-win” solution, divorce mediation is the only means involving an outside divorce professional that directly gives the couple the control over the settlement process and agreements. It is a confidential and private means of creating a divorce settlement. Couples who choose mediation, may or may not have filed legal divorce papers prior to meeting with a mediator. In addition, in the rare event that mediation fails and litigation occurs, state law bars the information disclosed and discussed in the mediation session from being used in future litigation.

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How long does mediation take?

The traditional litigated divorce process exploits the conflict and draws out the process. Divorce mediation, on the other hand, focuses on the areas of shared interest or agreement (no matter how small) and builds from there. As a result, full agreement can be reached through mediation quite quickly – in a matter of hours, not months.

A general rule of thumb is that it will take between 5 to 10 sessions to bring about resolution through mediation. This means that mediated settlements are usually reached in a matter of weeks or months, not years.

The sessions are generally two hours long spread out over a matter of weeks, or they may be more intensive longer sessions that resolve the terms of the divorce in a single session. The scheduling and design of mediation sessions entirely depends on the issues in dispute and needs of those in conflict – not the mediator.

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How can I prepare for Mediation?

Before beginning the process the most important question you should ask – is, “what is it that I truly want?” Going into the mediation session with this question answered can help you slice through all the extraneous issues and lend to making your mediation the most effective tool it can be to get you to an mutually acceptable agreement. Being prepared also helps you go into the mediation in a interest-based “thinking mode”, rather than an emotional “reactive mode”.

Additionally, during the mediation you will be asked to provide financial information including tax returns, bank and mortgage statements, W-2s, information about insurance policies (medical, life, auto), and financial information regarding other investments or family businesses and it is a good idea to begin to gather this information.

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How much does mediation cost?

Litigated Divorce

Hiring opposing attorneys to “win” your divorce is an expensive endeavor. In fact, according to Parade Magazine, the estimated cost of a litigated divorce where each side is represented by his or her own attorney is between $20,000 and $50,000. And a Wall Street Journal article on the subject estimated the cost of a litigated divorce to be between $27,000 to $78,000. That’s per person, and that’s a lot of resources wasted “fighting it out” and creating an environment of ongoing mistrust. These funds used for litigation would otherwise be available for you and your children.

Even when a litigated divorce is settled before trial, it often becomes necessary to file proceedings, appear for depositions (sworn testimony before the opposing attorney), and to pay fees for experts on childcare issues and/or finances. Any way you slice it; these costs add up and can quickly become quite prohibitive. With litigation, a non-refundable retainer is typically advanced to the attorneys, which can range from $5,000 to $15,000 for each of you. And if you do end up in a trial, charges for attorneys fees alone can accumulate very quickly well beyond these initial amounts.

n our practice, we charge a per session fee, which is typically shared between the parties, and which is ordinarily inclusive of reasonable emails or phone calls that may arise outside of the session. Each session typically lasts two hours, although sessions may extend somewhat beyond this if needed to bring resolution to an issue that is being discussed. The total fees in a mediated separation or divorce will generally be significantly less than litigation, typically falling between, $3,000 – $7,000 for both of you combined. Sessions are paid as you go until a settlement is reached. A flat fee is then charged for drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which forms the basis of the parties’ Agreement.

Mediation is therefore a fraction of the total cost per couple, when compared to litigation. So much less in fact that the most expensive mediated separation or divorce is still far less expensive than the most inexpensive litigated one.

I offer an initial consultation at no charge to explain the process of mediation and to answer any questions you may have about the process.

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Who Wins? The End-Results of Mediation

A mediated agreement is generally thought of as a “win-win” solution. The only agreement reached is one that both sides voluntarily accept – in short everybody wins, or there is no mediated resolution.

"But my spouse and I can’t communicate and every attempt ends up in a fight"

Often the idea of mediation is dismissed as an option due to the arguing, hurt feelings, distrust, and other negative feelings that surround the conflict. The thought is a natural one. How can mediation work when the smallest thing triggers an argument?

Despite the seeming impossibility, mediation is a very viable option in the vast majority of cases including high conflict situations. The presence of a skilled neutral party can have a powerful positive affect. The mediator provides a buffer as well as keeping both parties focused on reaching agreement – facilitating communication and focusing on the interests not the messy emotions that surround the issue.

As a general rule, if those in dispute are willing to try, mediation should be a first option. Mediators can get those in dispute talking and working towards a resolution.

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Where are your offices?

We proudly serve upstate NY and have offices convenient to Saratoga Springs and Albany, NY. Click here for maps to our locations.

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