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Family Law Mediation
Many Dispute Resolution Centers, especially Private Alternative Dispute
Resolution Centers (PADRs) offer family law mediation in order to provide
a complete range of services. The area of Family Law Mediation covers
three distinct types of mediated encounters:
In addition, there is the area of Family Conflict Mediation -- an allied area of practice that is actually a species of Conciliation that is used for divorce avoidance rather than acceptance of divorce.
Family Counselling Divorce Mediation
Family Counselling Divorce Mediation is a therapeutic adjunct to divorce.
It aids the parties in resolving grief issues, interactive pathologies
and relationship issues. It has a therapeutic goal and is often provided
by co-mediators (two mediators, rather than one) in connection with family
counselling services during the divorce process. The process takes
five to six sessions of about two hours per session. Generally only
the parents attend the sessions.
Obviously this shortened format can not solve all of the personality and psychological pathologies and issues that surround a divorce. The purpose of the format is to create a special sequence (discrete from the other therapeutic interventions in the parties lives, if any) and to initiate a three fold process of (1) focusing on necessary resolutions (creating insight), (2) focusing on and defining appropriate standards of behavior, (3) relating to and resolving the issues required by the inflexible requirements of the law (custody, visitation, property division).
The sessions generally are spread out over a period of about one and a half months, with the final divorce hearing scheduled shortly after the sixth session. This method is not appropriate for situations where there are complex and bitter legal issues or where the parties are unwilling to engage (although initiating the process often creates engagement and simplifies the legal issues).
Specialized legal , family counselling and psychological backgrounds are necessary to participate in this process.
Legal Issues Divorce Mediation
This is a "typical" attorney-mediator mediation session where the parties negotiate the issues of property, visitation, support and any other pendant legal issues. It typically takes five to eight hours and is also known as "Legal Issues Mediation." It requires some additional training in family law so as to expose and sensitize the mediator to the appropriate legal issues (including what the law of the jurisdiction does and does not allow). Often a mediator's knowledge of the law will allow for a resolution that the parties (and their attorneys) will not have thought of or will alert the parties to the fact that a particular resolution is not available under the law of a particular jurisdiction (or will need to have a specific structure).
Moderated Divorce Mediation
This is a process that supports divorce. The parties go to a joint mediator rather than each party hiring an attorney. It is well described by the book Marketing & Maintaining a Family Law Mediation Practice available from Texas Lawyer. Basically the parties, who are agreed agreed on a divorce and most of the issues, have three to four sessions where they work out the final text for custody, support, and property division (including debt division). The final text is incorporated into an agreed decree that is presented on prove-up to a judge.
The general process goes as follows:
The method has many reported (actual, rather than theoretical) pitfalls and advantages, well reported in the appendix of Marketing & Maintaining a Family Law Mediation Practice (the author surveyed clients for satisfaction and reprinted a substantial collection of complaints from individuals who were not pleased by the results obtained, as well as clients with mixed feelings and those who were very happy with the results).
A Moderated Divorce practice is appropriate for large communities with substantial populations of well educated and liberal individuals. A university and a potential client base of at least 250,000 people appear to be the bare minimum for an individual considering this type of practice.
Most references that discuss the mediation of family law issues do not distinguish between the three most common methods of family law mediation (and overlook family law conciliation processes). Regardless of whether or not a PADR decides to provide, or affiliate with providers of, family mediation services, it is appropriate to understand the variations and different meanings that the words have.
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