Types of Mediation
One attorney mediator, two parties
In this format, the mediation process is limited to the two parties and an attorney mediator. People who choose not to consult advising attorneys do so usually for financial reasons, or because they are confident that once an agreement is made, neither party will try to undo it by claiming they did not have the advantage of legal advice during the process.
One mediator, advising attorneys in the background
In this format, the mediation process is still limited to the two parties and the mediator, but the parties consult with their own advising attorneys outside of the mediation sessions. Parties use their advising attorneys to prepare for the mediation sessions, to advise them on their legal rights and obligations, and to review and/or create the final written agreement. Their attorneys remain in the background to support the mediation, and do not attend the sessions. Having consulting attorneys review the agreement strengthens its enforceability, particularly if they countersign.
One mediator, advising attorneys attending the sessions with their clients
In this format, the parties’ advising counsel are present in the mediation sessions. People who bring their lawyers to the sessions may be those who are uncomfortable trying to negotiate with their partners without their own individual support person present. Sometimes it is the mediator who will recommend bringing in the attorneys to assist where an impasse arises. The ideal advising attorney supports the mediation process and the agreements the parties make rather than create an adversarial environment.
One mediator bringing in a financial professional and/or a mental health professional as needed
Often the parties will create their own mediation “team”, which can consist of the attorney mediator plus a neutral financial professional and/or a neutral mental health professional. The financial neutral can help the parties gather information, understand finances, and plan their financial futures. The mental health professional can focus on improving communication, identifying underlying issues, and dealing with emotional conflict that interferes with negotiations. Where the parties are separating and have children, the therapist mediator can provide information about parenting plans, developmental needs of kids, dynamics of divorce and the restructuring of the parents into a co-parenting team.
In this format, each professional concentrates on his or her own area of expertise. The parties and the attorney mediator can choose to have any of the other professionals attend mediation sessions where appropriate.
Integrative Mediation: One attorney mediator and one therapist mediator or one financial mediator co-mediating each session with the two parties
In an Integrative Mediation format, an attorney mediator and a therapist mediator (or an attorney mediator and a financial mediator) attend and co-mediate all mediation sessions with the parties. The two mediators jointly attend to the legal and emotional or financial needs of the parties. Legal, financial and psychological/emotional issues are interrelated. The neutral professionals work together to separate the emotional case from the legal case, or the financial issues from the legal issues, and help the parties to resolve each on its own terms.
If a couple has chosen traditional representation and a custody dispute is brought to court, the couple will participate in mandatory mediation with court-appointed custody mediators. In some cases, the mediators are permitted to make recommendations to the court, which is more in the way of arbitration (third party decision maker) than mediation (where the parents make their own decisions).