Divorce Mediation is an alternative to divorce litigation. It involves both parties (husband and wife) being willing to come together in the presence of a third-party mediator—a person who is an independent third party neutral who creates a Safe Conversation Forum for the divorcing couple to: learn about the divorce process; mutually explore options; and develop a Divorce Separation Agreement addressing asset distribution, handling of debt, child and spousal support, allocation of parenting time and responsibilities with respect to legal and physical custody of their children.
Call The Colorado Springs Divorce Mediation Center, Inc. today to schedule a free in-person or over-the-phone consultation:
What Does a Divorce Mediator Do (and Not Do)?
The Conversation Forum is a place for learning, sharing, listening, understanding, communicating, identifying and discussing the difficult issues, problems and concerns the parties face in their divorce. The Mediator facilitates the conversation, asks questions, probes for meaning, manages the flow of emotion during the conversation, helps the parties to keep their emotions in check, guides and keeps them focused on generating creative solutions to the problems they face.
The Mediator does not decide or make decisions for the divorcing couple. The Mediator does not take sides, and does not favor one party over the other. The Mediator shares his/her experiences, encourages each party to conduct a self-analysis of costs, potential benefits and a risk analysis of proposals as they are exchanged by the parties. The Mediator does not legally represent either party and does not provide legal advice to them. Each party is free to retain legal counsel if desired.
What Is the Divorce Mediation Process?
Mediation occurs in a variety of ways. The most common way is a series of two- to three-hour meetings with the mediator and both parties during which a specific conflict area is discussed and resolved.
A typical series of divorce mediation meetings involves the following:
- 1st Meeting: Overview of the process, mediation agreement, rules and principles of mediation, discussion of required paperwork, and identification and discussion and possible resolution of immediate or temporary arrangements such as occupancy of marital home, temporary financial arrangements, parenting time, and agreement regarding next steps.
- 2nd Meeting: Discussion and resolution of temporary matters, review of required financial disclosures, development of property asset and liability worksheet and discussion of possible distribution schemes.
- 3rd Meeting: Discussion of possible asset and debt distribution, discussion of child custody and parenting time arrangements.
- 4th Meeting: Discussion of child support, spousal support, and other items as they appear.
- 5th Meeting: Discussion of unresolved items and attempt to close on all issues.
- 6th Meeting: Joint Preparation of Draft Separation Agreement
- 7th Meeting: Discussion and review of unresolved items and review of proposed Separation Agreement.
Mediation can also occur during one or two all-day sessions for those couples wanting a speedier and more timely process.
What Does Mediation Cost?
The Mediator Fees and Costs of Mediation are based on the amount of mediator time required to conduct the conversations needed to address the different issues, varying emotional states of being, and possibly, different degrees of readiness and willingness to accept the finality of divorce.
The time involved can range from 10 to 40 or more hours depending upon the complexity of issues, size of the marital estate, and the ability of the parties to readily find solutions to their issues.
The current hourly rate of Mr. Larimer is $400.00 per hour which is substantially less than the combined hourly fees of both parties if they each hired separate legal counsel to litigate.
It is not uncommon to find the hourly rates of experienced divorce lawyers being in excess of $400.00 per hour per client; totaling a combined family cost of legal representation of $800.00 per hour.
The family cost of preparing, negotiating and litigating a divorce case can easily exceed three times the cost of mediation, and deplete the marital estate of vital funds which could have been shared between the parties.
This is why enlightened and financially prudent married couples choose mediation over litigation.
Is Mediation Right for Me?
Mediation is Not for Everyone – Not every couple qualifies for mediation. Mediation takes a deep and abiding inner spirit of love, willingness to forgive, emotional strength, emotional intelligence, emotional discipline, a high concern for minimizing harm to the children, as well as, a healthy sense of personal accountability. Most importantly, it takes two people who mutually share certain common values and are willing to explore how those common values and their differences can forge the foundation for an amicable divorce and future relationship for their children and themselves.
The following behaviors are the best predictors for a positive resolution of conflict:
- Trust between the parties has the highest correlation with positive outcomes. If there is not a significant amount of trust, the possibility of destructive outcomes is much greater.
- Willingness to Engage in the conflict and not avoid the hard issues. This involves openly acknowledging that a problem exists and committing to solving it.
- Feeling a Sense of Affiliation with the other parties in the conflict. Being sensitive to the needs of others and being tactful in how views are presented.
- Empathy with the other point of view. The ability to empathize is one of the most important conflict resolution skills for constructive problem solving.
- Self-Restraint. Keeping control of your emotional expressions. Approaching and remaining calm and rational throughout the conflict.
Louie Larimer is highly skilled in finding these commonly shared values within divorcing couples, facilitating the expression of these values, and helping couples to listen to each other, maintain emotional balance, understand, reason and find fair solutions to the problems they face.
Personal Statement of Principles and Core Values
When you work with a mediator you should know as much about how he or she thinks, feels and approaches their work as a mediator. In other words, what does he or she bring and offer as you sit in The Conversation Forum and share personal aspects of your life. This is important because mediators bring different ways of thinking about their role, how they do their job, how they treat their clients, and what is and is not important.
For this reason, I want you know a little bit more about what is important to me in my relationship with you.
First, I have been heavily influenced by my Hawaiian Culture and Heritage. My island upbringing implanted seven values which I hold near and dear in my heart. These values are treasured by me as concepts that I believe lead to a better life for me and my family.
These principles are embodied in an ancient Hawaiian practice known as Ho’ o’ pono pono used by my ancestors as a way to resolve disagreements in their small island world—a world where interdependence and mutual support were essential for survival.
Ho’ o’ pono pono means to restore, make right, fix what is broken, find a new way of being in a healthy relationship with another. It is the Hawaiian way of mediation and is practiced extensively in the Hawaiian Islands today. It is studied for its application in modern dispute resolution settings. The foundational principle in this way of mediation is to have a respected elder member of the village convene a Conversation with the parties, and then, guide them in looking at the relationship and how to create a new one that will serve them in the future. Ho’ o’ pono pono creates the setting in which the following life affirming values are brought forth from within each party’s Manaʻo (mind) and Puʻuwai (heart):
- Aloha: A feeling of Love in your heart for God, for others, for yourself and family, as well as, for the land and sea that provides us with life sustaining resources to live.
- Kupono: Just and fairness in our dealings with each other.
- Kuleana: Responsibility–to fulfill our duties toward each other.
- Lōkahi: Unity, harmony, peace, a state of being in agreement with others and balanced in our relationships with the world, our governing leaders, family, neighbors, the spirit world, and ourselves.
- Oluʻolu: A state of being characterized by pleasantness, nicety, amicability, satisfaction, contentedness, happiness, affability, agreeableness, congeniality, cordiality, and graciousness.
- Hanohano: To act and be honorable in our relationships.
- Loko maika’i: A good disposition characterized by generosity, grace; kindness, humanness, graciousness, benevolence, and being obliging.
In addition to these notions of Hawaiian Wellness, I have discovered that there are certain principles of Conflict Resolution which are highly effective in helping people come together, set aside their differences, and find solutions to their divorce.
I have written a booklet, Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Principles, which sets forth these principles. You will receive a free copy of this important work when we begin your mediation process.
A few of those principles are:
- Recognize your personal style of conflict resolution and how it affects the situation.
- Get a grip on your emotions, use self-regulating techniques.
- Refrain from expressions of hostility, blame and personal attacks.
- Be restrained and diplomatic when stating facts, issues, concerns, causes and other perceptions.
- Openly acknowledge the conflict, and have the difficult conversations.
- State the nature of the conflict from each perspective.
- Review individual perceptions of the problem and perceived causes.
- Suspend judging others and their motivations.
- Consider and revisit your perceptions, judgments, appraisals, attributions.
- Develop a common factual understanding.
- Own your part of the problem.
- Consider whether your own unrealistic expectations are contributing.
- Explore all points of view from everyone.
- Reflectively listen to the other side.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- Allow the other to be heard, valued and acknowledged.
- Have and use predetermined scripts, e.g. “Feel, felt, found”
- Always take a breath when feeling agitated.
- Restate and summarize often.
- Seek to understand underlying issues and needs of the other.
- Seek to solve the underlying issue and need of the other.
- Brainstorm and explore options and alternatives.
- Rely upon independent standards of fairness.
- Propose solutions to the problems.
- Know your options, know your intentions, and the definition of success.
- Seek outside help such as mediators, arbitrators, trusted advisors.
- Agree upon a course of action, put it in writing and sign it.
I know that for many of you these principles may seem highly aspirational, and perhaps, even difficult to express given what you are feeling during the initial stages of your divorce. It is possible that you may even be asking yourself if you and your spouse have these principles within you.
I want you to know that I have mediated numerous disputes since 1982 and that my mediation perspective, framework, and my calm approach will set the stage for you and your spouse so that these principles will emerge from within you, and you will find your way to a solution that will work for you and your spouse.
The Colorado Springs Divorce Mediation Center, and its Founder and Principal Mediator, Louie V. Larimer, embrace and arduously follow the following standards of mediation practice jointly defined by the American Bar Association, Association for Conflict Resolution and the American Arbitration Association.
The model standards of conduct for mediators are intended to perform three major functions: to serve as a guide for the conduct of mediators; to inform the mediating parties; and to promote public confidence in mediation as a process for resolving disputes. The standards draw on existing codes of conduct for mediators and take into account issues and problems that have surfaced in mediation practice. They are offered in the hope that they will serve an educational function and provide assistance to individuals, organizations, and institutions involved in mediation.
A Mediator Shall Recognize that Mediation is Based on the Principle of Self-Determination by the Parties.
Self-determination is the fundamental principle of mediation. It requires that the mediation process rely upon the ability of the parties to reach a voluntary, un-coerced agreement. Any party may withdraw from mediation at any time.
The mediator may provide information about the process, raise issues, and help parties explore options. The primary role of the mediator is to facilitate a voluntary resolution of a dispute. Parties shall be given the opportunity to consider all proposed options.
A mediator cannot personally ensure that each party has made a fully informed choice to reach a particular agreement, but is a good practice for the mediator to make the parties aware of the importance of consulting other professionals, where appropriate, to help them make informed decisions.
A Mediator Shall Conduct the Mediation in an Impartial Manner.
The concept of mediator impartiality is central to the mediation process. A mediator shall mediate only those matters in which she or he can remain impartial and evenhanded. If at any time the mediator is unable to conduct the process in an impartial manner, the mediator is obligated to withdraw.
A mediator shall avoid conduct that gives the appearance of partiality toward one of the parties. The quality of the mediation process is enhanced when the parties have confidence in the impartiality of the mediator.
When mediators are appointed by a court or institution, the appointing agency shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that mediators serve impartially.
A mediator should guard against partiality or prejudice based on the parties’ personal characteristics, background or performance at the mediation.
III. Conflicts of Interest:
A Mediator Shall Disclose all Actual and Potential Conflicts of Interest Reasonably Known to the Mediator.
After Disclosure, the Mediator shall Decline to Mediate unless all Parties Choose to Retain the Mediator. The Need to Protect Against Conflicts of Interest also Governs conduct that occurs during and after the mediation.
A conflict of interest is a dealing or relationship that might create an impression of possible bias. The basic approach to questions of conflict of interest is consistent with the concept of self-determination. The mediator has a responsibility to disclose all actual and potential conflicts that are reasonably known to the mediator and could reasonably be seen as raising a question about impartiality. If all parties agree to mediate after being informed of conflicts, the mediator may proceed with the mediation. If, however, the conflict of interest casts serious doubt on the integrity of the process, the mediator shall decline to proceed.
A mediator must avoid the appearance of conflict of interest both during and after the mediation. Without the consent of all parties, a mediator shall not subsequently establish a professional relationship with one of the parties in a related matter, or in an unrelated matter under circumstances which would raise legitimate questions about the integrity of the mediation process.
A mediator shall avoid conflicts of interest in recommending the services of other professionals. A mediator may make reference to professional referral services or associations which maintain rosters of qualified professionals.
Potential conflicts of interest may arise between administrators of mediation programs and mediators and there may be strong pressures on the mediator to settle a particular case or cases. The mediator’s commitment must be to the parties and the process. Pressure from outside of the mediation process should never influence the mediator to coerce parties to settle.
A Mediator Shall Mediate Only When the Mediator has the Necessary Qualifications to Satisfy the Reasonable Expectations of the Parties.
Any person may be selected as a mediator, provided that the parties are satisfied with the mediator’s qualifications. Training and experience in mediation, however, are often necessary for effective mediation. A person who offers herself or himself as available to serve as a mediator gives parties and the public the expectation that she or he has the competency to mediate effectively. In court-connected or other forms of mandated mediation, it is essential that mediators assigned to the parties have the requisite training and experience.
Mediators should have information available for the parties regarding their relevant training, education and experience.
The requirements for appearing on the list of mediators must be made public and available to interested persons.
When mediators are appointed by a court or institution, the appointing agency shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that each mediator is qualified for the particular mediation.
A Mediator Shall Maintain the Reasonable Expectations of the Parties with Regard to Confidentiality.
The reasonable expectations of the parties with regard to confidentiality shall be met by the mediator. The parties’ expectations of confidentiality depend on the circumstances of the mediation and any agreements they may make. The mediator shall not disclose any matter that a party expects to be confidential unless given permission by all parties or unless required by law or other public policy.
The parties may make their own rules with respect to confidentiality, or other accepted practice of an individual mediator or institution may dictate a particular set of expectations. Since the parties’ expectations regarding confidentiality are important, the mediator should discuss these expectations with the parties.
If the mediator holds private sessions with a party, the nature of these sessions with regard to confidentiality should be discussed prior to undertaking such sessions.
In order to protect the integrity of the mediation, a mediator should avoid communicating information about how the parties acted in the mediation process, the merits of the case, or settlement offers. The mediator may report, if required, whether parties appeared at a scheduled mediation.
Where the parties have agreed that all or a portion of the information disclosed during a mediation is confidential, the parties’ agreement should be respected by the mediator.
Confidentiality should not be construed to limit or prohibit the effective monitoring, research, or evaluation of mediation programs by responsible persons. Under appropriate circumstances, researchers may be permitted to obtain access to the statistical data and, with the permission of the parties, to individual case files, observations of live mediations, and interviews with participants.
VI. Quality of the Process:
A Mediator Shall Conduct the Mediation Fairly, Diligently, and in a Manner Consistent with the Principle of Self-Determination by the Parties.
A mediator shall work to ensure a quality process and to encourage mutual respect among the parties. A quality process requires a commitment by the mediator to diligence and procedural fairness. There should be adequate opportunity for each party in the mediation to participate in the discussions. The parties decide when and under what conditions they will reach an agreement or terminate the mediation.
A mediator may agree to mediate only when he or she is prepared to commit the attention essential to an effective mediation.
Mediators should only accept cases when they can satisfy the reasonable expectations of the parties concerning the timing of the process. A mediator should not allow a mediation to be unduly delayed by the parties or their representatives.
The presence or absence of persons at mediation depends on the agreement of the parties and the mediator. The parties and mediator may agree that others may be excluded from particular sessions or from the entire mediation process.
The primary purpose of a mediator is to facilitate the parties’ voluntary agreement. This role differs substantially from other professional-client relationships. Mixing the role of a mediator and the role of a professional advising a client is problematic, and mediators must strive to distinguish between the roles. A mediator should, therefore, refrain from providing professional advice. Where appropriate, a mediator should recommend that parties seek outside professional advice, or consider resolving their dispute through arbitration, counseling, neutral evaluation, or other processes. A mediator who undertakes, at the request of the parties, an additional dispute resolution role in the same matter assumes increased responsibilities and obligations that may be governed by the standards of other processes.
A mediator shall withdraw from mediation when incapable of serving or when unable to remain impartial.
A mediator shall withdraw from mediation or postpone a session if the mediation is being used to further illegal conduct, or if a party is unable to participate due to drug, alcohol, or other physical or mental incapacity.
Mediators should not permit their behavior in the mediation process to be guided by a desire for a high settlement rate.
VII. Advertising and Solicitation:
A Mediator Shall be Truthful in Advertising and Solicitation for Mediation
Advertising or any other communication with the public concerning services offered or regarding the education, training, and expertise of the mediator shall be truthful. Mediators shall refrain from promises and guarantees of results.
It is imperative that communication with the public educate and instill confidence in the process.
In an advertisement or other communication to the public, a mediator may make reference to meeting state, national, or private organization qualifications only if the entity referred to has a procedure for qualifying mediators and the mediator has been duly granted the requisite status.
A Mediator Shall Fully Disclose and Explain the Basis of Compensation, Fees, and Charges to the Parties.
The parties should be provided sufficient information about fees at the outset of a mediation to determine if they wish to retain the services of a mediator. If a mediator charges fees, the fees shall be reasonable, considering among other things, the mediation service, the type and complexity of the matter, the expertise of the mediator, the time required, and the rates customary in the community. The better practice in reaching an understanding about fees is to set down the arrangements in a written agreement.
A mediator who withdraws from mediation should return any unearned fee to the parties.
A mediator should not enter into a fee agreement which is contingent upon the result of the mediation or amount of the settlement.
Co-mediators who share a fee should hold to standards of reasonableness in determining the allocation of fees.
A mediator should not accept a fee for referral of a matter to another mediator or to any other person.
IX. Obligations to the Mediation Process:
Mediators have a Duty to Improve the Practice of Mediation.
Mediators are regarded as knowledgeable in the process of mediation. They have an obligation to use their knowledge to help educate the public about mediation; to make mediation accessible to those who would like to use it; to correct abuses; and to improve their professional skills and abilities.