What Ohio Divorce Lawyers Don’t Want You To Know

These are the first words I utter whenever someone I know, or have met, says they are going to be suing someone. And yes, the Ohio divorce process is one party suing another. However, the divorce mediation process is  different – it is two parties making an agreement. If you are contemplating suing anyone for anything, consider mediation.

There are many advantages to mediation, few drawbacks and no reason not to give it a try. The worst that happens is that you have spent some money and some time, but in exchange you do get some information from the other side which can be helpful if you decide to proceed to the court house.

This is not to say you should use mediation as a tool for discovery, but instead, consider it an opportunity to organize yourself, prepare for battle and hope to reach a settlement which is fair and one you can live with.

Mediation has increased in popularity as the costs of litigation have skyrocketed. Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution which encourages direct communication between the disputing parties. Proponents of the mediation process believe that these structured communications can result in a long lasting effective agreement because they are borne of the parties’ voluntary efforts and not those of their attorneys.

Mediation is also a process that is much faster than the court system. This is partly due to the over burdened court calendar and also due to the popularity of litigation, finding the most effective and prevailing attorneys often unavailable. A typical mediation takes approximately seven hours to complete. It is therefore both cost effective and time sensitive.

Mediation often results in a preservation of relationships. It is not adversarial, not confrontational, and often times find the parties able to compromise. By its nature, the parties are forced to communicate, if not directly with each other, then through the mediator.

Oftentimes, the parties have learned something about each other, have focused on the underlying cause of the dispute and willingly reach agreement.

Mediation allows you to have control over your litigation. This is tremendously important. One never knows if the judge has had a prior experience with someone you remind them about. Perhaps you were that girlfriend who jilted him in the 10th grade, or the guy on the field who unfairly tagged him out. Or you might have been the guy who broke her heart or the girl who stole the love of her life.

Everyone has a history, walking into a court room risks the judge’s opening up your past and having it become your present and future. A very well known family law attorney is quoted as saying “try to avoid the person in the black robe at all costs. You never know what that person will do with your case”.

Believe it or not, the most exasperating word a family law attorney can hear is MEDIATION.

Why? Because once most, not all, attorneys who practice primarily litigation involving dissolution of marriage and child support and custody issues get a case, they view them as a continuing stipend.

The more court hearings they can force, the more money they can make. The more assets they can convince their client they are entitled to, whether true or not, the more conflict and angst they can conjure up and the more money they can ensure themselves during the long drawn out fight that accompanies the litigation fiasco.

I have seen literally dozens and dozens of cases end in mindless and needless court battles, because the attorneys have created issues out of whole cloth. Any of these would have been better served through mediation in California.

They have stirred the pot, like witches brew. Is their interest what is best for their client, or what is best for them? I am sorry to say, that in so many cases, my colleagues put their interests, ahead of their clients.

Because of this pretense marital cases can cost the husband and wife thousands of dollars. I was personally involved in one marital dispute in which the wife was represented by one of the top boutique marital dissolution law firms in Beverly Hills.

There was a large corporation involved, which I represented, and the husband was represented by a two person well known law firm. The wife’s law firm had two partners and several associates sitting around a conference table during the rented judge trial while the husband had one.

The wife’s attorneys’ had her believing she could get ½ of the corporation and run it, when she had never stepped foot in it and her husband had been running it for years extremely successfully and with an independent board of directors. Telling her she would get to run the business and that her husband would do everything to steal money and keep her from getting anything was an abominable lie meant to exacerbate her already vicious feelings about her husband, with the only reason being the lining of the law firm’s pockets.

So how do you avoid these tremendous fees and bad outcomes?

You seek good mediators who have no skin in the game and who only care about doing one thing. That one thing is seeing to it that the parties reach a resolution of their case at the least possible cost, both financially and emotionally.

As mediators we help guide you through the process of developing your own resolution of divorce mediation or any mediation settlement. By being the master of your own destiny you own the process and decisions as opposed to attorneys and a judge.

When you own the decision you feel better about yourself and, in many cases, your spouse or other party with whom you may be locked in conflict. This helps to take much of the emotion out of the mediation which is especially important when dealing with issues involving children insofar as you and your spouse may have years of co-parenting children well under the age of eighteen and continuing your relationship with your children’s families.

Many times women feel more comfortable with a female mediator and men with a male mediator. This is why we have developed the concept of cross gender mediation.

To avoid this preference issue, both a man and woman are offered to facilitate these cases at the cost of the usual single mediator. This company has as its major goal, keeping people who are at their most vulnerable condition, focused on their children first, if there are any, and their assets and liabilities as opposed to the unconstructive feelings that have lead them to this stage of their marriage, and to do so at a cost that will not deplete the parties bank accounts.

If you are facing a situation where you foresee ‘black robes’ in your future, call today and let us help you settle your issues in confidential mediation – rather than as a matter of public record in the open court room. We specialize in divorce mediation in Ohio and we can help!

Why Confidentiality Is Important In Ohio Child Mediation

Confidentiality of the communications that occur between the child and the mediator is an area worthy of discussion.

It would seem that in order to advocate for a child, the child needs to feel comfortable that what is shared is not to be disclosed. After the interview is completed, the child may be unwilling to have some or all of the communications disclosed.

The mediator should abide by the child’s preference.

The child may be unwilling to directly speak to the parents and would prefer the mediator to act as an advocate for them. If the mediator feels it is appropriate that the child share their feelings, the mediator can invite the parents into the room.

Cautions needs to be exercised if the feelings the child is about to share may be damaging to the relationship of the child to their parent(s). The mediator would need to speak with the parents before speaking in an attempt to minimize the potential problems associated with the sharing of information for the child.

There are some serious issues that need to be considered when contemplating involving a child in the mediation process of child custody disputes.

The child will be at the center of the custody battle between the parents.

  • How detrimental will this be if the child is included in any part of this process?
  • Is the information gleaned worth the potential damage to the child?
  • Should a mental health professional be present at the mediation?
  • Is it appropriate to suggest that after the mediation process has concluded, the child see a mental health professional as a follow up?

Children are often confused about their parents’ divorce. They have a limited amount of coping strategies available to them at every given age. The younger ones, up to the age of 5, may react by regressing. The children ages 6-8, tend to cry more or long for the absent parent. The older ones, 9-12, tend to get angry and blame one or the other parent for the divorce and the adolescents tend to be slightly more expressive and accusatory, blaming their parents for leaving.

Unfortunately, these coping mechanisms are most readily apparent during the earliest stages of divorce, the time when mediation is often employed as a means for the parents to cope with their changes.

Is it appropriate to involve a child at this phase of their life?

By involving the child, is mediation already adding to the difficulties that are already being experienced? Many children will feel guilty for choosing one parent over another or for causing additional tensions between their parents. They may be criticized or punished after the mediation session is over.

A mediator needs to be, mindful of these issues and address them directly with the child and with the parents. It may be helpful to have a mental health professional present to assist the child if they run into difficulties, or to make a follow up appointment with a counselor after the mediation has concluded to insure proper behaviors are being exhibited by all parties.

What is the involvement or lack thereof in the mediation process saying to the child?

There are some children who will feel an inappropriate sense of power as a result of their ability to influence their parents’ decisions. They may also feel that they have some form of control over their parents and exploit it for their own benefit.

On the other hand, some children may feel a sense of powerlessness, because, they were unable to have their feelings and/or preferences heard and will hesitate to express them in the future. If they are left out of the process altogether, there may always be a question in the child’s mind as to what was said and how accurately their feelings were represented.

Being an advocate for the child in mediation is a delicate role. The decision to advocate should be made after careful consideration is given to all factors. If any of the steps above are omitted, I believe a mediator role as an advocate will be compromised.

The paramount concern to the mediator should be the effect both short and long term on the child. For if the child is adversely affected by the process, the mediator who advocates for the child’s best interest will have failed to do so.

As trained and experienced mediators, we take all parties into consideration. If you have questions or concerns, please call us today for a confidential consultation.

Pro Se Divorce Mediation in Ohio

In the judicial system, a party is “pro se” when they represent themselves; they don’t use an attorney.

For pro se divorce mediation in Ohio, you also do not need to have an attorney with you.

Likewise, you also do not have to file for divorce first in order to use the mediation process in your divorce case.

If, on the other hand, by pro se divorce mediation you mean doing the mediation without a mediator, then that would not be mediation.  It would simply be a negotiation directly between you and your spouse. Whether these direct negotiations will work will depend a lot on what kind of communication you are having with your spouse.  Publications such as Divorce Negotiations might provide you tips on how to negotiate directly with your spouse if you want to try that first.

Going through the mediation process in a divorce before actually filing the divorce case in court can make sense; it will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend in the court system getting your divorce done.  That’s because once you have a signed mediated agreement in your divorce, your divorce is an uncontested divorce from the beginning.

But there are things to keep in mind if you will go through the mediation and sign an agreement with no legal representation:

1.         A mediated divorce agreement is a contract.   This is a big factor to keep in mind because once you sign an agreement, you may find you can’t get out of it later in court.  This will apply even if you didn’t have the advice of a lawyer to tell you the legal significance of the terms of the mediated agreement.  It is important because it means that once you sign the agreement you may be stuck with it even if the legal consequences were not what you intended.  The remedy for this is to have a lawyer review the agreement before you sign it, to make sure you understand the legal consequences of what you are agreeing to when you sign it.

2.         There are still rules you may have to comply with.  Ohio family law rules require some financial disclosures in certain situations.  One example is where there is child support, in which case at least a financial affidavit will have to be filed by each parent in a divorce.  While you do not need a lawyer to complete your financial affidavit, you will need one to be able to complete the child support guidelines where there are children in a divorce.

How to do a Pro Se Divorce Mediation in Ohio

Mediating in a Divorce

The process of doing a pro se mediation in Ohio is pretty straightforward.    Of course, both you and your spouse must agree to mediate; otherwise there is no mediation to attend.

Since the whole point of mediation is to provide a process where each of you has as much power over your divorce as possible, there is no point in forcing someone to mediate.

Note:  In a divorce that’s already been filed in court and is going to go to trial, parties are ordered to attend mediation in most courts in Ohio.  This does not mean they have to mediate; it does mean they have to at least show up to the mediation.  Whether there is an agreement from that point on is a different matter.

Choosing a Mediator

Once you are both in agreement to mediate, the next step is to choose a mediator.  There is no requirement that you use a certified mediator in Ohio.

However, using a certified mediator is a good idea because certified mediators in Ohio are certified only after completing certain courses and meeting certain requirements.  This ensures that you are using a trained professional with real skills to help you.

In addition, mediators in Ohio are certified according to areas.  So, for example, a certified family mediator in Ohio is one who has received the specific training required to mediate family law issues, including divorce and anything related to divorce. Like all other certified mediators, certified family mediators are also required to complete continuing education to maintain their certification.

All of this training and requirements ensure that you get a trained professional who will probably be more effective at being able to help you resolve your divorce without costly litigation.

Both you and your spouse must agree on which mediator to use.

If there are children then the mediated agreement must also include a parenting plan.  Parenting plans include provisions as to how much time children will spend with each parent and also the amount of child support to be paid by one or the other parent. Mediators will usually  calculate the Ohio child support guidelines as part of their services in mediating your divorce.

Contacting the Mediator

Once you and your spouse have agreed on the mediator for your divorce mediation, contact them to find out about their rates, and how they work.  It is important to determine what information you must bring to the mediation so that your session is more productive.  It’s may also be a good idea to share the information with your spouse so that they can be equally ready to discuss the problems.

What to Do in a Mediation

The most important thing you can bring with you to a mediation is an open mind.  It may sound silly, but if you walk into a mediation with the idea that you will get everything you want or there will be no agreement, then chances are that you will not reach an agreement.

The idea of mediating a divorce (or any other issue) is to create a win-win for both sides.  An agreement that will work for both of you.

Besides keeping your mind open during the process of mediation, preparation includes collecting all documents related to the things that must be decided.

For example, if you and your spouse must deal with the home, then bring all documents that pertain to the home.  In this example, that could be mortgage statements, unpaid tax and insurance bills; or, if your home is in foreclosure, the paperwork to reinstate the mortgage or to do a modification.

As another example, if you have children, then your paperwork may include extraordinary expenses relating to the children—perhaps medical bills left unpaid from a child’s last illness; or maybe paperwork on the tutoring cost for a child who needs some help while in school.

Of course, with children, the child support guidelines need to be calculated.    Paperwork to bring for that would include pay stubs, tax returns for the last year and information on any health insurance covering the children.

At a minimum, preparation may include a list of talking points of things that are important to you and which must be decided with your spouse.

Once you’ve chosen a mediator, he or she may instruct you as to what to bring or what you should have before the date of the mediation.

The Agreement

At least in Ohio once a couple reaches an agreement, it is put in writing for both to sign.  At this point, the options are also pretty straightforward.

The first option is for each of you to sign it.  The second option is to take the agreement with you and have a divorce lawyer review it with you to make sure you understand what you are agreeing to, before you sign it.

The Divorce

If you have done the mediation before filing for divorce, the last step is filing the divorce case itself, with the agreement being filed together with all the papers.

For people who are doing their own divorce, Ohio has self-help centers that walk you through the entire process until the divorce decree is signed by the judge assigned to your case.

If you have a lawyer, the lawyer can set it for an uncontested divorce hearing.  Although the actual schedule of the judge assigned to the case will determine when it will be set for hearing, it is not uncommon for an uncontested divorce to take about3 to 4 weeks after the agreement is signed.