All of VCD’s family law attorneys are trained in both collaborative divorce and mediation. A neutral, Family Law Attorney Mediator facilitates conversations between you to help you arrive at a divorce agreement. Your divorce agreement includes: how you will share your assets, income and debts, any spousal and child support, and how you will share time, responsibilities and expenses related to your children.
Your primary, Attorney Mediator is “neutral” – that is, s/he can inform you about the law, but as neutral professionals they cannot give either of you legal advice or clarify what is or is not in your best interest.
Because of this required neutrality, our Mediators typically recommend that you each consult with a “Mediation-Friendly” Consulting Family Law Attorney who is trained in both Mediation and Collaborative Practice. Each partner can consult with his/her consulting attorney, learn what is/is not in his/her best interest, and get help offering win-win proposals before agreeing to specific matters during the mediation. Sometimes couples decide to spare the expense of a consulting attorney until the end of a mediation. At that point the consulting attorneys may suggest some edits or alternatives to the final agreement.
Often, our attorney mediators will require that you both choose consulting attorneys who are collaboratively trained to work as part of a team, for the greater good of the family. Consulting attorneys as well as the primary mediating attorney are skilled at avoiding adversarial or positional approaches. Unlike the primary, neutral Attorney Mediator, a “mediation-friendly” Consulting Attorney:
- Can looks out for your best interests,
- May help you propose alternative win-win options,
- Is skilled at working collaboratively with professionals to ensure the wellbeing of allfamily members, and also
- Actively supports your efforts to mediate and avoid the significant emotional and financial costs associated with court.
Co-Mediation & Team Mediation
If a couple chooses to Mediate, the primary mediator is always one of our Family Law Attorneys. Literally anyone who takes a 30-40 hour course can call him/herself a “mediator,” without any state oversight or license, and without necessarily having any legal training or experience writing up legal documents. Consequently, we think it best serves our clients to have the primary mediator always be a mediation- and collaboratively-trained family law attorney.
Because your primary mediating attorney is also collaboratively trained, s/he is be able to draw from a reservoir of similarly trained and trusted collaborative professionals, if needed, to ensure you get whatever help you need to get to the divorce “finish line,” without going to court. You may need a Financial Specialist to assess the tax ramifications of a given agreement option, or a Communication Coach to help contain emotions, facilitate more effective communication or weigh in on child development concerns.
Depending on your needs, when only one collaboratively-trained professional is called in to help with a mediation, that professional is said to “Co-Mediate” with the primary attorney mediator. Sometimes, you may go to a Co-Mediator’s office to, for example, mediate the Parenting Plan with one of our licensed mental health professionals.
A Team Mediation may be needed if more professionals are called to help, for example, to: contain conflict, assess the specific or special needs of children, consider specific financial or tax matters, evaluate a business, make sure you both qualify for future loans you expect to need, or to get comps on real estate that needs to be sold. These professionals are likely to participate on an as-needed basis – perhaps once, or more depending on your skill and ability to get to the finish line on your own, while still avoiding court. A Team Mediation short-cuts many of the additional protocols and unique services provided in a Collaborative Divorce.
Parenting Plan Mediation
For couples with children, all of VDCs’ Mental Health Professionals are trained to mediate a Parenting Plan (formerly referred to as “custody agreement”), which serves to educate parents on matters such as introducing new partners, while also providing much greater detail that usual regarding the specific developmental needs and concerns of children and related options for the long run, as children mature. This Parenting Plan is then formalized and incorporated by the Attorney Mediator into the final divorce agreement submitted to the Court. Ask any of our Mental Health Professionals for a copy of the Parenting Plan Worksheet so that you can think through and do as much as possible on your own, ahead of time.