This website is about mediation and my Counseled Mediation™ process in particular, but to be frank, I think that the collaborative law team process is the best process for resolving all divorce issues, because it requires lawyers to be cooperative and reasonable, with full disclosure of facts and a focus on settlement. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive and time consuming.
Long before I took my first collaborative training (2003), I was already using lawyers, financial planners and mental health professionals frequently in my mediation cases, but on an as needed basis. I trademarked my process, which is called Counseled Mediation™. It incorporates the benefits of the collaborative law process without requiring your lawyer, if you choose to hire one, to withdraw from the case if you don’t settle. In comparison to Counseled Mediation™, the collaborative law team process is a cumbersome, slow, methodical, structured, expensive process. (Click here to see a detailed list of the steps in the Counseled Mediation™ process. The parties remain in control in any mediation process, including the Counseled Mediation™ process and can accomplish steps at home or skip them as they freely choose.)
In Counseled Mediation™ it is the mediator’s job to keep the lawyers, if any, informed, focused and transparent. The mediator is the process coordinator. If the parties want lawyers involved, the parties have the option of requiring their lawyers to sign an agreement to cooperate with the mediator. The lawyers are only involved as the parties and/or mediator deem necessary, thus keeping better control over the attorneys’ fees. In Counseled Mediation™, the lawyers can be consulted by the parties and/or mediator when the parties are at impasse (fixated, stuck), when there’s a power imbalance, when the parties are far apart (proposals are outside a reasonable range of probabilities), when the parties can’t explain why his/her proposal is fair from a factual/legal standpoint, when there is ignorance or misunderstanding about the law or when the parties have been given conflicting advice.
Alternatively, in a Counseled Mediation™ case, just like in a collaborative case, you and your spouse can have your lawyers sign an agreement that they’re fired if the case doesn’t settle, so that your lawyers’ focus will be on full disclosure and settlement rather than preparing for trial. For an explanation and sample lawyer agreement click here.)
Blanton Massey is a member of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators (click here), the Collaborative Professionals of Northern Virginia and the Fredericksburg Area Collaborative Professionals.