Family and Divorce Mediation
In family and divorce mediation, we will help you and your spouse negotiate the terms of your separation and/or divorce in a safe, cooperative, and constructive way. Mediation is an opportunity for you to talk about and plan for the future without becoming stuck in the past. You can settle all of your financial issues. You can decide on a parenting agreement that makes sense for your children based on their individual needs. And you can do this without the conflict and expense associated with lawyers and litigation. Less conflict equals less stress on you and your children.
We know what you are going through. Separation and divorce are hard. We have experienced the turmoil of divorce and custody disputes. We can help you reduce the trauma. Relationships do not end with a divorce. They are transformed. You and your ex must develop new roles and responsibilities with respect to each other and your children. Family and divorce mediation provides a safe place for you to renegotiate these relationships.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a neutral expert helps parties in conflict resolve their dispute. Unlike a judge or arbitrator, the mediator does not make decisions for the parties. Instead, he or she guides the parties through a structured negotiation toward a settlement. The mediator helps the parties identify issues, eliminate communication barriers, focus on the future, and evaluate possible solutions.
Mediation is bound neither by rules of procedure and substantive law nor by other assumptions that dominate the adversarial process of the law. The ultimate authority in mediation belongs to the parties. With the help of the mediator, the parties may consider a comprehensive mix of individual needs, interests, and whatever else they deem relevant, irrespective of rules of evidence or legal precedent. Unlike the adjudicatory process, the emphasis is not on who is right and who is wrong, but on establishing a workable resolution that best meets the needs of the participants. --Folberg, Milne, and Salem, Divorce and Family Mediation (The Guilford Press 2004).
Why choose mediation?
Simple, really. It's faster, cheaper, more convenient, and less stressful than the alternatives. Plus, you get to decide what happens to your money and what's best for your children.
Mediation gives you control over the outcome of your case. If you can't settle your case, a judge may make a decision for you. Who is in the best position to decide how to divide your property and how to raise your children? You, or a judge who does not know you? In mediation, you work to construct win-win solutions that meet your individual needs.
Most cases can be successfully mediated in a few sessions occurring over a few weeks. To keep things manageable, we usually work in blocks of two to three hours. We will ask you to do some homework between sessions, mostly involving gathering and exchanging information and thinking about your proposals. The more prepared you are, the faster you will reach a resolution.
Documents filed in litigation and things said in court are public. The "contest" nature of litigation means that the dirty laundry of your marriage will likely be aired in court. Mediation, by contrast, occurs in private, and you and your spouse can agree to keep matters discussed and agreements reached between you confidential.
Mediation is a process that focuses on the needs and interests of each party. We do not permit posturing, making threats or demands, or positional bargaining. As experienced mediators, we maintain a calm, cooperative environment, even if your relationship is strained. As a result of mediation, over time you and your ex may be able to turn a negative relationship into a positive one. This is particularly important in cases involving children.
What makes us different from other mediators?
We like to stand out. Our firm is committed to being the most effective family and divorce mediation practice in the Triangle. Here are some things that we think set us apart from other mediators:
In divorce and other family cases, Sean and Gina Vitrano work as a team. It's a fact that men and women communicate differently. Remember "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus?" Husbands and wives have different perspectives regarding their marital relationship, how to parent children, and how to deal with the physical, emotional, and financial aspects of a separation and divorce.
Having mediators of both genders present promotes better overall communication in the mediation. A successful negotiation depends upon both of you hearing and understanding the other's needs and interests. We will help you hear your partner -- even if both of you are angry or upset -- and we will help your partner hear you.
We focus exclusively on helping couples resolve issues relating to their marriage. We are not litigators, and we don't dabble in mediation like some family lawyers. Our work has helped many couples come up with parenting agreements and financial arrangements that work well in the real world. We attend advanced continuing mediator education regularly in our field, and we serve as trainers and mentors for other mediators, as well as leaders in organizations that teach and promote alternative dispute resolution.
Our office is conveniently located in Wake Forest and is easily accessible from Raleigh, Durham, and Franklin County. Free parking is available on-site.
Mediation can be scheduled around your schedules, including on weekday evenings and on Saturdays. Many couples find this convenient when they are juggling work and parenting obligations. In some cases, we can conduct mediation by telephone or video conference.
How much does divorce mediation cost?
Mediation is a cost-effective way to resolve the issues in your separation and divorce. How much does it cost? The short answer is that it depends on you.
We bill hourly for time spent in mediation and conferences and for reviewing documents and summarizing information and agreements reached by you. You pay as you go. You can commit to mediation one session at a time and can withdraw if it is not working for you. For your convenience, we accept major credit cards, as well as checks and cash.
You can do things to reduce your costs. The more work you do between mediation sessions, such as gathering, organizing, and accurately summarizing financial records, the more efficiently you will proceed through mediation.
Do I need a lawyer in mediation?
You do not need a lawyer to mediate. In most of the cases we handle, unless mediation has been ordered by a court, lawyers do not attend mediation and do not negotiate on behalf of the parties. However, we recommend that you hire an attorney and consult with that person during the process. As mediators, we cannot advise you about how the law might apply in your case. Also, we cannot draft a legally-binding separation and property settlement agreement, prepare divorce pleadings, or represent you in court. A lawyer can help you with these things, and we can recommend some who will do so for a reasonable fee.
Are there any cases that are not appropriate for mediation?
During initial phone calls and at the orientation session, we carefully screen each case to determine if mediation is appropriate. Generally, mediation is not appropriate in cases involving spousal abuse or where one party has a motive other than negotiating a settlement in good faith. In addition, we reserve the right to terminate mediation if one party attempts to dominate the negotiation or improperly influence the decisions of the other party, or if the agreement proposed is unconscionable.
My spouse and I are in the middle of a divorce and have lawyers. Can we mediate?
Yes! Resolving a divorce or custody case using attorneys can be expensive, slow, and frustrating. If you and your spouse are ready to put an end to the fighting and talk directly with each other, rather than through your attorneys, we can help you work out a settlement in mediation. Couples who come to mediation after they have begun litigation often realize that their attorneys have, intentionally or unintentionally, fueled the conflict. By clarifying and communicating their intentions to each other with the help of a mediator, they can often resolve that conflict.