How Does Mediation Work?

"Settling your divorce case will be the biggest negotiation of your life. The stakes are huge: Your children, your money, your sanity."


For more information, see our FAQs: Fees & Comparison Chart or
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Q&A Phone Conference or
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A: Divorce mediation is an effective, peaceful and inexpensive method of assisted settlement negotiations.

In a mediation session, a neutral professional -- the divorce mediator -- facilitates communication between you and your spouse and ensures that all information is provided for both of you to make well informed and fair settlement decisions.

Without deciding the issues or imposing solutions, the mediator enables the parties to better understand each other’s positions and to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to their disputes.

Once agreement is reached, the mediator prepares a formal written and legally enforceable Marital Settlement Agreement and MSA, acceptable for filing with the court.

A: Mediation is faster, less expensive and tends to create much less emotional turbulence for you and your children than the adversarial litigation process. Mediations involve far fewer people and systems than litigation. Mediation is a fairly streamlined process. In the majority of cases, there is only one mediator and no divorce attorney fees. That results in tremendous cost savings.

Divorce mediation is designed to tamp down the emotional turbulence associated with divorce. Mediation is a rational process with simple, but effective, methods that help separating couples learn to communicate – for their benefit and that of their children. More peace at such a chaotic time is a welcome relief. Learn more about Mediation versus Litigation.

A: Failure to communicate well – or at all – should not hold you back if you are considering divorce mediation. Many couples come to mediation because of their inability to talk to one another -- but they always end up working together on problems once they are in the mediation room. Mediators are highly skilled at helping couples move through their ingrained and negative communication patterns so that real progress can be made in their divorce settlement.

A: The divorce mediation process provides an opportunity for both parties to be heard, to identify the issues and to generate options for resolution. If all matters are settled, the mediator will prepare a Property Settlement Agreement.

Five Key Parts - At Graine Mediation, the process can be broken down into five key parts:

  1. Intake Call/Intake Meeting
  2. Pinpointing Issues
  3. Sharing Information (clients share facts, circumstances goals; mediator shares legal, tax, financial information and parenting information)
  4. Facilitated Negotiation
  5. Drafting and Signing of Mediated Property Settlement Agreement (PSA)

Time Requirements:

  • Most cases settle in 2-3 sessions.
  • The requisite number of sessions are usually completed within 2-6 weeks.
  • The time required to settle a case is dependent primarily on the parties’ schedules, the complexity of the issues, and the parties’ motivation to settle.
  • Mediation sessions are blocked for 3 hours. Some sessions go a little longer, some a little shorter.

A: The divorce mediator’s role is to assist couples and parents, through an efficient and practical settlement process, to make the best, mutually agreed upon, long-term decisions possible for both of the parties and their children. The divorce mediator’s methods include helping the parties with the following:

  • Establish a peaceful environmental which facilitates essential communication and preserves parental relationships. Mediators help parties to neutralize language and frame their concerns in ways which facilitate truly hearing each other’s needs and concerns.
  • Identify & focus on key issues for resolution. The divorce mediator will help you think through, sort out and prioritize disputes and matters to help make the settlement process as fair and efficient as possible.
  • Gather and share necessary information, while limiting unhelpful speculation. The divorce mediator ensures that all important information is put on the table – your family’s financial facts, relevant laws, tax and financial implications of various settlement options and current research related t the impact of separation and divorce on children. The mediator also gently discourages conjecture that inflames emotions and hinders cooperative settlement planning.
  • Create settlement options for mutual benefit based on the law, the mediator’s experience with other couple’s in similar circumstances, and the parties’ unique circumstances as presented in mediation.
  • Focus on children. If you have children, the mediator will help you stay on track and focused on their well-being.
  • Marital Settlement Agreement. Once mutual agreement is reached on all issues, the mediator will draft a fully enforceable Marital Settlement Agreement, which is acceptable for filing with the court.

A: Mediation is an excellent settlement option for most divorcing couples. Mediation is not appropriate, however, when the following situations apply:

  • Physical Abuse – present or past history; threats of bodily harm; fear of violence; strong intimidation
  • Order of Protection in place.
  • Knowledge that your spouse is actively concealing assets, but no knowledge as to where those assets may be.
  • Inability to understand the issues or participate in settlement negotiations.

A: Most divorce mediation cases settle in 2-3 sessions. Each session lasts about 3 hours. The requisite number of sessions are usually completed within 2-6 weeks. When you mediate your divorce settlement, there is no delay as a result of court schedules, phone and email "tag" between lawyers and the vast amounts of paperwork that are characteristic of divorce litigation. Direct party-to-party negotiation, with the assistance of a mediator, is much more time efficient than the adversarial alternative.

A: Usually, if one spouse is interested in mediating their divorce settlement, the other party is also willing to give mediation a try. Often times, a visit to this website helps answer the other spouse’s initial questions and a follow-up call soon follows.

It often helps if a “resistant spouse” learns that 90-95% of all divorce cases settle before they go to trial. That being true, a divorcing couple might as well begin the process with a settlement (versus litigation) mentality. Also, when deciding whether to mediate or litigate, it often helps to know that mediations are confidential. That means that offers and counteroffers made can never be brought up in court as “evidence” for or against either one of you.

After you have your initial call with the mediator, just let your spouse know that he or she may call us when convenient: 571-220-1998.

Our fees are here.

Call a Mediator!

  • Free 15-minute Q&A Phone Conferences 571-220-1998. You can also schedule online
  • Need more help? For an in depth Pre-Mediation Conference, schedule online

A: Mediation is an excellent forum for working through financially complex divorce settlements. The non-adversarial nature of mediation will allow you and your spouse to focus on the details of the financial aspects of your divorce and avoid the procedural distractions and legal maneuvering inherent in divorce litigation.

A: Attorney representation is encouraged, but is not required. Some clients have a divorce attorney counsel them every step of the way. Others receive no legal counsel at all. Though welcome to attend mediation sessions, attorney presence is rare at Graine Mediation. If one spouse has his or her attorney present at the mediation, the other spouse must also hire and have his or her lawyer present at the sessions, too.

In Virginia, mediators are permitted to provide divorce clients with legal information, but not advice. Information helps clients weigh the pros and cons of various settlement options. Advice tells clients what they should do.

Legal information includes:

  • the actual law in Virginia which is applied by the courts;
  • the areas of Virginia law which are "gray" and up for interpretation by the courts;
  • national, state and local legal trends;
  • pertinent sections of the Tax Code (Federal Law); and
  • a comparison of the facts, circumstances and settlement options in your case as compared to other divorcing couples in similar circumstances.

A: With the exception of the Marital Settlement Agreement (which the mediator writes), you will need a divorce lawyer to prepare and file your divorce documents. In Virginia, once a professional has acted as your mediator, he or she is not permitted to prepare or file your divorce documents, whether or not they are a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Only one party to a settled divorce case needs to hire a lawyer for this purpose. Graine Mediation has attorney referrals for this purpose that range in price from $500 - $850 flat fee. Some clients choose to prepare and file their own divorce paperwork, but this is not recommended.

A: Your divorce mediator will help you weigh your options in terms of what is best for your children, both now and, as much as possible, for the long-term. The ultimate decisions with regard to the custodial care and holiday schedules for your children will, however, be made by you and your spouse.

The mediator will be there every step of the way to help guide you through the often difficult conversations and compromises that are necessary when planning how to raise your children in two separate homes.

All families are unique, but there are certain key points to consider when getting divorced with children:

  1. Children of divorce need both parents in their lives, as much as possible to maintain and enhance the essential parent-child bond. Deep parental bonding has been shown to effect children's ability to form high level relationships and human connections;
  2. Children thrive when they feel that they are being raised by two loving parents and that both parents have their (the children's) best interest in mind;
  3. Children of divorce absorb negativity between the parents and often feel that such discourse is their fault. Parents need to work hard to dispel angry feelings, appreciate each other’s parenting contributions, and move on with their lives as much as possible (despite the fact that they are forever joined by their children); and
  4. Children of divorce tend to do better when their parents live fairly close to one another and the children have liberal access to both parents.

A: A written and signed Marital Settlement Agreement, drafted by a mediator, is a legally enforceable contract, just like any other properly drafted and signed contract. Under Virginia law, there is no difference between the enforceability of a Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement and one drafted by a divorce lawyer.

Once you are actually divorced, the component parts of your Marital Settlement Agreement will be incorporated into your Final Order of Divorce (how Virginia Courts refer to your "Divorce Decree") and you will have both an enforceable contract (the Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement) and a Court Order (the Final Order of Divorce) that contain much of the same requirements.