“The courts of this country should not be the places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried.”
— The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor
At the Hopkins Law Firm, we understand the tumultuous aspects of divorce, child custody, visitation of the children, having to pay child and or spousal support, and the split of a family are full of fearful emotion. Fear of the unknown, fear of not seeing your children and fear of loss of financial stability weigh heavily on one’s mind and heart. Mediation can empower you and your spouse to design your own mutually beneficial solution to what, if litigated instead, could be a cumbersome, costly, and unsatisfying resolution.
We agree with Justice O’Connor and offer mediation services that are a great deal less formal, adversarial or expensive than having to go to court. You’ll have more control of the outcome if both sides can agree and compromise to mutually beneficial terms. In this way, you as parents are mutually deciding yours and your children’s way forward instead of having it dictated by a third party – the Judge.
Mediation is a resolution process involving distinct stages in place to bring both parties to a mutually beneficial compromise.
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
— John F. Kennedy
In mediation, Michelle brings both parties together to collaborate and find sensible solutions to problems. She does not take sides and is a neutral third person to help guide you along. Michelle is knowledgeable and experienced in the Statutory Authority – The 1950 Code of Virginia as amended – for resolving matters of divorce, custody, visitation, support and equitable distribution. As such, she is experienced in getting parties to agree on matters that will be memorialized in an agreement which is then recognized by the courts and fully enforceable under the Code.
Michelle’s mission is to help the both parties evaluate their goals and options and find their own mutually satisfactory solutions. Her goal is for both parties to collaborate and find solutions they can live with and trust. Michelle focuses on problem solving, not uncovering or exposing private matters, and always with an eye on legal ethics and rules. In contrast, a judge or jury looks at facts, hears testimony, and may try to determine who was right and who was wrong, and then could impose a penalty or award based on the court’s decision.
“An ounce of mediation is worth a pound of arbitration and a ton of litigation!”
— Joseph Grynbaum
Unlike a Judge or the court, Michelle, as a mediator, has no authority to impose a decision. After a successful mediation process, only the aspects to which both parties agree will be memorialized in writing. Parties can be assured that no result will be imposed from an arbitrary decision of the mediator and this greatly reduces the tension of all parties. Also, if mediation does not produce an agreement, either side is free to pursue the matter before the courts.
As a mediator, Michelle may encourage and assist the parties in resolving their dispute, under Va. Code § 8.01-576.9, but she is prohibited from compelling or coercing the parties into a settlement. Michelle shall make no reports to the court which could result in prejudice to either party. Michelle may report the outcome of the dispute resolution proceeding to a referring court, and shall indicate only the terms of any agreement reached or the fact that no agreement was reached. Michelle is prohibited from disclosing any information exchanged during the proceeding, as well as any observations regarding the conduct and demeanor of the parties and/or their lawyers.
While mediation is an informal process, in which, Michelle as a neutral party sits down and talks with the parties who are likely at odds, her goal is to provide a non-threatening environment with the parties for both sides to work together for the common good.
Michelle has been trained by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. As such she is committed to:
- Reducing financial, time, and emotional costs,
- Avoiding litigation if possible,
- Helping to maintain important relationships,
- Protecting confidentiality, avoiding publicity, and maintaining privacy,
- Keeping the parties in control of the process,
- Encouraging mutual respect,
- Providing open communication,
- Using a future oriented, forward looking problem-solving approach, and
- Identifying and addressing all parties’ interests and concerns
Either party who chooses to resolve a dispute through mediation may or may not also be represented by a lawyer at any time during the process. Such cost for representation will be outside the cost the mediation.
Any agreement the parties come to may be reviewed by an outside Attorney before signing and finalizing the agreement.
“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often the real loser in fees, and expenses, and waste of time.”
– Abraham Lincoln