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From The Desk Of Lindsay Sampson, Head Paralegal: Explaining Mediation to A 12 Year Old

Michelle Hopkins was participating in a mediation session for one of her clients when one of her children called the office asking for her. “Mom is in mediation so I cannot pull her out unless it’s an emergency. Are you okay?” I asked. As she is always inquisitive, I knew what was coming next:

“What’s mediation?”
“Mediation is when people sit down to talk about things they can’t agree on before they go to Court. People like to mediate instead of having their cases heard by Judges because it is less expensive. Also, if a Judge hears your case, they ultimately decide everything no matter what you want. If you mediate, you get a little more say in what happens in your case, so you might get more of what you want to happen.”

“So it’s like she’s in Court?”
“Kind of. For example, let’s say you married Justin Bieber and things just are not working out. We all know he will never do better than you but it is what it is. So now you have to divide assets like your house and bank accounts, and debts like cars and credit cards before a Judge will let you get divorced. If Mom was representing you, you and Mom would sit on one side of the table. Justin and his lawyer would sit on the other side of the table, and a mediator, who is a neutral third party, would sit at the head of the table. Or, if you couldn’t stand to be in the same room as Justin because he wasted the best years of your life, each of you would wait with your attorneys in separate rooms and the mediator would go back and forth between the rooms to discuss contentious topics. You would say, “I supported his career! I want all assets divided between us equally 50/50!” and Justin’s lawyer would say “You did not attend all of his concerts! That does not sound like a supportive Wife to me! As you were focused on watching movies and eating snacks instead of Justin, we will agree to divide all assets as follows: 70% to Justin and 30% to you”. Then Mom would say, “Justin’s hit song “As Long As You Love Me” was written about her! If she receives 50% of the royalties from this song, if she retains sole ownership of the ski chalet, if Justin agrees to be solely responsible for 100% of the marital debt and if she retains ownership of all the dogs, we will agree to these terms.”

“What does the mediator do?”
“The mediator’s job is to remain completely neutral during the process. So they cannot speak too much to either party alone, and they have to suggest fair ways to divide assets and debts. For example, you asked for a 50/50 division and Justin’s lawyer asked for a 70/30 division. The mediator might say, “Considering how long you two were married, Mrs. Bieber’s contributions to Mr. Bieber’s career, Mr. Bieber’s earning potential and Mrs. Bieber’s absence from the work force, an equitable division could be 60% of the assets to Mr. Bieber and 40% to Mrs. Bieber, with Mr. Bieber being solely responsible for 90% of the debt and Mrs. Bieber being responsible for 10% of the debt.” The mediator might also prepare a paper document for both parties to sign to memorialize the agreement they reached.”

“Is Mom the mediator?”
“No, because her client is mediating with the opposing party and the mediator has to be neutral. Mom cannot be the mediator for her own client because she would not be a neutral party. Though Mom does mediation for other people that she does not represent.”

“Are mediators always lawyers?”
“Sometimes; Mom is a lawyer and a meditator. Mediators can also be retired Judges, or they can be people who are not lawyers who are trained specifically to become mediators.”

“So, Mom is going to have a long day isn’t she?”
“Probably. So be extra nice to her when she gets home!”
A few hours later, Michelle’s daughter called back for her again. “Is Mom still in mediation?”
“Yes, she is. If she steps out of the conference room I’ll let her know to call you back.”
“Aren’t they tired of talking yet? I would be!”
“Probably! But mediation can last a really long time, sometimes even past midnight!”
“WOW! I am NEVER going to marry Justin Bieber.”

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