AGREE TO MEDIATE – WHAT ARE YOU AGREEING TO?

When you agree to mediate, you are agreeing to have a discussion with the other party that is facilitated by a mediator. As a mediator, I am a neutral third party which means I do not advocate for either party or make decisions. I facilitate a process that is designed to help the two parties communicate more effectively so as to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution to issues that either party has. As a neutral third party, both parties benefit from my services equitably and both party’s issues are addressed in mediation. The more effort you put in to utilizing my services, the more you will benefit.

MEDIATION IS BOTH MANDATORY AND VOLUNTARY. Generally, Party One opens a mediation case with Hart to Heart Mediation Services because Party One would like a discussion facilitated. It is a non-adversarial gesture. It is a gesture of good faith to work openly and honestly with the other party to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution. Typically, a case is opened to prevent further action being necessary. At this point, mediation is an opportunity to resolve this matter without involving the legal system.

VOLUNTARYFrom my experience, voluntarily agreeing to mediate prevents escalation of the conflict. Escalation of the conflict often occurs when the second party resists or refuses mediation. Resistance or refusal to mediate often compels Party One to take further action to require mediation. Generally, the conflict escalates because, once requirements are imposed, a level of control has been taken away. Nothing escalates conflict more than loss of control.

MANDATORYThe court requires mediation in family cases because the court believes, as do good mediators, that the parties know their situation best. The court also believes that the parties are the best suited to make decisions about their situation and planning their future. Mediation is your final opportunity to have a say in the resolution of your case. By requiring mediation, the court offers the parties the opportunity to create a resolution rather than have the court impose a resolution. Parties are more likely to follow through with decisions they have had a say in versus decisions that have been imposed upon them.

CASE SCHEDULE TIMELINE: To maintain control over the outcome of your case, it is generally, a good idea to agree to mediate. It prevents further escalation and it allows you to have a say in the resolution. By agreeing to mediate, you are also committing to meeting the case schedule timeline. Deviation from the case schedule timeline can be accommodated and must be mutually agreed upon by both parties.

If mediation is an imposed requirement, it is not necessarily required that you mediate with Hart to Heart Mediation Services. There are a variety of resources where you can research other options for mediation. One of the sources the court recommends for finding a mediator is www.mediate.com. Another resource is Washington Mediation Association. My profile can be found on both websites.

Typically, parenting plans have standard language for dispute resolution that states what the parents will do in the event that there is a dispute. As you are aware, you are free to deviate from what is stated in your parenting plan as long as the parents are in agreement. When one parent begins the mediation process, it is an indication that the parents are not in agreement. Thus, the dispute resolution process outlined in the parenting plan is a first step.

PAYMENT TERMS: Agreeing to mediate also means you are agreeing to payment terms. I require a non-refundable deposit from the first party to begin work on the case. It is very typical for one party to hire a mediator to get the process started and gain some traction on

resolution. Typically, the party opening the case is more motivated to have the conversation and reach an agreed upon resolution. It is also very typical for the second party to resist the idea, which is why I require the non-refundable deposit to begin work on the case.

Once both parties have agreed to mediate verbally or in writing, I charge a flat rate for the mediation and determine the case schedule timeline. The flat rate is split equally between both parties unless your parenting plan or other legally binding document states a different allocation. The non-refundable deposit is put toward the final fees for the party that paid it. I split the fees equally to gain equal investment on the part of both parties.

SERVICES: The service I provide for the flat rate mediation fee is:

  • I prepare both parties individually and confidentially for a successful mediation.
  • I offer conflict coaching for each party as needed prior to the mediation.
  • I conduct a 4 hour mediation in my office on the 23rd floor of Skyline Tower in Bellevue.
  • If needed, I can make arrangements for other mutually agreed upon locations that might be more convenient.
  • In the event that this matter ends up in court, you will have fulfilled the court’s requirement to mediate.
  • If a mutually agreed upon resolution is reached, that agreement can be memorialized in legally binding document.

FEES: My service fees are $1500 per mediation with a $200 non-refundable deposit. These fees are split equally so that each party pays $750. The party that pays the non-refundable deposit is Party One and will have the deposit deducted from final fees due. Once fees have been paid in full by both parties, a mutually agreed upon time and date will be scheduled for your mediation. Once the mediation fees are paid in full, all fees become non-refundable. Should one party require the mediation to be rescheduled, a $50 rescheduling fee will be assessed to the party requiring rescheduling.

DECLINING MEDIATION WITH HART TO HEART MEDIATION SERVICES: Once Party One has paid the non-refundable deposit, Party One has agreed to mediate with Hart to Heart Mediation Services. Hart to Heart Mediation Services has entered a contract with Party One to follow the case schedule and see this matter through to resolution. The first step is to determine if Party Two agrees to mediate.

Party Two is within his or her right to decline mediation with Hart to Heart Mediation Services. When Party Two declines mediation or does not meet the case schedule timeline, a Mediation Case Status Report is provided to both parties. In the event that this matter is brought before the court, Party Two may need to explain the case status to a judge. As long as Party Two is comfortable explaining the reasoning that resulted in the case status, the Mediation Case Status Report may not reflect negatively. In the event that mediation is mandatory in your case, it may also be necessary for Party Two to explain the plan to fulfill the mandatory mediation requirement.

THERE ARE TWO POSSIBLE RESOLUTIONS TO YOUR MEDIATION CASE AT THIS POINT:

  1. Party Two agrees to mediate with Hart to Heart Mediation Services
    • Case Resolution within 30 days
      • Pay fees
      • Schedule Mediation
      • Parties prepare by completing mediation preparation questions / discussions with mediator
      • Mediation Session (Resolution)
    • The speed of this schedule is determined by how quickly the parties complete the preparation work and pay fees.
    • Deviations from this timeline need to be agreed upon by both parties.
    • Failure to meet this timeline may result in the mediation case being closed and a Mediation Case Status Report issued.
  2. Party Two declines mediation or does not respond to Hart to Heart Mediation Services
    • Case Resolution immediately
      • Case will be closed and a Mediation Case Status Report issued
      • No response from Party Two within 14 days of case initiation may result in case closure and a Mediation Case Status Report issued

CASE SCHEDULE TIMELINE

Mediation is a confidential process that can help people in conflict work collaboratively to find doable and durable solutions that work for both parties. Effectively resolving disputes reduces or eliminates the stress produced from living in conflict. Mediation is a cost effective alternative to the legal system and allows for both parties to have a say in the resolution. Mediation is a solution-focused, business approach, to emotional issues.

STEP ONE – One party completes the application and pays the non-refundable case initiation fee, the Case Schedule Timeline is determined. The party opening the case is named “Party One”.

  • Case resolution occurs within 30 days
  • Deviations from this timeline must be agreed to by both parties
  • Failure to meet this timeline may result in the mediation case being closed and a Mediation Case Status Report issued to both parties.

STEP TWO – Hart to Heart Mediation Services will reach out to the other party (named “Party Two”) to discuss mediation and determine if Party Two agrees to mediate. Hart to Heart Mediation Services requires a verbal or written agreement to mediate to move forward to the next step. No response from Party Two within 14 days of case initiation may result in case closure and a Mediation Case Status Report issued to both parties.

STEP THREE – Hart to Heart Mediation Services will see the initiated mediation case through to

one of the following resolutions within 30 days:

Resolution 1: Party Two agrees to mediate with Hart to Heart Mediation Services

  • The speed of this schedule is determined by each party’s participation in completing
    • Pay fees
    • Schedule Mediation
    • Parties prepare by completing mediation preparation questions and having confidential discussions with the mediator
    • Scheduled Mediation Session (4 hours)
      • If an agreement is reached, your agreement will be written up in a legally binding document that you may file with the court
      • If no agreement is reached, you will have fulfilled the court requirement to mediate

Resolution 2: Party Two declines mediation or does not respond

  • The mediation case will be closed and a Mediation Case Status Report issued to both parties. This document may be admissible in court as proof of attempting mediation.