Mediation is a Process You Can Live With
By: Maureen McShane
What is a professional mediator?
Roseann Vanella, a mediator practicing in Mt. Laurel, N.J. said it may be easier to list what she doesn’t do.
“I’m not a life coach; I’m not a divorce attorney, a psychologist or a marriage counselor,” she said.
“What I do is help family members settle disputes. Whether it’s divorce, post divorce, estate settlements, elder care issues, blended families or similar issues,” said Vanella, owner of Advanced Mediation Solutions.
“Whatever the dispute, the goal is to resolve the dispute with an agreement that all parties feel is fair and equitable,” she said.
“Ultimately the end-game is reaching a resolution that’s a win-win for everyone,” she said.
Vanella opened Advanced Mediation Solutions after spending decades honing her negotiation skills in contract management at a Fortune 100 company. She trained and earned certificates in Family/Divorce Mediation and Elder Mediation, and practices mediation in disputes ranging from divorce to elder care.
Mediation starts with parties willing to come to the table.
“That’s the biggest hurdle, having each person wanting to come to some type of agreement,” she said. One of the important skills in her toolbox is the ability to listen to all parties. Hearing all sides gives her a feeling of where they stand, and what biases are behind their feelings.
Recent clients negotiating their divorce through Vanella also had disputes about co-parenting. The husband lived about one mile from the wife who had primary care of their two teenagers. The father wanted his children to stay overnight with him so he could get them off to school. The mother said adamantly, “absolutely not.”
Vanella learned the father and mother owned a business where he was always out in the field and she worked the business from home, where the children relied on her.
“Now that they were divorcing he felt the need to create a different relationship with his kids. He wanted them to know that he could do whatever Mom did for them,” she said.
The mother worried that moving the children from one household to another during the school weekdays would be too disruptive.
The parties were not hearing each other, she said.
“It may have been past experiences, and ugliness. So in the process much of the time I rephrased what the other person just said, so the other person could receive it and understand it.”
Through mediation, they resolved the issue.
“He drove to his ex-wife’s house, got the kids up for school, made them breakfast and packed them lunches with food he brought, while Mom was still asleep upstairs,” she said.
The children learned they could depend on Dad; and Mom learned she could too, Vanella said.
Vanella helps divorcing couples through all of the issues, including co-parenting strategies, child support amounts, sales of properties prior to the divorce.
Memorandum of Understanding
Once the disputes are resolved, Vanella drafts a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the resolutions the agreement. In the case where there are children, a Parenting Plan is also drafted.
The Parenting Plan covers short & long-range plan, and may tackle such issues as who will pay for Johnny’s car in 10 years when he is college bound. That forward-thinking scope is another difference between what typically a mediator tackles and what a divorce attorney may address
“It’s something they can work from, so the issue of who pays for what, such as college, or a car is not a big surprise down the road.”
All documents drafted during mediation are private and not subject to public record. They can be reviewed by their respective attorneys.
The legal papers for a divorce are prepared by an attorney, which Vanella estimates to be between $1,200 to $1,800.
Rates vary for Vanella’s services, but are much less than a litigating divorce attorney’s.
The savings can be between 40 and 90% less according to statistics, Vanella said. The approach to divorce is the key difference in cost.
“A mediator is not sitting there encouraging each party to continue to argue with each other. That’s going to cost more money because the parties are paying two attorneys’ hourly fees.”
Vanella, on the other hand does not require a retainer, rather clients pay for services as they go.
Vanella has mediated creative solutions for many people looking for help in unlocking emotional deadlocks.
“And I love every minute of it,” she said.
To learn more about Advanced Mediation Solutions and Roseann Vanella, visit www.advancedmediationsolutions.net