1.  What does Mediation cost?

Michael Dwyer charges $390 per hour.  

I do not ask for a retainer, but Clients are asked to keep fees current. I want satisfied clients who feel that the cost of my services are fair and reasonable. I am willing to talk if you need a financial accommodation to obtain my services.

2.  What is Mediation?

In Mediation, a neutral third party (a Mediator) helps both parties resolve their disputes and reach an agreement. The Mediator works closely with and for both parties but is not an advocate for either. 

Mediation is the safe and sane way for families to resolve disputes. Mediation focuses on helping people (even people with strong negative emotions towards each other) reach a mutual agreement.

Mediation differs from litigation.  In litigation, the entire process is wired for trial. The focus is on winning and losing, which destroys families. The approach and attitude is adversarial and competitive. There is no place for emotion or a person’s feelings about whether a result feels fair.

The Mediator’s role differs from a lawyer’s role. The Mediator does not try to maximize the “winnings” of one party at the expense of the other, but rather works to help both parties meet their needs and interests.

3.  What is the Mediator’s role?

As a Mediator my primary job is to help people reach a point so they can determine, after considering all options, whether they wish to reach an agreement to settle their dispute. 

In the first instance, I do this by ensuring a safe and sane place to discuss difficult issues in a civil, respectful and adult-like manner. We strive to hold conversations in which each person listens respectfully to the other, and to speak to the other about their important concerns. The Mediator can help the parties identify old, unskillful communication patterns and begin to create new ways of communicating, especially for divorcing couples who are transitioning to divorced co-parents.

In my role as Mediator, I do not act as an advocate for either party.  Unlike the role of an attorney, I do not take the “side” of one person against the other. There is no “winning” or “losing.”

I do, however, help people navigate the complexities of the legal system and to understand what they need to satisfy the demands of the law. I help people identify their needs and interests so we can customize a settlement agreement that they feel is fair. I help people creatively develop options and solutions they may not have considered. I also help them understand the pros and cons of various options and analyze the best and worst alternatives to reaching agreement. 

4.  How does Mediation work?

Mediation works by enabling the parties to work collaboratively, not competitively, to resolve their disputes and reach agreement. It enables people to participate regardless of their difficult emotions and feelings toward the other participant. 

Mediation helps each participant identify his or her needs and interests, and the best way to meet those needs and settle the dispute.  

The Mediator helps the parties reach agreements that ensure the safety of each party as they move through the process.  

Clients are helped to establish good boundaries and speak and listen to each other in a civil, safe way. This helps clients regain control if they have been feeling unsafe and out of control.

The Mediator helps the Clients identify the major issues that they need to resolve. The Clients participate in a full exchange of information, including financial information. The Mediator helps the clients understand and assess the information, or obtains necessary outside expertise (such as accountants and appraisers).

Next, with the Mediator’s assistance, the Clients will discuss and negotiate a solution that fits both parties’ needs. Often, clients will have tried unsuccessfully to talk prior to Mediation. That is the main reason they have come to Mediation. In Mediation clients are provided a structure and process to anchor their discussions. Also, the Mediator helps the parties negotiate effectively by helping them analyze and evaluate their options to see which fit best with their mutual needs and interests.  

5.  Why are so many people using Mediation?

There are many advantages to Mediation, which was created as a safer, saner alternative to settling disputes by trial and litigation. Here are the primary advantages:

  • Mediation saves people lots of money. People like the low cost of mediation compared to the expensive alternative of having to hire two lawyers and the cost of litigation.   
  • Mediation is fast.  It takes a fraction of the time it takes to go to trial, or even to settle a case in the litigation system.  
  • Mediation participants report greater satisfaction because they (not lawyers or a judge) create the terms of their own divorce agreement. The Mediation clients are the judges of what feels fair.
  • Mediation enables parents to become more effective co-parents. Instead of suffering the extreme polarization that results from the adversary system, parents (even parents who are having difficulty getting along) are focused on resolving the problems for their children instead of endlessly fighting about them.  
  • In Mediation, people never have to see the inside of a courtroom.
6.  What is your style of Mediation?

I believe a flexible style is most useful.  I customize the format and my approach for the people I am working with.   

When couples meet with me not accompanied by lawyers, I often meet with the couple in joint sessions, but I will also meet individually and privately with each client at various times. At other times, it is more helpful to minimize or eliminate joint sessions and to work primarily with each person individually.  

I also like to tailor the amount of “evaluation” I provide to the needs of the case.  Some people want to create their own agreement with a minimum of mediator involvement. Others want and need the benefit of my experience and want my thoughts about how they “should” settle their dispute. I will have a thorough conversation with my clients about their needs and my role to that I can make, with them, the most skillful choice available.

With all clients, I refrain from judging them for past actions and listen deeply and respectfully. I try to take a compassionate stance towards my clients, by which I mean deep caring coupled with strength and resolve. I try to be an anchor for my clients when they are in the throes of highly charged emotions. 

7.  How many Mediation sessions will it take?

Couples who are dealing with children and finances usually require 4-5 sessions to reach agreement. Of course this varies based on individual circumstances. Couples without children have fewer issues to resolve and therefore they need fewer sessions. Also, couples that have already reached agreement on a few issues prior to the first mediation session need fewer sessions. 

8.  How long are Mediation sessions?

When I work with couples in divorce mediation, our sessions generally last two hours. I have found this is the best amount of time that allows people to make maximum progress.

9.  What issues will we discuss in Divorce Mediation?

If you have children, we will discuss Custody, a Parenting Plan, and Child Support. In all cases we will discuss the division of Assets and Debts. In appropriate cases, we will discuss the amount and duration of spousal support.

10.  Do you help people reach agreement on parenting issues?

Yes. I help people reach agreements regarding custody and parenting plans.

Custody refers to one or both parents making the major decisions for children. Major decisions include religion, education, and medical care. When both parents make the major decisions together, we use the term “joint custody.” When only one parent makes the major decisions for the children, we use the term “sole custody.” In Oregon, the parties may agree to be joint custodial parents, and the court will honor that agreement. But Oregon judges cannot order joint custody without the agreement of the parents. If the parties do not agree on joint custody, or do not agree which parent will be the sole custodial parent, the Oregon judges must award sole custody of the children to one parent. 

Parenting Plan involves the creation of a schedule that considers time and the regular of the children. It also means resolving how the children will spend holidays and vacations. Parenting Plans also involve the quality of the co-parenting relationship, including establishing shared goals, boundaries, expectations, and communications. Parenting Plans are not the same as custody, even though the two are commonly confused.

11.  Do you help people reach agreement on child support?

Yes. Child Support is generally more complex than people realize. It has several aspects. We will discuss not only the presumed monthly support for household expenses and daycare, but whether that number works for your needs and interests. In addition, we will consider other issues, including the payment of children’s health expenses and out-of-pocket extra activities such as camps and lessons. We will also discuss the tax aspects of claiming the children as dependents and estate planning to insure your child support in case of your death. 

12.  Do you help people reach agreement on dividing assets and debts?

Yes. I will help you resolve the division of assets and debts. We will help you determine the value of assets and discuss how they should be distributed fairly. I will look specifically at the most difficult questions, such as whether to keep or sell a house; how to handle one’s own business; and the interplay between current assets and retirement accounts. I will also discuss how to handle your debts. 

13.  Do you help people reach agreement on spousal support?

Yes. Spousal support is an issue that gives many divorcing couples difficulty. There is no precise formula that enables couples to quickly and easily obtain the amount and duration of support. I will help you understand customary approaches and the financial impact of various options, and most importantly, help you determine a spousal support plan that addresses your needs and interests.

14.  Can you prepare our legal documents?

Yes, as a mediator who is a lawyer, I am able to prepare all your legal documents.

15.  Can I consult my own lawyer? Do I have to consult a lawyer?

You may consult a lawyer when involved in mediation. I can provide you a list of qualified, mediation-friendly lawyers to advise you.

You do not have to have a lawyer. Many people prefer to complete their divorces without consulting a lawyer and are able to do so. 

Occasionally I will insist that people consult a lawyer depending on the issues and circumstances, at least before signing an enforceable settlement agreement or judgment of dissolution.

16.  Do we have to appear in court?

No. If you reach agreement in Mediation on all the issues, you do not have to go to court at any time. Your agreement will be reflected in legal documents filed with the court. 

17.  Are there important differences between Mediators?

Like other occupations, Mediators differ not only in terms of their approach, but also in their skill level. A highly qualified mediator in family law will have years of dedicated study and practice in the field of mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution, communications, and psychology. 

Because of the popularity of mediation, many lawyers today supplement their legal practices with part-time mediation work. They figure that because they have participated in mediations as a lawyer, they must be qualified to serve as mediators. Without advanced training, these lawyer-mediators will often bring their old adversarial approach to mediation without even knowing it. This type of process often results in the same dissatisfactions for clients as in the litigation system where the parties feel that they did not create their own agreement so much as were subtly coerced into accepting a result dictated to them by the lawyer-mediator.

People searching for qualified mediators should check to see if mediation is a primary or secondary part of the caseload; and also investigate the prospective mediator’s studies and training. 

18.  What if my spouse and I are not on good terms?

Sometimes people think they have to be on good terms to come to Mediation. That is not true. Mediation is designed to help people who need help resolving their dispute. People in conflict often hold negative feelings towards each other. In Mediation we are able to help people who feel anger, hurt and mistrust toward each other. 

19.  What if we don’t agree to try mediation?

The parties must agree to use Mediation since it is a voluntary process.  

Often, people who are reluctant at first to use the Mediation process change their minds when they are faced with the alternative of the court-based family law system and become educated about the advantages and disadvantages of each system.  

I am happy to help prospective clients become educated about the pros and cons of each process so that you and your family can find the best process fit.


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