If you’ve recently become separated or are contemplating divorce, you may be curious about divorce mediation. In Virginia, a property settlement and separation agreement (“PSSA”) is a necessary element to a divorce and mediation is a way to craft the PSSA.
A mediation is basically a facilitated conversation. The mediator is a neutral party who assists the parties in identifying the issues to be resolved. These issues typically include child custody, visitation and support, equitable distribution of property and spousal support. Once the issues are identified, the mediator will help the parties come up with solutions for each issue. The mediator is not able to provide either party with legal advice, although he or she can tell the parties what the law would say about a particular issue. Parties are free to consult with their own legal counsel during the mediation and may even opt to have counsel present for the mediation.
Once the parties are in agreement, the mediator drafts the PSSA. Parties are encouraged to consult with legal counsel prior to signing the mediated PSSA. The mediator, as a neutral party, is not able to file the divorce petition on behalf of one of the parties, so once the PSSA is finalized, signed and notarized, another attorney is engaged to file the divorce petition.