Mediation & Negotiation Services

Bethany L. Notaro, Esquire offers affordable mediation services to most Southwestern Pennsylvania counties, including Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, Somerset, Armstrong, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Washington, and others.

Ms. Notaro offers a FREE INITIAL PHONE CONSULTATION regarding mediation. Attorney Notaro provides two distinct services applicable to mediation: She is available to conduct traditional mediations, and she is also available to draft, review and finalize agreements from other mediators. Ms. Notaro creates a secure, friendly office environment to ensure that her clients are as comfortable as possible during mediations. However, in some mediation circumstances, Ms. Notaro is available to mediate outside of her office. Please contact her for more details regarding off-premises mediations.

Bethany L. Notaro is unique among Pennsylvania family law mediators in that she has the added experience of being an attorney who actively practices in the field of family law. Ms. Notaro brings to the table her expertise in the area of peaceful conflict resolution, as well as the law on pertinent family and divorce issues. As an attorney, Ms. Notaro is skilled in preparing prenuptial agreements as well as Property Settlement Agreements (i.e., agreements upon divorce). Ms. Notaro can offer her clients guidance in all aspects of family law. She can also help in advising her clients in making their mediated agreement official.

The following are commonly asked questions about mediation. With proper understanding about the mediation process and its purpose, you may find that mediation is the right alternative in your divorce or family law matter.

The answer is that YOU do. When a divorce matter is litigated by attorneys before a judge in a courtroom, the ultimate decision regarding the intimate aspects of the couple's personal lives is determined by a judge. When a couple chooses to mediate their divorce, they have decided to make their own decisions regarding custody, property, etc., with a mediator to help guide them and lay the ground rules in the process.

Mediation allows a divorcing couple to consider factors that the legal system does not. In a courtroom, two adversarial spouses typically have .5 hour to 5 days to present their cases, stipulations, and all evidence collected through discovery to the judge. A couple is very limited in the admissibility of the evidence that they may present at trial. As a result of heavy caseloads and numerous other divorce cases, the judge has a very limited amount of time to think about the information presented by the spouses and their attorneys and to make a decision. In mediation, a divorcing couple is given unlimited time and the freedom to negotiate their own fair agreement. The couple has the advantage of giving themselves the time that they need to consider the things that they think are important. In addition, the couple also has the ability, if they choose, to consult attorneys outside of the mediation setting regarding their agreements.

A couple should realize that the mediator's purpose is not to make decisions for the divorcing couple. A mediator is not a judge. A mediator does not have the ability to make decisions. Rather, a mediator's job is to guide the couple through their own decision-making process, as well as to facilitate the couple's negotiations regarding their own version of a fair agreement.

When a couple chooses to mediate their divorce matter, they can address all aspects that surface in a divorce, from the drafting of the paperwork to “custody” of the couple’s pets, while at the mediation. As a mediator, I can guide the couple through the decision-making process, while at the same time offering them suggestions and information relating to Pennsylvania family law. As an attorney, I can assist the couple in drafting the divorce paperwork and additional documents. With the couple’s permission, I have the ability to draft any documents of final settlement that the divorcing couple requests. HOWEVER, as an attorney-mediator, I cannot and will not represent either or both of the spouses should they choose to litigate their divorce matter. I will not file the divorce documents, but I can provide information relating to the filing of the documents. In addition, I always recommend that if either of the spouses has any doubt that the agreement is fair, or if they are having second thoughts regarding the mediation, that they should consult their own individual attorneys on the issue. In some circumstances, an individual attorney may offer ways to edit and/or supplement the mediated agreement, as well as a set of “non-neutral” eyes to review the document on an individual spouse’s behalf.

A couple who has decided to mediate their divorce should make a strong effort to leave their personal problems “at the door.” However, this doesn’t mean that a couple, whose relationship has already taken the road towards divorce, will not be tempted to fight a little when discussing heated matters! This aside, the effect of mediation that puts spouses face-to-face in the same room to discuss their issues has its advantages. For one, it eliminates the “middlemen” in negotiating agreements. When spouses hire their own individual attorneys to negotiate a divorce, what the spouse says has to be filtered through two professionals before it reaches the other spouse. Imagine the inevitable changes and lapses in communication that occur along the way! Alternatively, mediation offers a neutral setting in which a couple can streamline their negotiations by speaking directly to each other, with a neutral party there to “referee” the process.

A second answer to the same question (What happens I start fighting…?) is that a good mediator has been trained in conflict resolution skills to help a couple control their tempers and avoid (or at least talk through) their fights.

While both attorney-mediators and non-attorney mediators have (presumably) been trained in family and divorce mediation, the type of training they receive is often different. For instance, an attorney-mediator has obviously obtained a juris doctor degree from a reputable law school, in addition to mediation training. In addition, attorney-mediators and non-attorney mediators often have different mediation styles. Some mediators prefer to counsel (or offer therapy) and assist their clients, while others choose a more neutral but guided approach. I prefer the latter.

In my opinion, an attorney-mediator can offer a divorcing couple several advantages. A mediator who is also a divorce lawyer can provide the spouses with important information regarding Pennsylvania Law to help them make their own decisions about a fair agreement. A mediator-attorney can also assist in drafting the divorce documents (Property Settlement Agreement, Complaint in Divorce, etc.) necessary to obtain a final decree in divorce from the Court. In contrast to a mediator who is not an attorney, a mediator-attorney can draft “Court acceptable” documents, which means a couple will not be forced to go outside of the mediation setting to find information regarding Pennsylvania Law, and to draft their own divorce documents (unless that is their desire, of course). A few things to keep in mind- a mediator who is also an attorney will not advise either of the spouses in his or her attorney capacity. However, an attorney-mediator can help the couple understand what a court might typically do in their own particular situation.

In most situations, the answer is yes. Here are several reasons why: Commonly, in a divorce mediation as opposed to a litigated divorce, Both spouses retain the mediator to resolve the divorce issues. The spouses, if they choose, may split the cost of the mediation. In effect, the couple saves by paying a single retainer rate instead of two for two separate attorneys.

In mediation as opposed to divorce litigation, costly court expenses may be avoided. Although there are a few costs that are necessary in every divorce (i.e., the necessary fee charged by the court for the filing of the divorce documents), a couple can avoid many of the fees typically charged in a litigated family matter.

An attorney bills for each action performed on a client’s case. An attorney will bill for each phone call, letter, document drafted, conversation with opposing counsel, and every action taken on a case. Each time an attorney performs an action, the client is billed for it, typically in minimum increments of $25.00 and up, accounting for actual time spent on the activity. This adds up! Assuming each spouse hires their own attorney, these costs are multiplied by two. Mediation offers a cost effective way to avoid some of the typical costs associated with having an attorney handle every aspect of your divorce case.

Before every mediation, I will provide the divorcing couple with a set of documents intended to assist them in compiling information needed for a successful mediation. In short, the information required consists of marital values of assets, schedules related to custody (school, summer vacations, etc.), income figures for support purposes, and other pertinent details.
In most circumstances, yes. With proper preparation, a couple can mediate all aspects of their divorce, from custody and support to division of property, in about 3 to 20 mediation hours, possibly in multiple sessions. A one count, no fault divorce takes a minimum of 90 days from the date of acceptance of service.
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, mediation offers a comfortable setting and a neutral environment for parents, and also kids, if they choose, to talk about their needs regarding custody. Mediation is an alternative to costly and painful custody litigation. Mediation empowers Moms and Dads to work together to come up with an agreement that is best for the kids, without putting the kids in the middle of a battle.
Yes. A couple can work out a fair number for a support obligation in a mediated setting. As an attorney-mediator, I have the ability to compute estimates of a parent’s child and/or spousal support obligation, based on income and expense information. The figures that I compute are often very similar to those that a court would determine. Additionally, I can offer information that the couple may utilize in making the support figure payable through the court system, if that is their desire.
While mediation is a great alternative for most divorcing couples, mediation is not for everyone. Spouses who have experienced or are victims to domestic violence probably should not try mediation. Because the purpose of mediation is to empower each spouse to “speak up” and voice their own individual concerns in a neutral, comfortable setting, a spouse who has experienced domestic violence may not have the ability or may not want to subject themselves to this type of environment.

 

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