Those are two difficult questions. Estimation of time is problematic for a mediator since the answer depends almost exclusively on the parties’ cooperation and their personal negotiation styles.
Yes, there are ways to speed up the mediation process. But whether this is appropriate depends on the scenario. If the parties can speak productively to one another outside the presence of the mediator, that presents an opportunity for them to get a “head start” on some or all of the issues. They can then bring these ideas to the mediator’s attention when the related topic arises.
Another method to speed up the process is to speak respectfully and productively to the other party in the process. Not doing so has a host of negative effects, which can prolong the process needlessly.
It is also beneficial to “relax” your viewpoint – including having the willingness and patience to explore alternatives and, within reason, to do what is necessary to alleviate the other party’s concerns. Listening to and understanding those concerns will help to move the process along. Willingness to reach an accommodation on these issues is very helpful.
Try to focus on the future, not the past. More often than not, the past has little or no impact on the future and only leads to blame and other unproductive communication. Coming to the table with emotional grudges can create havoc in the mediation process. If such is the case with either or both parties, participation in counseling and/or a support group can help reduce emotional strain, allowing the parties to logically focus on resolution.
Finally, realize the spectrum of “quick and easy” on one side and “the law” or “fairness” on the other. You certainly cannot investigate certain things – such as an asset’s value – if you’re going the “quick and easy” route. However, you could be taking a very large risk that you may not obtain what you would under the law – which is often what is referred to as “fair”. This is a judgment call that only you can make.