Divorce Mediation Process and How Much it Cost

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 What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is an option for handing a divorce that may allow the parties to avoid a courtroom battle. In addition, the parties do not necessarily have to hire an attorney, although it is always advised to at least consult with an attorney before a divorce mediation.

It is highly recommended that each party be represented by their own divorce mediation attorney. The attorney will help ensure each party’s rights are protected.

The divorce mediation is conducted by a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who guides the medication process. They will assist the couple in discussing the issues and resolving issues that are required in a divorce.

A mediator is often a licensed attorney. However, they are not acting in their capacity as an attorney when they are conducting the mediation. Having a law degree helps the mediator know what issues need to be discussed and ultimately resolved. The mediator does not work for either party.

A divorce mediation does not take place in a courtroom. It is generally held in a mediator’s office or other neutral space. If necessary, the parties can be in separate rooms and the mediator will go back and forth.

A mediation can be a much more pleasant process than a lengthy divorce battle in a courtroom. There are, however, some requirements of the parties in order for a mediation to be successful. This includes the parties, or future ex-spouses, being willing to attend the mediation and discuss the relevant issues. The parties must also be willing to compromise. 

The mediator is not at the mediation to make decisions for the parties. The parties themselves will come to their own decisions, the mediator simply guides the process. 

Mediation allows for more creative solutions for the parties. In most cases, a court has a boiler-plate set of rules, such as for visitation, that they use for every divorce, no matter the circumstances. Mediation permits the parties to make choices that work best for them.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Mediation? 

There are advantages and disadvantages to mediation in divorce that the parties should consider prior to participating in a divorce mediation. The process is meant to be less contentious than a divorce conducted in a courtroom. Courtroom divorces are more adversarial, with each party seated on opposite sides of the room with their own counsel. Mediation allows parties to resolve issues in their own way, with the assistance of a mediator.

It is important to note that divorce mediation may not be possible in all cases. For example, when the parties cannot get along or domestic abuse is involved, mediation may not be a viable option. 

However, when mediation is possible, it is more pleasant for all parties involved, especially children. It is also less expensive than a court divorce in most places. Mediations are also generally faster than a court divorce, saving the parties time and money.

Another factor that may be important to the parties involved is that mediation is confidential. A court divorce, on the other hand, is public record. A mediation can allow the parties to keep their private matters private.

Advantages to using divorce mediation to negotiate a divorce settlement agreement include:

  • The mediation process is less stressful than litigation and, therefore, is less stressful for the parties and any children involved;
  • The process is less expensive than litigation;
  • In general, the process takes less time to resolve issues than litigation because the parties are not arguing with one another and cooperate in order to resolve their issues;
  • The process is faster and, therefore, less costly; 
  • Mediation can be an option in cases where both parties want a divorce, but cannot agree on specific issues;
  • Private matters will remain private, as noted above. 

Although divorce mediation may be beneficial to the parties, in certain cases, it may not be an available option, including cases in which:

  • Both parties are overly contentious and are unwilling to work through a matter in a civil manner;
  • Domestic violence occurred in the relationship; and 
  • The case involves specific legal issues that require the supervision of a court.

Even though the divorce mediation process is typically simpler than a court divorce, parties may still have concerns about the process. Common concerns may include:

  • Whether the process allows one spouse to dominate the other. A certified mediator is trained to observe any dominating behavioral traits. If dominating behaviors occur by one spouse and the mediator does nothing to correct the issue, the mediator must be removed from the divorce mediation. 
  • Whether being a particular sex or gender provides greater advantages in the mediation process. If a mediation is not court-ordered, the parties are not required to sign an agreement. If one party feels mistreated or bullied, they can alert a judge about the issue. 
  • Whether mediation is more complicated than hiring a lawyer to get a traditional divorce.  Mediation is typically a streamlined and straightforward process. It usually lacks many of the restrictions or formalities required in court. 
  • Whether mediation takes longer than divorce proceedings in court. In most cases, mediation takes much less time than court proceedings. 

What Issues are Resolved in a Divorce Mediation? 

There are several issues that are resolved in a divorce mediation. The issues resolved will be the same as those in a court divorce case. This includes issues such as:

  • The division of marital property or assets. This may include items such as:
    • real property, such as a home;
    • personal property, such as personal belongings; 
    • any money accounts the parties share, such as checking, savings or retirement accounts; 
  • The division of debts of the marriage, and which party will be responsible for which debt;
  • Child custody issues. The parties must decide who will have primary custody and what type of visitation agreement they will follow; and
  • Child support. The parties must agree on what amounts will be paid to the party with primary custody for child maintenance;
  • Alimony. If the parties have been married long enough and alimony is an option in their jurisdiction, they may agree on an amount for alimony payments.

What Factors Determine Divorce Mediation Cost?

The cost of a divorce mediation will depend on the circumstances of each case. Mediation, however, is likely to cost thousands of dollars less than a court divorce. The cost of mediation depends on several factors, including:

  • A set-up fee is charged by some mediators at the start of a case; 
  • The number of mediation sessions that will be required. Each mediation session will require payment, so the higher the number of sessions, the more the mediation will cost; 
  • The qualifications of the private mediator. A mediator will charge an amount based on what other mediators of similar qualifications charge. If a mediator is a licensed attorney, they may charge more; 
  • Whether the mediation is offered through a community-based divorce mediation agency. The agency will generally provide divorce mediation services at a reduced cost and, in some cases, for free. 

What Other Costs are Associated with Divorce Mediation?

There are also other costs that may be associated with a divorce mediation in addition to those discussed above. A divorce mediator may charge for the following additional items:

  • The creation of documents;
  • If one of the parties or both parties cancels a session;
  • A charge for managing the mediation, often called a case management fee;
  • Filing a request for mediation; or
  • Keeping a written record of the mediation sessions.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Divorce Mediation?

You should hire a divorce lawyer for a divorce mediation. Whether you are considering a divorce mediation or are already involved in the process, it is important to have a lawyer with experience on your side. You can hire a lawyer to assist you even if the mediation process has already begun.

A divorce lawyer will be able to review your case, offer advice and guidance regarding the negotiations, and assist you during the mediation. Your attorney can also review drafts of the divorce agreement before you sign it. A lawyer can also help you prepare and file the necessary paperwork that is required following the mediation process.

If the mediation is unsuccessful, your attorney can represent you during divorce proceedings in court. It is important to remember that even if the parties cannot agree on every issue that must be resolved, whatever issues they can negotiate can be filed as an agreement. 

Generally, the agreement the parties reach must be filed in and approved by a court to be legally enforceable. Your attorney will be able to explain this process and assist with the filings.

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