What Is Divorce Mediation?

When a couple who is divorcing cannot agree on things like child custody and financial issues, a mediation may be ordered by the court. This is a meeting between the couple, their attorneys and a mediator who is appointed by the court who is trained to encourage the couple to find a compromise they can both live with.

What You Need to Know About Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a method of negotiating the terms of a divorce settlement. A mediator is a neutral third-party who is brought in to help examine and resolve any issues with the divorce. A mediator does not make any final decisions for either party. They simply lead the discussion to make the process easier and help bring about an amicable outcome that both sides can agree upon.

Mediation is necessary because there are many complicated details to work out and the people on either side may not initially want to come to a compromise on important issues. These issues include:

  • Distribution of Property (Assets/Liabilities)
  • Child Custody
  • Child Support
  • Retirement
  • Taxes

It’s easy to see why mediation is necessary. After a divorce you want to move on with your life without worrying about revisiting your divorce. The effects of a divorce settlement are long lasting and if the result is unfair you may end up dealing with it in the future.  

Negotiating an Agreement For The Children

Settling on fair divorce terms is imperative, especially when young children are involved. If you have children you must be able to interact and work together after you’re divorced.

Many places require mediation when dealing with custody or visitation issues. Court-ordered mediation is generally limited to child custody and visitation issues. Often times, court-ordered mediation is free while private mediators generally charge per-hour or per-session. Furthermore, a court-sponsored mediator will often make a report to the court whereas a private mediator is private. It is more than likely that you will be charged an additional fee if you want a private mediator to keep a written record of mediation sessions.

What to Expect During Mediation

During divorce mediation the couple works out agreements with the help of a skilled mediator. Rather than acting as a communication barrier a good mediator will facilitate communication and maintain focus on the issues at hand.

Mediation is different from the adversarial process of litigating. The goal of divorce mediation is to settle on terms that both sides can be satisfied with. Since one side isn’t trying to “win”, the process is faster. In litigation the process can be intentionally stalled and drawn out as a legal strategy whereas mediation is faster and more painless.

Since the parties create their own agreement, mediated settlements generally have a higher compliance rate.

How Much Does Mediation Cost? How Long Does it Take?

The price of divorce mediation can be different depending on who you hire. Most mediators charge a fee per-hour or per-session. Typically the cost is between $100 and $300 dollars per hour. The exact fee depends on the experience of the mediator. Occasionally mediation can be done at a fixed fee. This may differ if it is court ordered or conducted through a community-based agency. Community based agencies may provide divorce mediation at a reduced cost or possibly for free.

By comparison, if you hire a lawyer you will end up paying a retainer fee of between $2,000 and $5,000. The retainer cost is higher if your case is more complex. The total cost of mediation can be a lot more affordable than the cost of hiring lawyers to handle your divorce.

A typical divorce mediation session lasts about two hours. The entire process of mediation can vary between a single session or many sessions that take place over the course of months. The cost and timeframe depend on the people involved as well as the issues that need to be resolved.

Whether you choose to hire lawyers or use mediation, if you come to an agreement there is a cost to create documents. On average it’s about $300 to file divorce papers. Keep in mind that some states allow mediators to draft documents.

How to Find a Good Mediator

Personal referrals are usually the best way to find any professional, including a divorce mediator. If you do research focus your search to law firms in your area that specialize in family law. Many states have no regulations in place to monitor mediators. They can’t be held accountable if they don’t live up to expectations.  

References: Stages of Divorce Mediation

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