“You get an A+ all the way!” Geoffrey R. More Client Comments
1. Why Choose Mediation?
The benefits of mediating your divorce are substantial and include:
- Money – a mediated divorce typically costs much less than a litigated divorce (in many cases 75% less) – so you can save your hard-earned money for new housing needs, your children’s college fund or a much needed vacation
- Time – a mediated divorce generally takes between a couple of weeks and 2 – 3 months and allows you to move on with your life much sooner
- Lower Stress Levels – divorce is hard enough without it becoming a battle and mediation helps couples minimize stressful, adversarial struggles
- Effective Parenting – if you have children, it is important to be able to behave civilly around each other and minimize the disturbance your children will experience
- Control – in mediation the parties retain control over the outcome rather than handing it over to a total stranger (judge) to make life-altering decisions for them
- Confidentiality – mediation allows you to keep your issues private rather than having them aired in court or memorialized forever in public court paperwork
2. How Does The Mediation Process Work?
The first step is a free consultation with the mediator to make sure the parties are comfortable with and understand the mediation process (this can be done either over the phone or in person). From here the parties will have an initial mediation session to establish an agenda, go over ground rules and start discussing the issues that need to be addressed.
Together with the assistance of the mediator, the parties decide which issues need to be taken care of and begin to talk about these issues. As they work through and gain agreement on issues they are written down at the end of each session so that both parties have a written record of their progress. Once all the necessary issues (property, support and custody being the ‘big three’), as well as any additional issues either spouse wants to address, have been worked out, all the earlier records are combined together in an agreement. At this point, we highly recommend that you have an attorney look over this agreement prior to final signature.
One of the great things about mediation is the flexibility it allows. The parties decide what is discussed and when. How the parties choose to resolve their issues can be as creative or as straight-forward as they are comfortable with. And when and how often the parties meet is up to them (weekly, bi-weekly or when necessary are all options). We do suggest that we keep each meeting between 2 – 3 hours as we have found that this provides the best balance between giving us enough time to really get into the issues while also avoiding the mental fatigue of longer sessions. Aside from this, the majority of the decisions are made by the parties.
3. How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Generally, a mediated divorce will cost only about 1/10 of what a litigated divorce would run. The total cost depends on the amount of time spent in mediation which in turn is determined by the complexity of the issues and how constructive the parties are prepared to be. One of the nice things about the cost of mediation is that it is simple and straight-forward – there are no large retainers, you pay for each session as you go and the fees are simply the number of hours times the hourly rate. Please see our Fees and Procedures section for details on our hourly fees and scheduling procedures.
4. How Long Does Mediation Take?
Each case is different, but typically couples can come to agreement on the necessary issues in 4 – 8 mediation sessions of 2 -3 hours each. Of course, the number of sessions varies depending on several factors, but one thing is for sure – mediation does not drag on like a litigated divorce (which can literally take years in some cases). The main factors that determine the length of the mediation include whether there are children or business ownership involved and the level of conflict and/or readiness of each spouse.
5. What are the advantages of mediation?
Many of the advantages of mediation are highlighted under the Why Choose Mediation question above, but basically it comes down to utilizing your personal resources (time, money, stress level) wisely and retaining control over your own destiny. A mediated divorce provides both sides with the opportunity to constructively address their issues (even the difficult or emotional ones) and truly get their needs met as much as possible under the circumstances. Rather than fighting issues out in court (at $300 – 400/hr for each spouse), couples have a chance to reasonable assess their options and make informed, rational decisions that benefit their children, their sanity and their future.
6. How do I/we get started?
The first step is to call for a free consultation. During this consultation, we explain the mediation process, answer questions and help you decide if mediation is right for your situation. You can even give us a call if you have not discussed mediation as an option with your spouse. We will answer your questions and if you want to proceed with mediation, we can call your spouse to discuss the mediation process with them as well.
7. Do we have to file for divorce before we start mediating?
No. You can start mediating at any time whether or not you have filed for divorce. However there is a six month waiting period once you file for divorce so we do recommend that you start the process soon after you decide to get divorced.
8. How does the free consultation work?
It can be either over the phone or in our office depending on which you prefer. The consultation is done with both parties present so that each person gets the same information from the mediator. The mediator will discuss the mediation process and answer your questions in order to help you decide how to proceed. Our fundamental goal in mediation is to help people make rational, informed decisions and this begins with the decision whether to mediate – this is why we offer this consultation for free!
9. Is mediation binding?
Mediation is not binding until both parties sign a Marital Settlement Agreement and file it with the court – once this is done the agreement becomes a binding contract. In order to create the Marital Settlement Agreement, as individual issues are settled throughout the mediation process the parties will memorialize interim decisions and agreements at the end of each session. Once all of the issues have been addressed, these interim agreements are combined to form the basis of the Marital Settlement Agreement.
If along the way, you decide that mediation is not for you, you always have the option to pursue the court route to divorce (it is not uncommon for couples to resort to litigation and then return to mediation once they experience the significant time, money and stress inherent in taking a divorce to court).
10. Do I need an attorney?
No, you do not need an attorney because: 1. our process is designed to facilitate direct negotiation between the parties without the need to have an attorney speak for you; and 2. prior to signing the Marital Settlement Agreement we strongly encourage both parties to go over the agreement with their own consulting attorney (we are happy to provide a list of highly qualified attorneys for you to choose from). This way each side gets an independent evaluation of the agreement for their protection. This being said, we mediate with attorneys quite frequently and are very open to working with parties represented by an attorney – as long as both sides are represented.
11. Shouldn’t we use a mediator who is also an attorney?
Certainly there are divorce attorneys out there who also provide mediation services and are well-qualified to do so. Unfortunately though, there are also many attorneys who have simply added mediation to the list of services they offer without undergoing adequate training to properly address the emotional and financial aspects of divorce.
We utilize a process where you take the final agreement to a consulting attorney to make sure that you know all of your options and the potential ramifications. Additionally, we offer a co-mediation model (two mediators – one male & one female) with an attorney as the second mediator if you are more comfortable with this approach.
12. What if we can’t even speak to each other right now?
Let’s start by acknowledging that divorce is one of the most difficult experiences that most people ever go through. So it is natural that spouses have very strong feelings about what they’re experiencing and about the other party. This definitely should not stop you from mediating your divorce – in fact, this is one of the main reasons why mediating your divorce is superior to a court battle. While a litigated divorce often devolves into a nasty battle largely because of strong feelings, in mediation both parties have a chance to express their needs and try to work together to address them.
From a practical perspective, we will be more than happy to make a call to your spouse to discuss the possibility of mediation with them. Then prior to meeting we will speak with both of you individually to be sure we understand your concerns, come up with ways to address them and make sure you are comfortable proceeding.
13. What issues are dealt with during mediation?
The simple answer is ‘anything that needs to be discussed in order to get an agreement between the couple’. To be more specific, typically we need to address the fundamental issues of a divorce: 1. Property, 2. Support and 3. Custody (if there are children). Yet we can and will address any issue that is important to either spouse. For example, often certain emotional issues need to be dealt with before the couple can move on to dealing with the financial issues or maybe one party is more concerned with long-term financial security while the other is more focused on the short-term. The beauty of mediation is that we have the flexibility to address whatever is of importance to the couple.
14. What preparation is needed for the first meeting?
While it is very helpful to come prepared with certain documentation to the first meeting, there will also be time to provide this information as we progress through the process. Generally what is helpful is financial information concerning your assets, liabilities and typical budget as well as information concerning your children’s schedules. Also helpful are thoughts you have regarding how to reach settlement (including your goals for the agreement). Yet if this is confusing or simply too much to deal with prior to meeting, just come to the first meeting and we will jointly discuss how to proceed.
15. What if I already have an attorney?
We mediate with attorneys quite frequently and are very open to working with parties represented by an attorney. Our one requirement is that both sides are represented so that there is not a power imbalance. Depending on your situation, you are welcome to involve your attorney directly in the mediation (to have them present at the mediation) or to simply discuss how the process is proceeding with your attorney in between sessions.
16. Does divorce mediation work in every case?
The honest answer is “No” – some cases need to go to court. Yet while there are cases where mediation is not appropriate, in the majority of the cases it is absolutely the most appropriate way to work through a divorce (just ask your friends who have been through a divorce if they recommend a highly contested legal battle). And based on the increasing number of professional resources available during divorce, such as forensic accountants and child custody evaluators, the mediation process is equipped to handle more and more difficult and complex divorce situations. Please give us a call and we will be honest with you concerning whether mediation makes sense for your individual situation – we’re here to help and ultimately the decision whether to proceed is completely up to you.
17. What is Co-Mediation?
Co-mediation involves two mediators working together as a team to assist a couple in reaching agreement. Co-mediation is used in a broad variety of mediation cases, but is particularly well-suited for divorce mediation. Please read our Co-Mediation page for more information.