September 9, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce Mediation

Divorce Mediation is Civil and Respectful for Couples and Families

When you decide to separate or divorce, there are many questions and you have many options open to you. Divorce Mediation is a civil, respectful and affordable next step. One possible result is the creation of a Parenting Plan. Learn what Divorce Mediation is, how the process works, the advantages of mediation vs. litigation, and whether or not you'll still need an attorney if you choose the mediation route.

When you decide to separate or divorce, you may have many questions and you may not know the options that are open to you. Divorce Mediation is a civil, respectful and affordable next step for couples and families, that can include financial analysis and insight or the development of a Parenting Plan when necessary. Below we answer a number of the most asked questions about working with a Mediator, the mediation process, and what outcomes we hope to achieve. As always, if you have more questions, please contact David to schedule a FREE one-hour consultation to see if Mediation is right for you.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce Mediation is a process designed to help you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse decide the terms of your divorce.  In divorce mediation you both meet with a neutral divorce mediator. With the divorce mediator’s help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost-effectively as possible. The goal is coming to agreement on what is best for both of you.

The issues covered include, but are not limited to:

  1. Development of a Parenting Plan: This will determine where your children will live, how much time each parent spends with the children, how decisions about the children’s well-being are going to be made, and the guidelines you want to establish between yourselves as parenting partners.
  2. Development of a Plan for the Distribution of Assets and Liabilities: This covers your house, bank accounts, investments, cars, vehicles, retirement accounts as well as other assets.
  3. Development of a plan for financial support: This may include child support, spousal maintenance and health and life insurance decisions.

When a successful mediation concludes, the divorce mediator prepares a Memorandum of Understanding, which is a written document that contains the specific details of all the decisions you have agreed upon.  This written document is then used by an attorney to easily prepare and file your legal documents at much lower cost than a contested divorce.

In divorce mediation, we focus on the future rather than on past transgressions. The mediator’s role is to help you to communicate and reach decisions on these important issues. A Divorce Mediator will assist you in keeping the lines of communication open, brainstorm ideas, reality-test the solutions, promote empathy and create an environment where you can make the best decisions for your futures.. Your divorce mediator will keep you focused on the issues at hand, saving you time and supporting you in creating your new, separate lives.

Divorce mediation is flexible and confidential.  It gives you and your spouse a way to settle the conflict between you in a manner that helps your personal relationship after you are divorced.  This is extremely important if you have children and must interact with your ex-spouse for decades to come. Through divorce mediation, communication between the couple is usually strengthened, which is very valuable when you face parenting issues ahead regarding your children – making your post-divorce relationship better.

Mediation is a process that you control.  You set the schedule and the pace – and mediation is a voluntary process, meaning that it only continues if you want it to.

How Does the Divorce Mediation Process Work?

Getting Started:

  • I offer a FREE one hour consultation where I meet with both spouses.  I will provide you with information about the divorce mediation process and answer any questions you may have.
  • If you agree to use divorce mediation, we will, review and sign a “Mediation Agreement.  This is an agreement between the spouses and the mediator concerning the basic rules and understanding of the mediation process.

Mediation Sessions:

  • Mediation sessions are scheduled at your convenience.  This means that there is flexibility about time of day (after business hours is fine) and day of week (weekend sessions can be arranged).
  • During our mediation sessions, we will cover all of the important topics that will require decisions by you in moving ahead with your separate lives.  These topics will include distribution of assets and debts, parenting plans (if there are children) and financial support arrangements (such as child support, spousal maintenance, health and life insurance).
  • Typically, a mediation session is scheduled for two hours.  Occasionally, a session may end early (I will only bill for time actually spent in a mediation session) or run later to take advantage of progress being made.  Most clients complete the mediation process in 2-4 sessions.

The Outcome:

  • I will provide you with a document, which is called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will include all of the decisions you made during mediation.  It is a very detailed document that will include the exact division and distribution of your assets and debts as well as all details of your parenting plan and child support (if there are minor children of the marriage), taxes, insurance, spousal maintenance, etc.
  • I will meet with you in a “closing session” to review the final draft of your Memorandum of Understanding, and will make any revisions that are needed.  I do not charge for this closing session.
  • When the revisions to your Memorandum of Understanding are completed, I can arrange for an attorney to prepare and file your legal separation/divorce documents, or you can choose attorneys of your own.

How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?

I provide a FREE one hour consultation.  You’ll get to know me, and what you can expect from the divorce mediation process.

The typical divorce mediation can be completed in four (4) to eight (8) hours of mediation time over 2-4 sessions of two hours each.  For couples without children, the mediation time is often less.  There is an additional charge of three (3) to four (4) hours for the preparation of the written document containing your agreed upon decisions.  I will schedule a final meeting to review this written document, at no cost to you.  On average, couples with children will be billed for a total of ten (10) hours, including the preparation of written documents; couples without children are billed on average for six (6) to eight (8) hours.

I offer a sliding fee scale based on my clients’ ability to pay.  My standard rate is $195 per hour.

Since I am not a divorce lawyer, my rates are much lower than those charged by lawyers, and lower than attorneys who provide divorce mediation services.  I believe that divorce mediation should be affordable.


What Are the Advantages of Mediating Instead of Litigating a Divorce?

The typical procedure for getting a divorce is called “litigation.” It is an “adversarial” process in which each party retains attorneys to “do battle” with each other. This approach can easily escalate tension and hostility between the spouses rather than reduce it. This escalation in tension and hostility can have harmful effects on children and cost a great deal of money in attorneys’ fees. By contrast, divorce mediation, by providing a calm and safe setting with a neutral mediator, offers the hope of reduced tension and hostility.
The four most common reasons people choose divorce mediation over litigation are:

1. Reduced Cost: Instead of paying two attorneys to negotiate an agreement or take the divorce to court, a couple can share in the cost of a single mediator, at rates far below those charged by attorneys. The cost of mediating a divorce is much less than attorney-negotiated, collaborative or litigated divorces.  In general, mediation is usually 65% to 80% less expensive than the typical adversarial approach.

2. Reduced Time: The time required to complete a mediated divorce is customized for each client based on availability to meet, and time needed to make decisions and reach agreements.  In comparison to coordinating numerous schedules to negotiate a divorce with attorney assistance or await court dates in an adversarial process, mediation takes much less time.

3. Increased Control: Rather than turning decision-making over to a third party (i.e., a judge) and living with the outcome, in mediation you choose what is best for you and your family. After all, who is a better expert on your life than you? Making your own choices also means you understand your reasoning in reaching agreement, making it more likely you and your spouse will follow through after the divorce.

4. Reduced Stress: Divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences for adults and children. While divorce mediation cannot eliminate the stress, reducing stress for the entire family is a common result. Most people fear the outcome of their divorce and what the other party might do. As couples mediate, issues are discussed openly and decisions made together so everyone is clear about expectations and outcomes. The reduced time it takes to complete divorce mediation means families can move forward with their lives more quickly and begin the process of healing. And having a difficult conversation facilitated by a divorce mediator helps parents reach agreements without children present, reducing the stress and other negative effects of prolonged conflict on children.


If We Mediate Our Divorce, Do We Still Need an Attorney?

Regardless of who you choose as a Mediator, there is always a separate process (and legal fees) for legal document preparation and filing. An attorney is required to prepare and file the final legal documents after mediation is completed.  The Memorandum of Understanding that I will provide you with at the end of mediation will make this legal process simple and straightforward (and much less expensive).

I can arrange for an experienced attorney to prepare and file your final legal documents, saving you from that time and effort.  You can also arrange to choose your own attorney(s).

Since Mediators cannot provide legal advice, I encourage you to seek the services of an independent attorney on an as-needed basis throughout the mediation process. I will provide you with a list of mediation-friendly attorneys who can assist you in discussing any legal issues or concerns you may have during mediation.  An attorney can also review your Memorandum of Understanding with you before your legal documents are prepared and filed.

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