Divorce mediation services provide a low-cost alternative to hiring lawyers and going to court. These professionals can charge per session or they might offer flat rates based on the complexity of your case.
Many issues in divorce cases involve property distribution, child custody, spousal or partner support and retirement asset transfer. Some cases also involve business valuation or transfer.
The cost of divorce mediation varies widely, depending on the complexity of your case and how long it takes to reach an agreement. Complex cases with long marriages, large sums of money involved or complicated assets such as stock options or grants may take several sessions to resolve. Some issues may also require the retention of outside experts such as business valuation professionals.
Finding an experienced, highly skilled mediator and a thorough divorce mediation process will help keep your costs down. It is important to avoid hiring a mediator who has little or no process in place, only offers an hourly rate or works with attorneys as they often charge more than non-attorney mediators. A thorough process includes forms, worksheets and systems that, when used together, ensure all issues are covered thoroughly and efficiently, resulting in a cost-effective divorce settlement. This is especially true for couples who are able to communicate effectively and are on the same page regarding their goals for the future.
Often, district courts will offer mediation programs to help litigants resolve their disputes outside the courtroom. In some cases, the court will mandate that parties undergo mediation before proceeding with a trial. Known as court-ordered mediation, this approach aims to encourage parties to find a satisfactory settlement that will save everyone time and money.
Depending on the case, participants may be required to mediate alone or together with their attorneys. Attorneys are encouraged to participate, but should be prepared to advocate for their clients and not speak negatively about them. Attorneys and their clients must also be mindful of confidentiality, since any communication during mediation is privileged.
The court-sponsored mediation process is available for most litigation matters, including divorces and child custody issues. However, the courts do not generally mandate mediation in cases involving vulnerable parties or those with a severe power imbalance, as the parties’ viewpoints will likely be too far apart to resolve via mediation.
If you and your spouse are able to come to agreements on the various issues in your divorce via mediation, there’s no need to go to trial. This can save you time, money and stress. You can also use a private mediator before filing for divorce or at any point during the separation process.
You and your spouse can choose your own private mediator or ask the court for a list of available mediators to pick from. It’s best to select a person who specializes in family law. They can accelerate the process and better accommodate your schedules and locations.
The person you hire for your private mediation can be a psychologist, social worker or counselor, or someone who works in another profession but has special training and experience in resolving disputes through mediation. They can be paid by either party or split between them, depending on the agreement you make. This can be much more cost effective than hiring lawyers.
Community mediation is a conflict intervention process that enables participants to resolve their own conflicts without the threat of costly litigation. These programs are sponsored by a wide variety of private and public organizations. In addition, the governing and advisory boards of community mediation centers are often comprised of residents from the community served by the program.
As with court-sponsored mediation, the majority of case referrals to community-based programs come from the justice system (NAFCM 1998). In many cases, courts are the leading source of funding and a major source of legitimacy for these programs.
However, it has been argued that the cozy relationship between justice system and community-based mediation programs can actually undermine the integrity of these programs. For example, if community-based mediation becomes dependent on the justice system for funding and legitimacy, it may lose its distinctive identity as a movement dedicated to empowerment and alternative institutions. This is already happening in some long-standing community mediation programs, which have begun to drop the word “community” from their names.