When both spouses come to an agreement that divorce is inevitable, their decision is now mutual and lends itself to divorce mediation.
In mediation, the couple meets with a family law mediator, a neutral party who helps them resolve the issues in their divorce. The mediator makes sure each spouse has uninterrupted time to speak and asks each spouse to restate or explain when necessary. He or she asks questions that make communication clear. The mediator also provides information about the workings of the legal system, how courts may views issues, and alternatives for solving problems. When necessary, the mediator refers the couple to third-party experts for services such as appraisals.
The couple and the mediator meet in a series of sessions, usually one to two hours long. At the first meeting, they identify the issues for discussion and the order of discussion, and then decide what information needs to be gathered and shared. The couple gathers all relevant financial data, or if necessary, the opinions of experts such as appraisers or accountants. Discussions revolve around give-and-take to meet the needs of both spouses. The mediator provides information about the court system and common ways divorce issues are resolved.
When the couple agrees on all issues, the mediator drafts the agreement for review by each of the parties and their attorneys, if any.
The average divorce usually takes at least three to four two-hour mediation sessions over at least a month or two. More complex cases can take four to six months to complete. Costs vary but In a typical case, the spouses pay a combined total of between $3,000 and $4,000 for cases needing three to five mediation sessions, compared with a retainer fee of between $2,500 and $5,000 for most average cases, and bill the client for services in addition to the time covered by the retainer.
Mediators can help complete and file the legal documents needed by both parties, but they do not make any decisions for either spouse. Mediators work to help both parties make their own decisions.
The mediation process is based on agreement between both parties and allows them to control of the terms and conditions of their own settlement agreement instead accepting terms dictated by the divorce court. Because it is based on compromise and agreement, mediation delivers satisfactory results for both sides.
Mediation is not only less expensive and contentious; it usually does not take nearly as long as a divorce case that goes through a court trial. It also allows both spouses to have some control instead of relinquishing control to the court. Divorce mediation costs less money and allows for personal control of settlement agreements. It works best when both spouses agree to the divorce and both spouses can communicate with each other.
The objective of divorce mediation is an uncontested divorce. When the mediator’s work is finished, he or she can file the divorce papers in court.