Getting divorced is one of the most emotionally devastating events that a person can go through. As you probably know, the divorce process isn’t always quick, easy, or cheap. There are many issues that are usually brought up in a divorce, such as: child custody, spousal support, child support, property division, spousal repayment, and many other things. If a couple can’t decide on their own how to go about determining divorce terms, they can go through divorce mediation.
Divorce mediation is one of the most common methods for negotiating the terms of a divorce. The two soon-to-be ex-spouses get together, sometimes with their respective family lawyers, to hire a neutral third-party called the mediator (Evidence Code § 1115). This mediator works with both spouses to discuss and try to work out issues of the divorce. Now, this person doesn’t make the decisions for you, but rather helps you communicate with your spouse to figure out what is best for the both of you.
Often, before a divorce is brought to court, the spouses are highly encouraged to use divorce mediation to try to work things out. Divorce mediation is confidential, whereas litigated divorces in court are public record. Court divorces are a lengthy and expensive proceeding that can be avoided if divorce mediation can resolve all of the divorce issues you are facing.
On this webpage, the information provided is for your knowledge and not to be considered legal advice of any kind. The following topics will be covered here:
- What is the mediation process like?
- What if all issues can’t be resolved?
- How long does divorce mediation take?
- How much does divorce mediation cost?
- Who can help me with divorce mediation?
- Find a mediator
What is the Mediation Process Like?
The divorce mediation process is a series of meetings between the spouses and the mediator, and at times, the spouses’ respective lawyers. Each session is about 1 to 2 hours long, depending on the ability to communicate amongst all parties involved. Every mediator has a different style.
Each session has an agenda and a goal to reach an agreement:
- First meeting – The issues of the divorce are identified and prioritized to be discussed. In this meeting, it is also decided what information will need to be gathered and presented, such as financial data, appraisals, or even the opinions of experts such as an accountant.
- Discussion Meetings – Between the first meeting and the last agreement meeting, there is no specific number of sessions for discussion meetings. It all depends on how much the spouses can resolve in each session. Because mediation is needed when a couple can’t figure things out on their own, the mediator works with the couple to help them compromise on these issues to meet the needs of both spouses. The mediator also helps by presenting information about the court system and how these issues are commonly resolved. It helps to have someone experienced and knowledgeable in divorce proceedings.
- The Agreement Meeting – When the couple is finally able to resolve all of the issues discussed, the mediator drafts an agreement with those solutions. Each party reviews the agreement and signs it if everything right.
- Filing the Divorce Court Documents – The parties can file the divorce papers with the court themselves, but if they have a mediator who is also a lawyer, he/she will likely assist in filing the papers. Filing for divorce begins with the dissolution of marriage action, filing any necessary disclosure documents, preparing the agreement, judgement, and final papers to be filed with the court.
What if All Issues Can’t Be Resolved?
There are times when one spouse is extremely stubborn and won’t budge on their point-of-view and issues don’t get resolved. This is especially the case when your spouse is narcissistic. These unresolved issues may be litigated, if the parties want to get the divorce done with as soon as possible. Or both parties can take some time to further think about these issues and come back for another mediation session.
How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?
The length of the mediation process is dependent on what issues and how many the couple needs resolved. The amount of time in mediation also depends on how cooperative both spouses are willing to be to come to an agreement on those issues. The mediation process is likely to go smoother and quicker if both parties are willing to consider resolutions that are equitable and in the best interests of the children, if the couple do have kids. On average, divorce mediation can be done in 4 to 10 sessions.
A tip to shorten the length of mediation is to come to some agreements or at least narrow down several good options, before mediation even starts. However, if the split is very messy and the spouses can’t communicate with each other outside of mediation, it is better to not even attempt to do so. If discussing issues outside of mediation causes a lot of trouble, it may make the divorce mediation more difficult. In re Marriage of Kieturakis
How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?
“Costs” of a divorce is not just monetary costs, it’s also emotional costs of the spouses and the children, if there are kids involved. Going through a divorce can be very costly, especially if lawyers have to be hired for court hearings. A mediator, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily have to be a lawyer. This can significantly reduce the monetary costs of a divorce.
If you had to go to divorce court, hiring a lawyer costs on average $2,500 – $5,000 just for the lawyer’s retainer fee, not including their hourly rate. Mediation also greatly reduces the emotional costs that would be very high, if the couple goes through a litigated divorce (in court). Divorces in court are public record, so anyone can sit in and listen to your case. Many couples also walk away unsatisfied with the court orders. So, mediation would be the most cost effective and satisfying method of resolving tough divorce issues.
Who Can Help Me with Divorce Mediation?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, a mediator is a third-party person who helps the couple resolve issues. This person does not have to be a divorce lawyer, but both spouses have to agree on choosing and hiring the mediator. A “mediator” can be one person or a group of people, or even an entity that is neutral to both parties. The definition of “mediator” for the purpose of divorce mediation, also includes any neutral person who assists the leading mediator, such as interpreters, a case-developer, or a secretary.
Even if the mediator is a lawyer, he/she needs to be impartial so he/she cannot provide any legal advice to either party. Each spouse is recommended to hire their own lawyers, if not for the mediation process, they should at least hire a lawyer to look over the final agreement before signing it. The agreement that comes out of the mediation process is legally binding, so it is important to have an experienced family lawyer to advise you.
Find a Mediator
You can find a mediator by asking your family law attorney. You can also find one by doing a google search, checking in your local telephone directory, or seeing if your friends or family knows someone. You can also hire a neutral family lawyer to work as a divorce mediator for you and your spouse. You both just have to agree on who this third-party, impartial person will be. The reason you both need to agree on this person is so that one party won’t feel like the other is being favored by this mediator and that communication will be neutral.