When considering divorce mediation, it is important to understand divorce mediation costs. Divorcing from your spouse can be a difficult and confusing process and one that you pay a lot for. Costs are important to understand and consider, especially because the process is often presented as the cheaper option, even when this is not always the case. Mediation is usually cheaper than litigation, but there are other risks associated with investing in mediation over litigation that can increase the costs and affect the overall experience. Mediation can often cost $3000-$10,000 depending on several considerations and factors.
There are several types of ways that mediators can charge for their time, as well as some factors that will influence the costs of mediation. Additionally, there are costs that the parties may need to pay to help with their case, both in mediation and other options for divorce. And while mediation can be done cheaply, there are certain benefits and risks associated with trying to save money on the mediation process that will need to be considered. However, if mediation seems to be the best option for your divorce, there are ways to creatively save money and help pay for mediation.
Divorce Mediation Explained:
Divorce mediation, like other areas of mediation, is a formal, guided negotiation process where the parties attempt to resolve their divorce and come to a settlement agreement. The process is led by a third-party neutral called a mediator, who works with the parties to find creative ways for the parties to settle their divorce and move forward. The parties will meet with the mediator and each other to negotiate the different aspects of the divorce, including child custody, child support, division of the assets and debts, and division of any property. If the parties can reach an agreement, they will sign a settlement agreement that will be the controlling agreement in their case. If they do not, the case will go to litigation or other alternative dispute resolution options.
There are several characteristics of divorce mediation that make it unique. These include:
- Voluntary: The mediation process is almost always voluntary, meaning that the parties must agree to participate in the process, and one party cannot force the other to participate in mediation. The only time that mediation will not be voluntary is when the court orders the parties to try mediation.
- Confidential: Mediation, like other settlement discussions, will be confidential between the parties and cannot be brought up in court. Additionally, the entire process will be confidential, as compared to the public eye of divorces that happen in court.
- Non-Binding: As mentioned before, if the parties do not reach an agreement, they can move forward with other options. This means that the parties have control over the outcome of the case. This is not true in litigation or arbitration, where the order or award will have to be followed.
In addition to these characteristics, several others affect the cost of mediation and should be mentioned. First, the parties in mediation can choose the mediator that assists with their case. The parties will also have control over most of the process, which can affect whether they settle quickly or will need to extend the mediation. Understanding the process of mediation will help understand the costs, so if more explanation of the divorce mediation process is needed, please read one of the articles on ADR Times that provides an overview of how the process works.
Types of Billing for Divorce Mediation:
One of the factors that will contribute to the overall costs of mediation will be the type of billing structure that the mediator uses. Mediators will use a variety of billing structures to charge for their services, and different options will make the process more expensive in some cases. These fees are often determined by location, type of mediator, and any expertise that the mediator has with either mediation or divorce. They can be dependent on the number of terms that need to be negotiated or the number of sessions that will be required. Some mediators will also require a set-up fee. These fees will be determined in one of four ways most of the time. The four options are:
- Billable Hour: Some mediators will charge the parties for the hours that they work. Any time the mediator does any work on the case, the parties will be responsible to pay for this work, including phone calls, emails, or meetings. The more work that the parties will need to reach an agreement, the more the divorce will cost. This can force the parties to feel like they need to rush through the negotiation to avoid paying the mediator for a large amount of time. This can force hasty decisions, creating issues with the decree and questions later on.
- Retainer Fee: Retainer fees are often connected to billable hours, but it is the fee that the mediator requires to begin work on the case. This fee is used as a deposit on the mediator’s services, and it will be drawn from for specific services until a specific step has been made in the divorce.
- Pay-As-You-Go: A third option is the option to pay as you go, or pay for each service as you access it. This is a great option if the parties are not ready to commit to a mediator for the entire process or if they need time to consider the options and make payments. As a mediator completes the consultation, preparation, mediation, and agreement, they will be paid by the parties after the completion of each step.
- Flat-Fee: This is the most commonly used fee structure for mediators, and it is also the best option for most parties. A flat-fee structure means that the parties will pay a flat fee for everything that is included in the mediation. It means that the parties will not have to pay hourly, which relieves much of the pressure to settle quickly that is brought up by the hourly billing. It can encourage the parties to take their time and consider their options with the mediator and independently. Although the fee may seem large, to begin with, it often ends up being the best deal.
If costs are important in divorce mediation, it is important to consider the billing structure of the mediator and evaluate what type of help the divorce may need. Finding a quality mediator within the payment structure that is necessary can be vital to the outcome and overall costs of the mediation.
Factors Affecting Mediation Costs:
Besides the payment structure of the mediator, other factors affect the costs of mediation. When considering mediation, it is important to understand how the different factors will be needed or changed in the divorce and how much the parties can afford to pay. The major factors that affect the cots are the experience of the mediator, the services provided, and the thoroughness of the mediator. These factors will shift the costs and can make the difference between $3,000 and $10,000. Let’s consider each of these factors in turn.
The Experience of the Mediator:
One of the biggest factors affecting the cost of mediation will be the experience and skill level of the mediator. The more qualified a mediator is, the more that mediator will likely cost. Divorce mediation is unregulated, meaning that anyone may serve as a mediator and present themselves as an option. However, not everyone will have the skill and experience to competently mediate the divorce. Training alone will not indicate a competent mediator, but several characteristics can indicate a competent mediator. These indications are:
- Neutrality: A mediator needs to have the ability to guide the parties through the mediation and complex negotiation while remaining neutral and keeping both parties engaged in the process. This may be difficult in divorce especially because the parties are often involved in intense emotional battles.
- Financial Expertise: Divorce can have complex financial issues that will affect the outcome of the divorce and the ability of the parties to support their children moving forward and set themselves up well. A mediator with financial expertise in the issues surrounding divorce will be helpful for the parties as they navigate these decisions.
- Prior Experience: Another indicator of the experience of mediators is their ability to draw from past experience of mediations and divorce to help guide the parties and create new ideas for a settlement. This can help the parties understand what their options are and give them a better understanding of their case.
- Constant Learning: A commitment to staying current on divorce mediation issues that would affect the mediation is one of the best characteristics that a mediator may have. This shows a commitment to understanding the complexities of the issues and helping the parties move forward.
A mediator’s experience will often determine the price, so it is important to consider the aspects of the mediator’s experience that may affect the divorce. If the parties do not have children, they may have a slightly easier divorce, especially when it comes to financial issues. However, if a couple owns a company or other large investments, it may be more difficult. Costs can be reduced by determining which aspects of the expertise the divorce may need, and which ones they do not need to approach. Additionally, an experienced mediator will often protect the parties from agreeing to large financial commitments that would cost them greatly after the divorce.
Process of Divorce:
Another factor that may affect the costs of divorce is the thoroughness of the process that the mediator provides. Divorce, even if it is kept out of the courts, will still require the parties to complete a series of paperwork and forms to legally finalize the divorce, which can cause setbacks in the divorce and end up costing the parties more if they are not done correctly or completely. If a mediator is thorough in their process, they will be able to ensure that the parties reach the best agreement possible and make it all complete legally, saving money overall.
The final category of factors that can affect the cost of mediation is the services that the mediator provides. While mediation may seem fairly straightforward, there are additional services that may be included which can make the price increase. The more services that are included, the higher the price will be. These services include:
- Standard: When a mediator is hired, there are standard services that can be expected. This will be the preparation and organization of the mediation and mediating the dispute. The mediator will also take cues from the party during the mediation as to suggesting possible solutions or changing the way the parties are interacting.
- Emotional: There are lots of emotions that accompany divorce, and there can be issues with the negotiations in mediation if they are not properly managed. Emotional services can come from the mediator; however, this may be covered by independent helpers, such as divorce coaches. This will add to the cost if others are brought in.
- Comprehensive: Somewhat tied into the thoroughness of the process is the thoroughness of the negotiations. Some mediators are prepared to write down whatever the parties suggest for the agreement, while comprehensive mediators will ensure that the parties can move through each possible situation and have the agreement be a full agreement.
- Drafting: Another service that may need to be paid for is the drafting of the agreement. If the mediator only writes down notes or a basic agreement, the parties would likely need to hire attorneys to draft an agreement that spells out the terms. Negotiating the service with a mediator may be beneficial so that it includes all the issues covered in mediation and will be cheaper.
When a mediator can provide services that save the parties from having to hire others, the costs will stay low.
Other Costs Associated with Divorce Mediation:
Aside from the factors listed above, there are two other major instances where the parties may need to pay more for mediation. This includes having to hire attorneys to represent them in the mediation and if they need any other experts to help bolster their position, such as therapists or child specialists. These costs, along with any other added service, can cause a mediation to be more expensive, and mediation does not guarantee that there will be an agreement. However, if a mediation works, it will save the parties thousands of dollars moving forward, which helps them move forward stronger.