Getting Down to the Basics: 7 Reasons to Consider Divorce Mediation Over Litigated Divorce
Divorce is complicated. It’s often a messy and emotional journey for everyone involved. If you’re facing the prospect of going through divorce, the future may seem unpredictable while stepping into the unknown. Not only is your relationship coming to a crossroads, but you’re also navigating a complex and emotionally draining process and reality consisting of serious legal implications, emotional burden, and financial pain in your future.
As you begin your new journey, the experience becomes more amplified and sensitive when children are entered into the mix. With children, the steps you take throughout the divorce process carry more weight. You want to do what’s best for them, and to ensure everyone can move forward with their lives in a civil manner.
From child support to custody terms, and everything in between—having spousal support is essential for a collaborative divorce and lessens conflict in the long term.
Who am I supposed to turn to during this time?
What path am I supposed to take?
Will I need to hire a divorce lawyer or a family law mediator?
How much does divorce mediation cost and is private mediation the right option for me?
Can I afford private mediation and cover the cost of family mediation at this time?
Hiring a marriage and family therapist, a family law mediator, or a divorce coach, can be crucial for navigating negotiations around your parenting plan. A family mediator can serve as your go-to resource as you establish the details of your parenting schedule and offer insight into whether or not to utilize the court system for matters that may arise out of the divorce process.
Before exploring which path to take, allow us to explore the seven reasons why a settlement agreement through divorce mediation might serve as the better alternative for conflict resolution and lead you to a mutually satisfactory outcome—especially when children are involved.
So, What is Mediation and How Does the Mediation Process Work with Family Law Mediators?
Private mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that allows couples to reach an agreement with the help of a family mediator—a neutral third party—on all aspects of their divorce outside of the court system. It consists of a joint effort by both spouses in order to ensure a successful mediation. Throughout a private divorce mediation session, spouses discuss critical matters and come to terms on which factors affect them from reaching their ideal outcome.
A divorce mediator offers support in negotiating factors pertaining to parenting plans, parenting schedules, spousal support, property division, real estate appraisals, cases with complex assets, retirement accounts, and attorney and court fees (should you decide to pursue that path)—among others—and facilitates communication in a mediation session to brainstorm solutions that might work for each spouse in all aspects of the divorce mediation process.
In addition to guiding families towards achieving a mutually satisfactory outcome, a family mediator also assists with filling out divorce forms, reviewing marital assets, breaking down divorce mediation costs—including any projected court fees, cost of tax consultants—and helping families through every crucial stage of the mediation process. Additionally, private mediators offer insight on any unexpected legal consequences that may arise and get in the way of a successful divorce mediation.
From in-person mediation sessions to video conferencing options, and consultations over the phone—there are various ways that mediation sessions occur. Under collaborative circumstances, the divorce mediation process can take place with both spouses together (often referred to as a “joint session”). Alternatively, a private mediator can meet with each spouse separately in what is considered a “private caucus” with the goal of reaching a mutual understanding.
What is Litigation and How Does it Impact the Divorce Process?
Known to be the more complex option for approaching divorce, traditional divorce litigation consists of various realities that otherwise could have been avoided with a divorce mediator.
Rather than coordinating the use of accountants, appraisers, and other experts as necessary to ensure the divorce is executed without a court appearance and that there’s no duplication throughout the process—litigation requires each spouse to have their own attorney who will represent them in court, conduct discovery, hire financial and parenting plan experts and prepare any relevant documentation for court proceedings.
After both sides have presented their case, a judge stipulates the terms around the couple’s parenting plan and parenting schedule, spousal support, and property division, among others—a decision known as a “divorce decree.”
These circumstances often result in costly outcomes for spouses who could have alternatively taken a more amicable and cooperative approach where cases are settled outside of court, and they have the flexibility to request and utilize the services of an attorney in a more economical manner—on an as-needed hourly basis—in order to review documents, or for legal advice.
Given the weight of what a litigated divorce entails, it should only be considered as a last resort if all other attempts at coming to an agreement through a family law mediator, or other collaborative approaches, have been unsuccessful.
How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?
As you start your journey, you may discover that the average cost of divorce mediation services is less than what an attorney would request to work on your case. When considering divorce mediation services through a family law mediator, it’s essential to access the costs.
Cost of divorce mediation
Divorce mediation services are typically known to be less expensive than litigation. By choosing the path of a mediated divorce, couples can expect to pay approximately 10%-20% of the costs that are associated with a litigated divorce.
According to Nolo, the cost of divorce mediation services generally amount to anywhere between $3,000 and $8,000, and are typically split evenly between spouses in the total mediation cost of divorce–a main benefit to consider when exploring the different available options throughout your journey.
Upon meeting, many mediators charge an initial set up fee, an hourly rate, or a flat fee. Additionally, they may request an hourly rate as part of their mediation fee. They generally offer a free initial consultation, but private mediators charge mediator fees and legal fees as part of their total divorce mediation cost.
Will I Need to Hire an Attorney?
Throughout the process, mediating couples might seek the guidance of individual consulting attorneys on an as-needed hourly arrangement for legal advice and to review documentation, or to gain an understanding of the law in preparation for discussions arising out of mediation.
Generally speaking, most mediating spouses feel that their comprehension of the legalities around financial matters and children’s concerns are sufficient enough to proceed without an attorney.
In some cases, families may choose to work with an attorney to represent them throughout the mediation. When seeking the insight of attorneys, each spouse assesses their needs and determines the level of legal advice they require. This decision is based on the dynamic between the mediating spouses, their knowledge of family finances, and the complexity of the issues at hand.
Couples are encouraged to seek legal counsel when reviewing a proposed marital settlement agreement before it is signed. By utilizing the services of a consulting attorney on an as-needed basis, the total cost surrounding the divorce process may be reduced.
What Are 7 Benefits of Divorce Mediation?
There are several factors to consider when exploring divorce mediation as an alternative option to litigation.
1. Your confidentiality and privacy are the main priority
If your privacy is essential to you, divorce mediation is the more secure path to consider. You can feel confident knowing that any information that is shared during mediation sessions cannot be used against either spouse in court (the opposite is the case when choosing the path of a litigated divorce). This provides a safe environment for spouses to openly discuss their needs and wants without fear of reprisal—and offers a sense of relief to what would otherwise be more a strenuous process.
2. You can avoid going to court altogether if you mediate your divorce agreement
One of the best ways to alleviate the complexities that come with undergoing litigation, is considering divorce mediation instead. With this option, you won’t have to deal with the stress of a courtroom appearance nor will your personal matters be exposed in public for everyone to see and hear.
3. You’ll have more control over the outcome in mediation and a higher chance in resulting in a mutually-agreeable outcome
In litigation, it’s up to the judge to make the final decision about your divorce settlement. This scenario may result in an outcome that you’re not happy with as opposed to coming to a mutually satisfactory final outcome for your specific situation.
By participating in divorce mediation sessions, there is a better chance for couples to control the outcome of their divorce in an informal context as opposed to with a judge in an unpredictable court system.
4. Mediation is less time-consuming than litigation and disputes can be resolved more quickly with a neutral third party
A litigated divorce can last for months or even years as you await the results from a court proceeding and are dependent on a court system that is subject to the timing of state or federal regulations. With mediation, couples are likely to come to a working arrangement on the core issues in several sessions.
Alternatively, if couples decide to utilize the services of an attorney to present their case through the court system, there is a higher chance of conflict resolution if most of the key points were already discussed and agreed upon beforehand with a family law mediator.
5. Mediation is less expensive than litigation
If choosing to go down the path of utilizing an attorney, one main factor to consider is the total cost of attorneys fees. More often than not, spouses succumb to the reality of having to pay for their own fees along with their spouse’s attorney fees.
These costs typically fluctuate as couples undergo a litigated divorce and trial through court. With two separate attorneys representing a couple’s case, the fate of the proceedings and cost of services is left in their hands—in addition to any decision stipulated by a judge in a court hearing.
With mediation, couples only have to pay one mediator fee in the total cost of divorce mediation.
6. It helps preserve your relationship with your spouse
After spending months or years coming to a settlement in court, many couples find it almost impossible to co-parent effectively as a result of having to endure an unpleasant process throughout their litigation journey. With the help of a divorce mediator, however, couples learn effective communication skills that can be used also after their divorce is finalized. This makes it easier for mediating couples to co-parent effectively and avoid potential conflict down the road.
7. It helps create a parenting plan that’s in the best interests of your children
A judge who knows nothing about your family will make all decisions about parenting plans and parenting schedules in a court-based divorce. It takes the personal element out of the process. By utilizing a family law mediator, however, parents have an opportunity to create a parenting plan and schedule that reflects their unique circumstances and meets their children’s needs in a manner that is civil for everyone. This process is more personal and really takes into consideration each family’s unique needs as they enter the unknown.
Does the cost of divorce mediation outweigh the stress that comes with litigation?
At Balakhane Mediation, we believe that a smooth and collaborative process with your spouse leads to long term peace of mind, and offer a complimentary mediation consultation meeting to assess your needs and provide guidance in planning the next steps in the process.
Curious to learn more about the benefits and average cost of divorce mediation? Balakhane Mediation is here to help you explore your options. Learn the steps you need to take in the mediation process to get started today!