What is Mediation?
Mediation is a practice that allows divorcing couples to meet with a neutral third-party mediator to resolve divorce conflicts. Mediators are specially trained to guide couples through the divorce process while staying respectful of both party’s opinions.
This process has proven to be less stressful and a more cost effective way to handle a divorce than traditional court proceedings. It gives a couple the ability to make their own decisions during a divorce rather than letting a judge decide for them. It also gives opportunities to enhance communication skills, and can help couples learn techniques for resolving future conflicts on their own. Mediation can be successful even for people who had relationships that ended over lack of communication. It is important to note that if there is any history of domestic abuse or physical violence couples are ineligible for mediation, as one party may hold back due to intimidation or fear.
What does a meeting look like?
Mediation is simple and relatively straightforward. In order to follow through with this path of divorce, both parties have to agree to the process, and be willing to hire a trained mediator. Once a couple has decided on a mediator, they will receive either a pre-meeting phone call or meet in-person before decisions are made. Prior to the initial mediation meeting, the couple is encouraged to prepare to discuss four important issues. They include:
During the first mediation meeting, both parties will be given the opportunity to have uninterrupted time to explain their wishes and what they would like to see happen in the four areas listed above. Typically mediation only lasts a few sessions, however it can go on for longer. Mediation continues until an agreed upon conclusion is met. In most cases, three to four meetings is still much more cost effective than litigating a divorce case in court.
How much does it cost?
The cost of mediation depends on the situation. If the mediator is also an attorney, the rates will be higher. If an attorney-mediator is involved in mediation, they cannot represent either party in court. In most cases, mediators charge by the hour. An attorney-mediator typically charges $250-$500 an hour, while a non-attorney mediator typically charges $100-$300 an hour.
There are options when it comes to paying for mediation services. Some mediators have sliding scales. The cost of mediation is usually split between both parties, and if it is court-mandated mediation, it is often free or offered at significantly reduced rates.
How to have a successful and meaningful mediation process
It is crucial that both parties enter the mediation process with an open mind. This process is less stressful and cost effective if a couple chooses to go this route. The biggest areas of concern are custody, finances, and the cooperation of the couple in the process. There are sensitive topics that need to be discussed, and both parties must be willing to engage fully in the process. It is important to keep in mind that mediators, even mediator-attorneys, cannot provide legal advice. The mediator's job is simply to be present as an unbiased, third-party perspective, and de-escalate situations.
There are many potential benefits in considering mediation. The mediation process can help streamline the dreaded process of divorce. There can be significant financial savings when a mediation settlement can happen prior to litigation. Regardless of the route a couple chooses to process a divorce, difficult decisions regarding finances, assets, and children will need to be made. It is important for couples to consider all of their options when dealing with life changing circumstances. Mediation may be a good fit for many divorcing couples.