Choosing to move forward with a divorce doesn’t mean it has to be handled in a courtroom. Instead, a divorcing couple can choose a dispute resolution alternative such as mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative conflict resolution in law and helps participating parties avoid court altogether.
In the context of divorce, it enables partners to sort out issues that matter most, such as money, property, and children. Divorce mediation helps spouses determine how practical issues of divorce will be handled, like division of property and child support. The goal of divorce mediation is to identify a way of resolution that doesn’t increase conflict between spouses. Let’s examine the different costs associated with mediation.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
There is no specific cost scheduled for divorce mediation. Just like divorce, the cost of mediation can change depending on various factors. The biggest difference depends on which type of divorce mediation a divorcing couple chooses. Here are the basic types of mediation:
- Court–sponsored mediation
- Private mediation
- Community mediation
Private mediation will cost more, because a trained neutral mediator is usually engaged. However, in most cases, it leads to a comprehensive divorce settlement where the most salient divorce issues are handled. This is because couples pay a trained neutral mediator. Private mediation costs anything between $3,000 and $8,000. Most couples usually agree to split the fee in half, meaning each spouse can expect to pay about $1,500 to $4,000. Many private mediators either charge per session or hourly. Attorney mediators also charge more for their services compared to non-attorney mediators.
The basic rates for attorney mediators are $250 to $500 an hour with the hourly rate largely depending on the lawyer’s experience and specialized training. Non-attorney mediators charge anything between $100 and $400 an hour.
In many states, the court will order couples to go through the mediation process if they do not agree on salient issues of divorce, such as child custody and division of property. Court-sponsored mediation is offered through the court system. Therefore, couples do not have a choice of which mediator to choose. This type of divorce mediator is either free, comes at a reduced cost, or is tied to the couple’s income. The initial cost is usually free, but follow-ups may come at a reduced fee.
Unlike other types of mediation, this service can only be accessed after filing for divorce. Fortunately, many courts will agree to a request for mediation in the course of the divorce proceeding. One of the downsides of this type of mediation service is that it is usually limited to a few issues, such as visitation and child custody. However, some courts offer mediation for other issues too.
Community Mediation Services
If a divorcing spouse cannot afford to hire a private mediator, and does not get a chance to use the court-sponsored mediation service, it’s recommended to turn to community organizations that offer mediation services. Usually, these organizations offer mediation services free of charge or on a sliding scale, depending on clients’ income levels.
There are community organizations that work with volunteer mediators, most of whom are attorneys experienced in mediation. In most scenarios, they will only ask a party to pay a small amount for administrative costs.
One advantage of this service is that an active divorce proceeding isn’t needed to seek community mediation. This makes it a great option if a divorcing couple wishes to settle divorce disputes outside of the courtroom. However, community mediation services may not cover all the areas that a couple is seeking to resolve.
Are There Other Costs in a Mediated Divorce?
There are other associated costs beyond the mediator fees that need to be considered when seeking this service. They include the following:
- Attorney fees: Each party still needs an attorney to help in negotiations, even if the mediation process has been agreed upon. Though the mediation process costs less than the formal court process, an attorney will have to be paid for their work.
- Cost of the expert estimate: Each spouse will need the help of experts such as tax consultants, property appraisers, pension consultants, and counselors. They help advise on everything from retirement accounts to property debts, and calculate how much each spouse should get. A divorcing couple will pay these experts more if they decide to go through the formal court discovery process compared to informal mediation.
Mediation can help solve divorce issues quickly and with ease. It also has proven to produce better results compared to traditional court appearances with a better cost-effective structure. Depending on each party’s budget, three alternatives can be chosen from; community-based, court-sponsored, and private mediation lawyers. Contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices today for divorce and mediation services.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.