Mediation is a process where a couple works together with a neutral mediator to agree to the conditions of their divorce. The mediator will generally begin with a meeting where both spouses are present. Then, the mediator will conduct a series of working sessions, some with both parties and some one-on-one sessions. The mediator will try to find common ground where the parties can agree and then zero in on points of dispute. Because of the one-on-one discussions, the mediator will know what is most important to each party and will hopefully be able to fashion a compromise that both sides can agree too. Once they come to an agreement, it can be reviewed by lawyers and then approved by a judge.
This process can save money for the couple because they are working together with one professional instead of each bringing their own lawyer to a fight that a judge or arbitrator must oversee. Of course, this generally requires the couple to be on relatively good terms. If a couple cannot sit down together to calmly discuss their split, then a mediation may not be possible. A good mediator will ease some of this tension, but a mediator will not speak for one spouse the way a lawyer would.
Legal mediation fees and how they are paid
In legal mediation process, you can expect to pay either a flat fee or an hourly rate for your divorce.
- Hourly fee: An hourly fee is fairly simple, it means that a lawyer or mediator will charge you for the time he or she works. That can be good for clients because they only pay for work that is actually completed on their behalf. On the other hand, it creates a great deal of uncertainty. If a client does not pay attention to the lawyer’s work, the cost can escalate faster than a client might expect.
- Flat fee: The other common way to pay for these services is a flat fee. Flat fees are kind of a bet for each side. They relieve the stress for a client of not knowing what the case may cost. For a lawyer or mediator, they are hoping to wrap up the case as quickly as possible to earn their money with minimal work.
Fees will vary widely by location, but most lawyers will cost between $200 and $520. For a flat fee, an uncontested divorce can be between $200 and $1,500. The cost of a flat fee for more complicated divorces are difficult to predict. The cost of a mediation will typically be about 40% to 60% of the cost of a divorce lawyer in your area.
Additional costs associated with the mediation process
There are can be certain additional costs that the mediation process might entail:
- Setting up fee: In many cases when the mediator meets the divorcing couple for the first time, they charge a setup fee. In this meeting the mediator identifies and explains the issues that couple has to resolve before beginning the mediation process.
- Management fee: To conduct the mediation process some places charge management fees.
- Initial filing cost: In the beginning of the mediation process, the time when the couple signs up for mediation to be precise, a fee has to be paid.
- Documentation fee: If the couple wants that whatever happens in the mediation process has to be written down, for that they have to pay a separate documentation fee.
Tips to reduce the cost
Anything you can work out on your own without a professional will save you costs. To that end, a divorcing couple can approach a mediator with a list of agreed-upon items that the mediator should not worry about and a list of items where the couple needs help. Organization is key. Both spouses should have complete lists of their assets along with ideas about what they want in the divorce. Making a mediator work these basics out for you will just run up your bill.