Every human that has gone through this is emotionally wrapped around these issues and feels like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. But Huffington Post says, when you are going through this, prepare to “engage your brain” and not your emotions. Divorce mediation alleviates many of those burdens.
If you’ve reached the point of ending a marriage through legal means, then it’s time to put your rational hat on, as that will make the process easier, and less expensive.
Any lawyer will tell you, it’s only logical.
You’ve Got Questions!
Here are answers to the top 10 most common divorce mediation questions that will have you grabbing for that hat, and breathing a sigh of relief.
What is divorce mediation?
Simply put, divorce mediation is the process used by two spouses in divorce to avoid a costly and lengthy divorce trial. All of the issues from property matters to custody sharing that would get negotiated in a divorce suit would be negotiated in the mediation process, without the traditional costly legal expenses of divorce court.
If you hire a lawyer for a custody or divorce suit, you are going to be paying for every single piece of paper your divorce lawyer touches in your case and billed for every email of complaint you send to them, and more. You’ll be paying a mediator an hourly rate and will meet with them a few times. Even the cost of mediation can be mediated.
So if your lawyer charges $300 an hour, they may bill you one-tenth of an hour for every email you send them. Thirty-dollar emails to complain about someone aren’t in every person’s family budget. That doesn’t happen in divorce mediation.
How does mediation work?
Once two parties have agreed they are going to divorce, they may then discuss the “how” of it. In many cases, one party will suggest mediation right off the bat. At this point, a mediator is hired, and you would hire your mediator in the same way you would hire any other legal party in your case. Review, research, rate, and then hire. Ask as many divorce mediation questions that you can before you sign a retainer obligation, with anybody.
The mediator will then meet with you both. Most of your mediation questions will be answered in that first meeting. Everybody’s expectations and potential outlooks will be discussed, as will your responsibilities. In mediation, you hash out everything you would in divorce court, in a less formal and more comfortable way.
This will include parenting plans, real estate arrangements, support matters, and everything else you can think of that you would settle in divorce court. Generally, a timeline is established, after which time an agreement is made which is then taken to the court to be made official.
How long does mediation take?
You’ll have an idea of when this is going to end and what your possible outcomes will look like early in the process. This is something you do not get when you launch a full-scale divorce suit that will end up in a trial. Mediate reports that in 2005, the average mediation process was settled in 90 days.
In a divorce trial, you begin the process wondering what you and your children’s future will look like and you may not have those answers for years. Even the best divorce lawyer in the world can only tell you what to expect in divorce court, but that nothing is a guarantee and you and your children’s futures are in the hands of someone else now.
Is mediation the answer for everybody?
The simple answer is no. Mediation is about a group of people getting together to solve a problem, and all parties need to be solutions-oriented when they go into it. The same is expected of them in divorce court, but in a more formal fashion, and that formality takes time and costs money.
When a marriage is ending due to power imbalances, vengeful parties, or an unwillingness to even end the marriage on one side, mediation is going to be problematic.
However, California is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce, and that means if one party wants a divorce it is going to happen, even if one party is rigid on the topic.
Domestic abuse is often cited as a reason to forego mediation. Divorce can also be very vengeful. On top of the emotional grips of a broken heart, there are children and a legal matter now on the table. The concept of “winning” too often overlooks the concept of a sound exit plan. Sometimes people don’t want to get divorced due to any or all of these issues. In these cases, mediation is not the best plan.
Will my vengeful spouse change through mediation?
This is situation specific. Often times the harsh realities of legal bills and judges lend to a change of heart for vengeful parties. In many cases a vengeful party will opt to sue for divorce and serve the other party with glee, claiming, “I can’t wait until a judge sees what you’ve done!”
Truth be told, that may not happen for as long as 18 months, or even longer. They may change their minds when a lawyer charging them $500 an hour tells them that revenge will be a dish served very, very cold, and an expensive one at that.
Custody plans that you want when Suzy is 9 may need to be completely different when she turns 11 and has a social life. Without divorce mediation, the reality is that you may never see the light of a courtroom until then. At the same time, in a divorce trial, you run the risk of a judge determining the future of your child.
If you want control of the process, divorce mediation is a good choice, but only if it is safe to do so and the mediation process is agreed upon and welcomed by both parties.
Is mediation expensive?
Ending a marriage and determining the future of minor children is a legal process and legal matters always come with a cost. In mediation, you control that cost. Divorce mediation is not nearly as expensive as a divorce case or custody suit that is going to trial. Having a separation agreement before mediation can lessen the costs of mediation even more.
A trial alone in divorce court could cost you thousands a day. A mediator will charge you hourly, and you only pay for your time with them. It could cost between five and 10 thousand dollars. Comparably, Straight.com notes that one divorce hearing alone could cost that much, with a five-day court hearing costing $50,000 in some cases.
In some divorce matters, one party winds up paying the costs of the other party. So your already heaping costs have the potential to double. This could happen in mediation as well, but not nearly at the expensive rate of a $50,000 (or more) divorce court process.
Is your revenge, bitterness, or heartbreak really worth a five-figure invoice? That’s college tuition for many kids today, or a few nice beach vacations to get your mind off of this major change in your life and create lifelong memories for the time you have with your kids.
Is mediation public?
No. This is another advantage of divorce mediation. You meet with your mediator as often as established and finalize an agreement both parties are happy with. None of that is public record. In the end, you take that agreement to court to make it an official order, and that is the only public record on your divorce.
The exception to this may be when a divorce mediation is court-ordered. In that event, all matters prior to mediation will be public record.
Do I still need a lawyer?
Ending a marriage is a legal process. You will be signing binding legal documents at the end that determines your future, and the future of your children if you have any. That will then go to court where it becomes a court order. You never want to go to court without legal advice, even if it’s just a matter of having an agreement made formal. It is an additional expense, but when you consider that this is the rest of your life, it’s one well worth it.
If mediation is becoming a high-conflict situation, being represented by someone more rational about the situation than you are is always beneficial. Many couples today have both lawyers and mediators, and the process is still less expensive.
A lawyer that isn’t dealing with heartbreak on top of legal fights and is fighting for your rights could even make the mediation process go smoother and sometimes even faster. It’s all situation specific, every case will be different.
Is mediation legally binding?
Once your matter goes before a judge and the seal has been set on your mediation agreement, this is a contract that is legally binding.
So for example, if you run into problems with custody sharing, real estate conflicts, or things of this nature after your entire divorce is finalized, any enforcement agencies you work with to resolve those conflicts will refer to this order as law. The mediation agreement is a more informal and less expensive process, but it is a serious one, and legally binding once the process is complete.
What are the biggest benefits of mediation?
Mediation sends the message that you are willing to conduct a legal matter in a rational and concessional way. In addition to the costs savings, the courts love it when they see a mediation matter come to the table. The court system today is clogged, and family law is always an emotionally wrenching situation.
Judges don’t want to see people arguing over 70 pages of nasty text messages, and they don’t want to spend all night the night before reading that nonsense either. They want to see clean facts aligned with the law, and parties that are conducting themselves reasonably and in line with the best interests of all involved, particularly the children.
When you bring a mediation matter before a judge, you are alleviating the court system of further stress, and no judge will ever hold that against you.
Should You Go To Divorce Mediation?
Only you can answer that question on divorce mediation. When you are undergoing this legal matter, however, it never hurts to investigate the process. Keep the emotions out of it, and you will find that when it comes to weighing the benefits and risks, divorce mediation is quicker, less expensive, and more beneficial for all parties.
Wouldn’t you rather take your kids to the ocean for the first time than paying legal bills? Get more of your divorce mediation questions answered in a free consultation with California attorney Gerard A. Falzone.