Bill and Angela have been married 10 years and have decided to divorce. They have two children, ages 6 and 9. They also own a home, other assets, and have joint credit cards. In this and upcoming articles, we’ll follow this realistic albeit hypothetical couple as they deal with their conflicts, assisted by a mediator.
Since the couple has decided to use a mediator for their divorce, they will pay $3,350 for services. By contrast, in many litigated divorces, each spouse pays more than twice that amount ($7,500 or more) for the lawyer’s retainer. That’s $15,000 between them. And very often, that is just the beginning of the court process.
In mediation, many spouses are like Bill and Angela regarding the fees they pay, incurring costs lower than $3,500 for their sessions. For couples who split the cost in half, that is $1,750 each. [This assumes the mediator charges $300. If the process takes eleven hours – more time than the large majority of my cases — that is 11 x $300 = $3,300.]
Mediation ends when parties have reached their agreements. The agreements then need to be written and filed with the court.
Here’s a timeline of how Bill and Angela’s mediation will start:
Angela calls the mediator, who answers several questions.
Angela tells Bill what she has learned about mediation:
• This mediator, who has a sliding scale, will charge $300 per hour; and work with both of them, together.
• They can split the fee, and there is a $50 consultation that they will attend together.
• The mediator is paid at the end of each session (unlike most attorneys, who require a retainer upfront).
• Bill and Angela will make decisions about their children and everything else. The mediator won’t decide for them.
• If they begin mediation, either party can end it at any time.
Bill and Angela discuss mediation.
Angela wants to try it. Bill is reluctant, thinking it a waste of time. But, since the consult is $50, and he would pay $25, he agrees. What’s to lose?
Angela and Bill attend the consultation.
They both like the idea of saving money — as opposed to what litigation costs. And they would like to be amicable (as much as possible), because they’ll have to interact with each other for years to come since they have fairly young children.
They learn that many couples complete mediation within six to 12 hours.
Since Angela and Bill have children, own a home, and other assets — and have major disagreements — the mediator offers that the case will probably take longer than six hours.
“Let’s say it takes 10 hours,” the mediator suggests, noting that it could be shorter or longer. “That would come to $3,000, plus $50 for the consultation.”
The mediator adds that finishing mediation doesn’t mean couples are divorced. There are things that follow:
“Whether you mediate or go to court, you’ll need a separation agreement (essentially all of the agreements spouses come to, written in a format that courts require). There is a separate fee for that service.”
“I encourage parties to each meet with their own review attorney to go over the agreement before signing it,” he adds.
A review attorney is someone who will review the agreement, and may charge hundreds of dollars — a small fraction of the tens of thousands of dollars that the same lawyer might charge to litigate the same case.
He also adds that each party may hire a lawyer at any time.
Angela and Bill read the “Agreement to Mediate” form, which largely sets out how mediation works, and sign the form.
Bill and Angela each pay $25 for the consultation fee, and they schedule a first working session for early December.
Next time: Parenting discussions
New York City and Long Island-based divorce mediator and collaborative divorce lawyer Lee Chabin helps clients end their relationships respectfully and without going to court. Contact him at lee_chabi
Disclaimer: All material in this column is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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