Divorce Mediation: How Does it Work?

October 10, 2014

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Helping women to make financially intelligent transitions: Your Money, Your Life...InSync


Mediation can offer a dignified, non-adversarial divorce that keeps you out of court. In this kind of divorce, an impartial mediator helps you and your spouse negotiate a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Are lawyers involved? No lawyers need be involved except to review the final Agreement that has been drafted and to draw up the paperwork. You may invite their creative input in the development of your Settlement, but they may not act as adversarial participants. Mediators, themselves, may be practicing, divorce attorneys, but they may not represent or financially educate either you or your spouse during mediation.

Who’s in control? You, not the courts, are in control. Meetings are scheduled to accommodate you and your spouse, not busy lawyers. Either party can stop mediation at any time or refuse to sign an Agreement which seems unfair. And even after the Agreement has been signed, you have the flexibility to try out different arrangements (child custody and financial) without having to go to court.

What about privacy? Because negotiations are held in a conference room rather than a courtroom, mediation offers you privacy. Litigated divorce proceedings are open to the public.

What about the emotional toll? Divorce can take a toll on your emotions. Mediated divorce spares you the trauma of aggressive or hostile, litigation and the rancor that spills over into your family. It also spares your children the negative impact of court-ordered psychological testing or appearances in court for questioning by attorneys.

Will your spouse comply with the Agreement? One often-overlooked benefit of mediation is that compliance with a mediated Agreement is significantly higher than with a litigated one since both you and your spouse are active participants in the decision-making process.

According to Equitable Mediation, a divorce mediation firm with offices in Illinois and New Jersey, “Court statistics show that 85% of all child support agreements made through mediation are adhered to one year later, whereas only 50% of attorney driven agreements are.”

How fast? How much? Two of the greatest advantages of mediated divorce are speed and cost. Mediation can produce a divorce Agreement in as little as four to six weeks. Litigation can drag on for years. And while mediators may charge a flat fee, usually in the $3,000-$7,500 range, lawyers may command fees that range from $10,000 to $250,000.

When is mediation NOT for you? If you have any concern that your spouse may be hiding assets or debts, this may not be a good choice for you. Information gathering in this type of divorce is done on a voluntary basis (no subpoenas), and your spouse may not be forthcoming. Mediation is not recommended in situations of domestic violence or substance abuse. Nor is it recommended for couples where there is an imbalance of personal power or a spouse who is easily swayed, intimidated, or lacking in financial knowledge.

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Loretta Hutchinson is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.