Divorce mediation is a viable option for couples who wish to obtain a peaceful, amicable separation or divorce without hiring their own individual opposing attorneys.
As architects of your own agreement, spouses fairly and efficiently resolve all their legal and financial obligations towards one another as well as all parenting matters involving the welfare and best interests of your children.
These matters include division of marital property, alimony and spousal support, child support and custody/children’s welfare.
Experienced divorce mediator
Through the assistance and guidance of an experienced divorce mediator, spouses are empowered to make all of their own decisions that form the basis of their marital settlement agreement–not the courts.
The divorce mediation process is often suggested as an alternative to hiring opposing lawyers to represent you and your spouse. A litigated process has been known to be long, painful and costly process.
Research has shed light on devastating financial and emotional consequences on the family unit with long, court-contested divorce process. Mediation helps to alleviate impact of divorce on the family.
How does Divorce Mediation Work?
It’s helpful to understand what is actually discussed in the mediation room. Divorce mediation takes place in a room with just you, your spouse and the divorce mediator. Rarely are lawyers or other family members in the room. It is a private negotiation.
You are not expected to have all or any issues worked out in advance – that’s why you are in mediation and working with a highly-trained professional.
Sometimes mediation is part of a court-contested process, and you will work out just parenting, for example. However, it doesn’t have to be. You and your spouse can work out your entire case outside of court with a divorce mediator.
Mediators who are attorneys are usually able to draft an agreement to make your settlement legally-binding.
What happens during divorce mediation?
Expect to feel emotional, but also expect to treat the mediation purely as a business transaction. Emotions like anger and guilt are not permitted to drive the process. Some sessions are only an hour, but usually to get resolution, your session could last 2-3 hours.
During parenting mediation, you will work out a comprehensive, yet fluid parenting plan that addresses both the current needs and best interests of the children as well as other family dynamics, but that also stands the test of time as the children’s needs change over time.
In financial mediation, full disclosure of all financial documents is required before the sessions begin so that all cards are on the table for discussion.
Spouses also review their post-separation budgets to determine what their living expenses.
What a Divorce Mediator Does?
The divorce mediator is an entirely neutral party who does not take sides, but rather is concerned with facilitating a negotiation between both spouses.
An experienced divorce mediator will ensure that a fair, reasonable and balanced agreement is achieved between separating or divorcing couples in a very efficient, kind and affordable manner.
A divorce mediator also assists couples in working past any obstacles that may be impeding their progress towards a mutually fair settlement and may make sound and prudent suggestions designed to lead them towards making the most sensible decisions for their family’s future.
An attorney-mediator initially provides parties with an overview of the relevant law and legal concepts so that they may apply it to the specific facts and circumstances of their case. Couples are informed of all their basic legal rights and obligations under the law so that they can make informed decisions for their agreement.
Attorney-mediators specifically do not provide legal advice or representation but are instead educators and facilitators of the process. Ultimately, spouses are encouraged to have their resulting agreement reviewed by independent outside counsel before signing it.
How long does divorce mediation take?
This will depend on how complicated your case and the number of sessions needed. On average the mediation process can take between 3-4 weeks, due to the need to gather documents, get appraisals or other financial needs, and how fast or slow you both want to go.
You can expect anywhere between 1 to 5 sessions, that last from 1-4 hours each.
Some spouses prefer to delay their divorce for health insurance reasons, when it’s best for the children, going back to work, etc.
Others have been separated for some time, and have adjusted to their new life, and therefore mediation moves more quickly.
How much does divorce mediation cost?
It depends on the type of mediator you choose. You could hire an attorney, financial planner, therapist or clergy as your divorce mediator and costs generally vary widely from $150-$300/hr, which usually adds up to $3,500 to $15,000 for the most complex cases.
Remember, divorce mediation costs a small fraction of what it would otherwise cost to have your matter litigated in court with private, opposing attorneys who often charge a retainer of $2,500 – $15,000 each before beginning any work on your case, which oftentimes is not refundable.
Required Documents for divorce mediation
- Biographical information for both spouses (names, addresses, contact information, marriage date, employment & annual gross income for each spouse)
- Name and date of birth of each child you have together (whether minor or of majority age)
- Current balance statements for all bank accounts (checking, savings, CD’s, money markets)
- Current balance statements for all children’s accounts such as CD’s, other custodial college savings plans.
- Current balance statements for all stock and bond investment statements.
- Make, model and year of all vehicles owned and a statement of the private party value for each.
- Information of any pending civil lawsuit claims in which either or both spouses are a listed plaintiff(s).
- Statements of any outstanding loans, or verbal promises to repay a loan in which one or both spouses are the creditor(s).
- Current statements of all retirement accounts owned by each spouse such as company pension plans. Note that some plans may need to be valued by a professional actuary for their present day market value.
- Statements of all other employment benefits such as stock options, incentive, cash balance or golden parachute plans.
- Current market value appraisals for all real estate owned such as the primary residence, any vacation homes, timeshares, investment properties or vacant land, unless spouses agree that the property is being placed for sale.
- Personal Property–approximate value of the contents of all homes owned, all jewelry, art, antiques and other collectibles of specially significant value. Some items may need to be specially appraised for value if spouses are not able to agree on their value.
- Appraisals of all businesses owned for their estimated current market value, if elected by the spouses.
- Current balance statement for all mortgages, home equity loans or lines of credit held on any properties owned.
- Current balance statements for all motor vehicle loans.
- Current balance statement for all student loans.
- Statements for any other private loans, either verbal or with a written note, in which one or both spouses are debtor(s).
- Current balance statements for all credit card accounts.
- Information on any pending civil lawsuits in which one or both spouses is/are a named defendant(s).
- Copies of pay stubs/income statements of each spouse for the previous six months of all W-2 or 1099 employment.
- Copies of tax returns for the previous three (3) year
- Copies of corporate tax returns for the previous three (3) years if one or both spouses have a business.
- Declaration sheet for all life insurance policies held by either or both spouses, and a statement of the cash surrender value of any whole or universal life insurance plans.
- Declaration sheet for all disability policies held by either or both spouses.
Other Related Marital Documents
- Copy of marriage certificate
- Copies of any trust documents
- Copies of all pre-marital, and/or marital agreements in effect such as any pre or postnuptial agreements.
- Copies of any wills executed during the marriage.
The best divorce mediators
We have the best divorce mediators who have extensive experience with handling more sophisticated marital estates with complex financial issues. For example, they will be able to carefully analyze the complexities of investment-based assets, employee stock incentive awards, two-household budget projections and home and business valuations. They can also identify any potential tax issues and pitfalls that may result from your divorce settlement.
If parenting and custody issues are paramount, we provide a divorce mediation service that uses a parenting mediator with a therapy background. This type of mediator, often times, is much better suited than an attorney to understand complex family dynamics and how they impact children. As such, they are often more likely to suggest parenting and custody solutions that are most healthy for the family unit.
A good divorce mediator is like having a strong, yet neutral witness in each of your corners who is looking out for each of your best interests, as well as the entire family.