You’ve heard divorce mediation is much less expensive than a litigated divorce, and that is correct – but there are so many more benefits to the divorce mediation process over litigation. If you and your spouse are willing to negotiate and resolve the issues arising from your divorce with the help of a neutral third party professional, you not only save time and money, but you reduce the level of conflict and stress and take charge of your family situation going forward while avoiding having solutions imposed upon you by a judge.
The Philadelphia divorce mediators at SFS Attorneys have over forty years of experience helping families in the Philadelphia area get through divorce. In this comprehensive article, they explain the factors affecting the cost of divorce mediation and what you can do to make sure your divorce mediation sessions are productive and thereby reducing costs.
If you are considering divorce mediation and how it compares to a litigated divorce, call the divorce mediators at SFS Attorneys today.
Typical Cost of Divorce Mediation
According to one law information website, divorce mediation costs between $3,000 and $8,000. Keep in mind the couple usually splits the cost between them, paying from $1,500 to $4,000 each to mediate their divorce.
Divorce Mediation Attorney Rates
A Pennsylvania divorce mediation attorney may charge more than a mediator who is not an attorney due to their knowledge, education, and experience. Your lawyer will have training and experience in family law, negotiation and collaboration techniques, and is familiar with the norms and laws in your jurisdiction.
Non-Attorney Mediator Rates
Non-attorney mediators may have lower rates than those of divorce attorney mediators, but not necessarily. Divorce mediators charge according to their experience and expertise. For example, a divorce mediator may also be a CPA or a psychologist, although that is very rare.
How Much Do Mediators Charge Per Hour or Session?
The per-hour or per-session fee varies according to the divorce mediator’s training, experience, certifications or degrees, and location.
A divorce mediation attorney typically charges the same hourly rate as for other services, which varies greatly depending upon where you live. In urban or metropolitan areas, the hourly rate can be as high as $500. In less populated areas the hourly rate may be as low as $250.
Divorce mediators who are not divorce attorneys typically charge from $100-$350 per hour, again, depending upon qualifications, experience, and location.
A divorce mediation session may be 1-2 hours depending upon your needs and circumstances.
Some divorce mediators offer a flat rate to help you negotiate and resolve the issues arising from your divorce. This may be beneficial for you if you anticipate a great deal of conflict over one or some of those issues, or if you have several issues you must resolve. While available, flat rate mediation is less customary.
What Affects Mediation Costs?
There are three primary factors affecting the average divorce mediation cost: the level of conflict between you and your spouse, the complexity of your marital financial situation, and your willingness to engage in negotiations.
Level of Conflict
If you or your spouse are feeling emotional about the reasons for your divorce and are not consciously dealing with it, those emotions can get in the way and affect the degree to which the divorce mediator can work with you to resolve the issues arising from your divorce. If necessary, a trained mediator may suggest the assistance of other neutral professionals to assist in keeping the divorce mediation process moving forward productively.
If possible, consider divorce mediation a business meeting where you are meeting with your partners to discuss changes to business operations. Keep resentment and anger out of mediation to the extent you can so you remain flexible and open to negotiated solutions.
Complexity of Dividing Your Assets
If you own a family business, real property, art or collectibles, or have significant investments or unrealized assets such as stock options, it takes time to understand, unravel, and eventually distribute those assets fairly. The same applies to marital debt and individual debt incurred during your marriage. You will probably need the help of a divorce mediator experienced in handling high asset divorces to successfully divide those assets and debts.
Willingness to Engage in Negotiations
You and your spouse may be far apart in your expectations regarding support, child custody, and property distribution. Regardless, if you are open to negotiating, divorce mediation can help you find common ground. If you are not open to negotiating, it takes much longer for the divorce mediator to help you arrive at a more collaborative mindset, if indeed they can.
Three Types of Divorce Mediation & the Costs
Private divorce mediation is conducted by private law firms, such as Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC.
Court Sponsored Mediation and Court Ordered Mediation
Some counties have court-sponsored divorce mediation and court-ordered divorce mediation.. These are commonly limited to one session and to the single issue at hand, so you will not be able to discuss other issues related to your matter.
There may be community organizations in your area offering divorce mediation free or on a sliding scale to those who qualify. Try here to see if there is community mediation available in your area, or contact your local family court or bar association and inquire. Community mediation is often conducted by mediators who are not family lawyers. You will need to decide if this is helpful to you or not.
Divorce Mediation Packages
Your divorce mediator will offer you a retainer agreement according to what they believe you need to successfully resolve the issues arising during your divorce process. The agreement may offer you a package of sessions and the option to employ outside professionals if necessary.
Be sure to read the retainer agreement thoroughly and understand what you are paying for prior to engaging in divorce mediation. Ask if a retainer is required up front.
Legal Fees and Other Fees in a Mediated Divorce
You may wish to consult with a divorce attorney about any marital settlement agreement you reach in mediation. The divorce mediator is a neutral third party, meaning their job is to facilitate compromise. A divorce attorney protects your interests and reviews agreements reached in mediation with that in mind. If you are unsure or do not understand any agreements reached in mediation, you can retain a divorce attorney to review them.
Your divorce mediator may need the assistance of other professionals to help you resolve the issues arising from your divorce. This is common in complex marital financial situations where the mediator must know the value of assets and the tax consequences of dividing assets before offering solutions. They may employ appraisers, accountants, financial analysts, and tax experts to assist the mediator and the parties.
Court Filing Fees
Any divorce is finalized through the court system, which requires filing fees. Check the website of the family court in your jurisdiction for a current fee schedule.
Cost Saving with Divorce Mediation – Pros and Cons
There is no doubt that successful divorce mediation is less expensive than a litigated divorce, but there are some other factors to consider before committing to divorce mediation.
Divorce Mediation Success Rates
Success rates are high in divorce mediation. If you disagree about child custody only and court mediation is available to you, you may resolve that issue and move forward with an otherwise uncontested divorce.
If you have more than one issue to resolve, court mediation will not be sufficient. In this case, if you opt to pay for private mediation chances are very good you will resolve all of the issues arising from your divorce, eliminating the need to litigate and pay for divorce attorneys and court fees.
Limits on Types of Disputes Handled By Divorce Mediation
Again, court mediation typically only covers child custody or visitation disputes. But what if the dispute is entangled with another issue, for example, who remains in the marital home with the children? In this case issues of property distribution and perhaps support are involved, and private mediation may be more appropriate and cost effective in the long run.
Short Time Limits on Divorce Mediation
Court mediation is typically limited to one session. Most couples need more than one session to discuss options and reach a compromise, and even if they do tentatively agree, they need time between sessions to consider. Private mediation gives couples the time they need to work together with the help of the mediator and ultimately craft solutions that are best for their families.
Speak with a Divorce Mediator at SFS Attorneys Today
Considering engaging in divorce mediation services is an important first step in taking control of your divorce. Reading this article and otherwise researching divorce mediation is the next step. Now, meet with divorce mediators to find out which divorce mediator is right for you.
Call the divorce mediators at SFS Attorneys to discuss your case.