Family Law

Divorce Mediation FAQ

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Q: What exactly is mediation?

  • A:Mediation is an informal process where you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse meet with a neutral third party, called a "mediator."The mediator helpsyou work outan agreement on your divorce. You'll decidethings likeproperty distribution,child support and custody, and alimony. Your agreement is then submitted to a court for approval.

    Some mediators prefer to meet with both of you at the same time.Others prefer to meet with each of you separately and act as a "go between." You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse should discuss the way youwantyour mediation to be run. Make sure youselect a mediatorwho willaccommodate your preferences.

Q: Do I need a lawyer for mediation?

  • A:No, but you probably should have one, at least for some parts of it. Your divorce attorney can make sureyour legal rights are protected while you negotiate with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Oncethe mediator drafts a final divorce agreement, your attorney should look it over to make sure it treats you fairly and covers all the issues involved in ending your marriage.

Q: What does a mediator do?

  • A:The mediator's job is to help you and your spouse communicate with each other and reach an agreement. The mediator must remain neutral, so he or she is not allowed to give you legal advice. The mediator can'tfavor one spouse's preferences or desires over those of the other spouse. Usually, a mediator lets you and your spouse discuss an issue, and then the mediator makes suggestions on how a compromise might or might not work.

Q: How do we find a mediator?

  • A:
    Lawyers.comsm has several tools to help you find an attorney-mediator:

    Recommendations from friends or family members who have been through mediation are another good source for finding a mediator. Experienced divorce lawyers tend to recommend other experienced divorce lawyers as mediators. If you know a marriage counselor, you may want to ask them for a recommendation. You might also check with the Academy of Family Mediatorsor ask a family law court in your areafor a referral.

Q: How long does mediation last?

  • A:That depends on the type of mediation. Voluntary or private mediation is whenyou and your soon-to-be ex-spouse mutually agree to mediate the terms of your divorce. Voluntary mediation lasts as long as you and your spouse want it to last. You're under no legal obligation to continue with private mediation if you don't find it productive.In general, plan on meeting at least three to five times with your mediator to work out a divorce settlement.

    Mediation can, however, be ordered by the court during a divorce. For example, in a contested divorce (where one party files a lawsuit for divorce), a court might order the couple to mediate a child custody agreement. Generally, court-ordered mediation continues until an agreement is reached.

Q: How much does mediation cost?

  • A:That depends upon the mediator. Most private mediators charge an hourly fee, which can range anywhere from $100 to $300 per hour. Theoverall cost, of course, depends on how long it takes you to reach an agreement. In addition, many mediators will charge some type of initial or "set-up" fee for meeting with you and hammering out what issues that you and your spouse intend to mediate. Inmost case though,mediating a divorcecosts far less than a full-blown divorce trial.

    Usually, there are no fees or charges for court-ordered mediation.

Q: Isn't mediation the same thing as arbitration?

  • A:No, although the two are similar.Both involve the use of a neutral third party (an "arbitrator" in the case of arbitration, and a "mediator" in mediation) to settle a dispute. However, in arbitration, the arbitrator can make a binding, legal decision. He or she listens to each side and makes a ruling. A mediator, on the other hand, doesn't make any decisions. He or she simply helps you and your spouse reach an agreement.If an agreement can't be made, the mediation ends.

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