Issues in divorce can be resolved through mediation as an alternative to court trials. Divorce mediation offers privacy, flexibility, and speed over the traditional court. But this also means that you have to hire a private mediator to facilitate the sessions.

The costs for hiring a mediator range from $100 and $300 per hour but could rise to $1,000+ per hour, depending on the expertise and experience of the mediator. There could be about 3 – 4 sessions in all.

Divorce lawyers near you can always help you out with free estimates and recommendations.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Deciding on issues in a divorce may be tricky or very emotional for you and your spouse, especially if there was a major falling out.

Divorce mediation is a voluntary process for spouses to resolve issues in their divorce and reach an agreement with the help of a neutral third party.

The involvement of a neutral third party is the common feature in divorce mediation, arbitration, and the court in the settlement process. However, unlike the arbitrator or judge, the divorce mediator has no power to decide on the pending divorce issues.

Rather, the mediator assists the spouses in communicating meaningfully and reach an agreement. This means that you and your spouse will have full control of the outcome of the process.

Divorce mediators are specially trained to improve communication between divorcing spouses and finalize the process with a Marital Settlement Agreement signed by you and your spouse. You can talk to your family law attorney for recommendations on the best options on who to select as a mediator.

Court-ordered mediation

Judges have the power to order spouses having a divorce to undergo mediation sessions and possibly reach a settlement. In some cases and states, the court will exercise this power, and the spouses will be mandated to have sessions with a mediator.

This mediation route can be cheaper than a private mediation initiated by the parties without a court's order. Nonetheless, a court-ordered mediation may aid the parties' willingness to reach an agreement even in a contested divorce.

Also, it relegates the win-lose strategies during a court trial and replaces them with a win-win mindset.

However, court-ordered mediation comes with its challenges, such as mediators who do not specialize in divorce cases can be appointed to mediate for the parties. The initiative may then become counter-intuitive. Therefore, the importance of legal advice before you hire a mediator is vital. Your lawyer would be able to recommend better options who have expertise and experience in the field.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Divorce Mediator?

Most divorce mediators charge their fees per hour. Other mediators may charge per session. The costs of hiring a mediator will also vary depending on the type of conflicts involved and the total length of the mediation.

On average, the total costs of mediation may be between $500 and $1,500+. Below are the rates you can expect:

National Average Cost $1,500
Minimum Cost $500
Maximum Cost $8,000
Average Range $100/hr to $300/hr

You can estimate the total cost of a divorce to plan your budget more precisely. But it would help if you also considered the factors below and how they can impact your planning budget.

Key Factors That Impact the Cost of Divorce Mediation

The following factors should be carefully considered before you opt for private divorce mediation. These factors can significantly affect the total costs of mediation.

The set-up fee

Mediators may charge an initial set-up fee for a first meeting where issues to be resolved will be agreed upon. Discounts may apply for categories of people such as teachers, veterans, aged couples, etc.

The number of sessions

There is no fixed number of sessions you can have during divorce mediation. The number of sessions often varies based on the circumstances of the divorce and the willingness of both spouses to reach an agreement.

A typical simple case may take two or three sessions, while more complicated cases or difficult spouses may take up to 10 or more sessions. Either way, what will be more important is to properly review all issues and ensure that you can accept the terms of the agreement.

In conclusion, the longer the mediation runs, the higher the costs of mediation.

Opting for private meditation

One of the viable options for you to get a divorce is to hire a private mediator to facilitate the resolution of pending issues. Private mediation reduces the rigidity and formalities of a traditional court i.e., rules of evidence, paperwork, court dates, etc.

Private mediation sessions may cost $100 and $300 per hour or even $1,000+ per hour depending on the level of experience of the mediator, the issues to be resolved, and the location of the meetings.

Opting for community-based mediation

Asides from private mediation, agencies also provide what is called community-based divorce mediation. The costs of the mediator's services in a community-based mediation are usually lesser than private mediation, but the flexibility is limited and can be more stressful.

Please note: In some instances, the court may order spouses to attend mediation sessions. This type of mediation is known as court-ordered mediation. The judge often orders mediation for spouses where there are custody or visitation disputes.

Experience of the Divorce Mediator

It is important to consider the experience and expertise of a mediator when hiring. There is no regulatory body or professional license for mediators, and anyone can claim to be a mediator.

The following are the attributes that a qualified and experienced mediator should possess:

  • Knowledge of Divorce Issues: Not all mediators are skilled or experienced at handling divorce mediation. Your mediator must know this area of law.
  • Ability to navigate financial matters in divorce.
  • Ability to remain neutral and assist the spouses to communicate and resolve issues.
  • Skilled enough to identify issues and possible settlement options to be considered.
  • A good track record in divorce mediation.

Additional Divorce Mediation Costs

There are likely going to be additional costs to divorce mediation. These additional charges range from:

  • Filing a request for divorce mediation
  • Drafting of a Marital Settlement Agreement
  • Case management fees
  • Cancellation of previously booked sessions
  • Requests for a written record of each mediation session

These items listed above may cost between $500 and $1,500+ depending on the technicality of the request.

Should I Discuss the Cost of Divorce Mediation with a Lawyer?

Quite frankly, spouses can go through divorce mediation without the help of their lawyers. However, it may not be the best option especially when children and assets you want to protect are involved. The reason is that the process or your spouse may get the best out of your emotions. As such, you will need a professional to help you see through your emotions and evaluate issues technically and objectively.

Another important sign that you need a divorce lawyer is when your spouse has a lawyer or has other advantages over you (maybe financially or socially).

Lastly, you need legal counsel to understand how the state's divorce laws apply to the issues in the agreement and eventual agreement.

Is Mediation Better Than Going to a Lawyer?

The answer to this depends on the circumstances surrounding the divorce. For instance, hiring a family law mediator may be the better option if the biggest problem between you and your ex is a communication issue and reaching a settlement agreement. But this may not always be the case.

Choosing divorce mediation would be a waste of time where one spouse is unwilling to mediate or reach a compromise. The situation can be worsened where there are hot debates about the custody of your children with your spouse. Based on the varying factors, it is always best to seek legal counsel before opting for mediation.

On the other hand, hiring a lawyer to conduct the divorce in court will significantly increase the costs, time, and technicalities of the case. The total cost of going to court could be up to $15,000 but could rise to $100,000. The cost varies based on the number and types of issues to be resolved. Another factor that could drive up the total costs is the length of the divorce case, which can be from 9 – 11 months. The longer it drags, the higher the costs are likely to be.

Therefore, the circumstances of each divorce must be weighed on its merits before a decision is taken.

What is the Divorce Mediation Process?

During divorce mediation, you and your spouse may have joint sessions with the mediator or exclusive sessions to discuss the issues that require resolution. During this process, questions will be asked, and the demands of each spouse will be discussed. Thereafter, compromises and decisions will be made, and a settlement agreement will be drafted for review and signatures of the spouses.

Although you and your spouse control the procedure, you should know that the agreement, once approved by the family law judge, will become binding on you and default may amount to contempt of the court.

This means that you must be fully aware of the implications of the terms of the agreement. To be fully aware, you will need the expertise of a local divorce lawyer to explain the mediation process to you according to the state's divorce law and advise you of the implications of the terms of the agreement. You can also help your understanding of the issues and process by conducting private research.

Bottom line: Divorce mediation is relatively faster than arbitration or traditional courts. For some couples, all the mediation process could take is a day or two. In some other cases, there would be a need for multiple sessions.