Q. I don’t trust my spouse. We can’t agree on anything. We don’t even want to be in the same room. Can mediation or collaboration work for us?
A. Yes, almost certainly. At the outset of 99/100 of all separations/divorces, trust between spouses is at the lowest point and miscommunications are at the highest. Yet 90% of all mediated and collaborative divorces completely resolve all issues and clients report that the outcomes are more durable and more satisfactory than litigation.
Lack of Trust, unaddressed, can ‘snowball’ furthering poor communications, poor behaviors and increase fears. The answer is not to wait; time spent doing ‘the same thing’ is, at best, unproductive.
The hallmark of our work is that we begin to address the biggest challenges immediately. Any other process will require significant time and expense before you begin working on durable solutions. You should get started.
Q. How can I help my children from feeling “stuck in the middle” of the family conflict?
A. You and your spouse know your children best. What you may not know is what your present or future separation/divorce will be like. And you may not be as successful at solving problems together as you have in the past. You’re navigating turbulent waters blindfolded and handcuffed, if you will.
Your mediator/Collaborative lawyer can help take off the blind folds and understand how to take off the handcuffs.
A consultation with a child specialist can help you both keep the children at the heart of the family, not the middle of the divorce.
A child specialist is uniquely qualified to advise and to equip both parents with the information and insights which, when combined with their own, will empower them to serve the best interests of their children. Click here to read more about this subject.
Q. Why do my spouse and I BOTH have to come to the mediation consultation?
A. In a word: Trust. In mediation, your mediator serves as a neutral professional assisting both parties in settling disputes in an effort to create a “win-win” situation for your family. The first consultation is focused on explaining the process and answering questions to help both of you understand whether mediation is right for you. One discussion, everyone hears all the questions, answers and ensuing conversation. Everyone can assess whether there is any bias or alignment of the neutral mediator with either party from the outset. Meeting individually can create the appearance or suspicion that neutrality has been compromised. The appearance alone may poison the well.
To ensure that trust and neutrality are not broken, we offer both parties a free, one hour consultation.
Q. How much does an average divorce cost? How long will it take?
A. The Judicial Council survey from 2016 found that the average California litigated divorce through trial costs $95,000. Most cases settle before trial. A simple internet search will predict the cost of a litigated divorce in California as between $30,000 – $40,000+ depending on your situation.
The mediation cases in our office range from the very simple to very complex, from low assets to high assets, from low conflict to high conflict. Complexities may be emotional, financial or legal. We are prepared to handle all your complexities. A couple with no kids and a simple marital estate, making a combined $50,000 a year, should certainly not spend > $40,000 on their divorce but they could – in litigation. A couple with no kids making a combined income >$1 million with investments and properties will likely have more complex issues to resolve.
So what is the range? Like most experienced mediators, Bart charges an hourly rate for his services. In 2018 our lowest priced mediation was completed in less than 3 months at a cost of less than $3,200. Conversely, our most complex case came in at over $39,000 and lasted over three years. With that said, in 2018 our average mediated case (generally involves minor children, community and separate property, retirement assets and debts, child and spousal support) cost $7,500.
We do not require an upfront retainer, but rather offer a pay-as-you-go plan. With this plan, you provide a credit card which is used to pay for services provided that month. Our current attorney hourly rate is $450.
No two divorces are the same and your divorce cost will depend on many factors. This is why we offer a free, one-hour case assessment consultation. At the assessment we will discuss the complexities of your situation and the options available to you. At that consultation, you will get an estimate of the overall timing and cost of your process.
Remember that the true costs of a traditional, adversarial, litigated divorce are hard to measure. To be certain, stress, anxiety and conflict are unfortunate realities of divorce; mediation is structured to reduce these negative, non-monetary costs, especially for the children.
Q. What does non-court, non-adversarial mean?
A. The mediation and collaborative divorce processes offer couples:
- Mutual respect
- An emphasis on the needs of children
- Win-win, confidential agreements made by and for you, not a judge
- Open, problem-solving communication
- A voice for all parties
- A hopeful future
Q. My spouse hired an attorney. Does this mean we can’t use the mediation or collaborative process?
A. It’s never too late to work towards a more peaceful resolution. Regardless of whether one party has filed, with or without an attorney, we can schedule a free, one-hour consultation with you and your spouse to discuss how mediation and collaborative divorce can work for your family.
Q. Will you file all of our court paperwork for us?
A. Our team can handle your matter from start to finish. Our paralegal team will assist you with compiling, completing and filling all of your court mandated documents. Our attorneys will assist you in making and writing up all financial, visitation and support agreements.
Q. I need someone to help me understand my legal rights. Can you help me?
A. Our attorneys can serve as your legal consultant. If you and your spouse are in mediation and you wish to have an attorney provide legal advice or review your agreements, we can do so at our normal attorney hourly rate. Please note that our team does not represent clients in court.
Q. What’s the best way to save money through my divorce?
A. We see the following 12 items as ‘cost-inflators’. If you can avoid these traps, your process will take less time, cost less money and, ultimately, be more peaceful.
- Being locked into positions and refusing to budge
- Being attached to one specific outcome
- Badgering your spouse
- Complaining, accusing, blaming and making “you” instead of “I” statements
- Being unrealistic about your budget I cash flow
- Misunderstanding your financial report
- Not asking for help when you are confused
- Saying “yes” when you mean “no”
- Bringing invisible, auxiliary advisors in to the room
- Rescheduling meetings
- Not taking care of your own person health, physically and mentally
- Coming to a meeting under the influence or actively abusing substances during your divorce
- Being unprepared for meetings