Q: How much will my divorce mediation cost?
A: It depends!
I realize, that is not the answer you were hoping to hear.
Frankly, most clients and professionals are challenged by the “cost” question. There are so many unknowns and other variables to consider. Just as your contractor has difficulty anticipating the roadblocks, they will encounter in your bathroom remodel, your mediator similarly has difficulty accounting for the unknown roadblocks that will emerge once the real settlement work begins.
Objective variables which will affect your cost are easier to identify upfront:
- Length of Marriage
- Date of separation
- Best interests of the Children
- Custody Expectations
- Nature, extent, and character of the Marital and Separate Asset and Debts
- Complexities identifying, valuing and accounting for:
- Real Estate / Real Property interests
- Retirement/Pension Accounts
- Stock Options / Stock grants as compensation
- Business/Partnerships/Corporation Ownership / interests
- Art/Jewelry Collections as investments / gifts
- Secured and Unsecured Debts
- Tax Issues
- Validity of pre- or postnuptial agreements
- Support Expectations and Income available for Support
Subjective variables make estimating challenging:
- The ability of a couple to effectively communicate and engage in non-blaming problem-solving discussions,
- Couples experience with and commitment to understanding the other’s goals and needs in creating workable agreements to which both spouses can say “Yes”,
- The ability of couples to move away from the past and prior contentious marital issues and begin looking to resolve the problems presented by the need to move forward,
- Being locked into positions and refusing to budge,
- Being attached to one specific outcome,
- Complaining, accusing, blaming and making “you” statements instead of “I” statements,
- Being unrealistic about your budget I cash flow,
- Failing to complete tasks by the agreed upon deadlines,
- Putting your children in the middle,
- Long/frequent phone calls/emails/texts to spouse or team members
- Withholding pertinent information,
- Not asking for help when you are confused,
- Imbalances in power of either spouse to speak or be heard by/with the other,
- Imbalances as manifested by differences in the financial sophistication of one or both parties,
- History of power imbalance and struggles manifest by patterns of controlling or abusive behaviors, especially as they persist during the process,
- Multitudes of other hidden expectations and drivers.
Even the most rational couples may find it difficult to manage their emotions during divorce. As challenging and complicated as it is, couples eager to create win/win solutions generally require fewer meetings, which in turn greatly decreases time and costs.
How Can I Keep Costs Down?
To be sure, there are things couples can do to keep their fees down, such as focusing on shared goals verses differences, being future focused, and being realistic about budget and cash flow. An upfront acknowledgement of the emotional complexities that are likely to increase time and costs will help as well.
How Much Does the Average Divorce Mediation Cost?
The legal website, Nolo’s 2019 survey found that the average California litigated divorce through trial costs a family $47,000+. Conversely, a divorce mediation in California averages $6,000 to $10,000 depending on the factors discussed above.
Mediators generally charge an hourly rate for services. Retainer options range from the traditional upfront retainer, to pay-as-you-go, to fixed fee plans. Regardless of retainer type, the simple fact is costs are contained or inflated by the number of hours spent on the case.
What About the Cost of My Case?
Just as no two families are the same, no two divorces are the same. The best estimate will come when you:
- Do some pre-work, like discerning your post-divorce expectations and needs, familiarizing yourself with your family finances, and prioritizing the areas where you will need additional guidance.
- Fully explore your divorce process options.
- Interview two or three divorce mediation professionals to determine which one will best meet your family’s unique needs. When interviewing a professional, be sure to ask for a customized cost and time estimates based on your unique circumstances.
The total cost of divorce (financial and emotional) can be minimized by choosing the right process and professional[s] for your family. Commit to finding professionals who can help you attain a more hopeful and peaceful future.
For a free, one-hour case assessment, divorce education kit, and cost estimate, contact us at Family Peacemaker. We offer client-centered, child and family focused, divorce process alternatives in Anaheim, Irvine, and all throughout Orange County and California.