Divorce Mediation FAQ
Why should I consider mediation for my divorce?
Simply put, you should consider mediation for your divorce because mediation saves time, emotions and money. You and your spouse remain in control. Unlike in a litigated divorce, you have control because you and your spouse make decisions about all aspects of your divorce.
Is mediation cheaper than using lawyers?
- The short answer is yes. Many litigation lawyers charge a retainer fee of between $2,500 and $10,000 (for each spouse) for most average litigation cases and bill the client for services in addition to the time covered by the retainer. Once this initial retainer is exhausted, the attorney will charge a new retainer or invoice the client monthly. The retainer amount will be substantially more in complex cases, involving custody disputes or complex financial disputes.
- The total cost for both spouses from beginning to end for a mediated divorce, can be less than one retainer made by one spouse in a litigated divorce. A good range for the total cost of a mediated divorce is between $1,500 – $5,000
- "Cost" should be measured not only in dollars spent but also in the emotional cost to the parties and their children which an also be significantly less in a mediated divorce.
Should I use an attorney trained in mediation or a non-attorney mediator for my mediated divorce?
You should use an attorney trained in mediation as opposed to someone who is just a mediator because a divorce mediation attorney can provide the legal information needed to address all the complexities of divorce. Divorce is a complex legal topic and an attorney trained in mediation ca provide clear concise and comprehensive options on al the aspects of divorce including:
- marital property division
- child support
- alimony and marital division calculations
- division of retirement assets such as deferred compensation plans and pension plans
Should I see an independent attorney during mediation?
The best mediation client is an informed and educated client. Because knowledge is golden, a good divorce mediator strongly encourages a mediation client to meet with an independent attorney to provide each spouse with independent legal advice and the knowledge necessary to make long-lasting, educated, informed decisions.
Some spouses may choose to meet with their reviewing attorney at the end of the mediation process so they can look over all the financial documents prepared in mediation and the draft separation agreement. Some spouses go to a review attorney only once at the beginning of the process, others go to an independent attorney at the beginning and end of mediation, and others don't go at all.
An independent reviewing attorney charges by the hour and the cost should not be more than one to two hours of his or her hourly rate.
How are the court papers finalized if we mediate our divorce in Connecticut?
If you use a mediator who is also an attorney, they can help you file all the court paperwork which can include: starting the dissolution of marriage action, preparing and filing the necessary financial disclosure documents such as financial affidavits, child support guidelines and preparing the separation agreement, and final papers to be presented with the court. Often a state marshal or Sheriff does not need to be used to serve the divorce papers, if a waiver of service is signed by the defendant in the presence of a divorce mediator who is also an attorney. In Connecticut, the divorce mediator attorney attends the final hearing and assists the couple at this appearance. The mediator will be the person who will canvas or cross examine the spouses about the agreements reached rather than the Judge.
How long does a mediated divorce take?
How long a mediate divorce takes depends on the complexity of the issues and ability of the individuals to be flexible as they negotiate a fair agreement. The average mediated divorce case takes at least four to five sessions (2 - 3 hours each) spread out over 3 or 4 months. More complex cases can take up to 6 months to complete.
What does a mediated divorce in Connecticut cost?
The cost of mediated divorce cases in Connecticut is directly associated with the complexity of the situation. Every family is unique, hence every separation is unique. In a typical case, parties can expect to pay a combined total (total for both spouses) of between $1,500 and $5,000 depending on the total number of sessions needed. Connecticut court filing fees are $350.
If your divorce requires the services of independent experts, they typically charge upfront retainers while others have a pay-as-you-go process. The cost of each spouse’s independent attorney for consulting and review of the mediated agreement and judgment is separate from fees charged by the divorce mediation attorney. However, the cost is minimal as most review counsel charge one or two hours of their time.
Is a mediated divorce agreement enforceable?
Yes. Once a separation agreement is signed by both spouses and subsequently entered as a court order at the final court hearing, the agreement reached in the process of mediation is enforceable.
What if my case is too complicated for mediation?
No case is too complicated to be settled using mediation. If your case is complex, we might engage outside experts such as an accountant, appraiser, financial planner, or certified financial analyst to clarify issues and provide various options. Trained experienced family mediators have numerous skills, tools and resources to help couples reach decisions. Couples who are committed to staying out of litigation, thus draining joint savings in needless legal warfare, reach workable, equitable agreements. The role of a well trained, mature, intelligent, professional mediator is to facilitate and guide spouses through the most painful and complex chapter of their life. If you reach impasse you did not fail. You simply did not finish. If a spouse threatens litigation, they typically do so out of fear. The mediator’s job is to reduce the fear, to educate, empower, and provide you with creative solutions to get through the impasse and help guide you beyond the finish line.
Is divorce mediation confidential?
Divorce mediation IS confidential. State law says that no one, not even the two parties, can use their negotiations as evidence in court should litigation be used in the future. When you meet with a divorce mediator, they will discuss the confidentiality rules applicable in Connecticut.
What if we can't agree on all issues?
It is fairly rare to agree on all but one or two issues, but even if that is the case, mediation is seldom wasted. An agreement can be prepared on all settled issues, and the parties can either litigate the remaining issues or take further time to think about them and come back to mediation. A well trained neutral attorney mediator will teach you about free “safety net options” existing within your jurisdiction, available to help settle your case, BEFORE you consider litigating your case.
We don't get along well. How can we possibly mediate our divorce?
Although many mediating couples are amicable and work well in mediation, there are also many couples who are very emotional about the separation and don't think they can negotiate face to face. A well trained divorce mediation attorney is able to assist couples who have high emotions, but who still would like to work things out peacefully. People calm down and become effective mediation participants when they see that the process can work without adding to the high emotional and financial cost of divorce. The presence of a neutral third party who allows time and space for each spouse to be heard can be reassuring and calming.
My spouse is very powerful. How can I hope to be successful in mediation?
The professional you hire controls the process and will discontinue mediation if control or domination occurs in sessions. If one of the parties is unable to be effective during this process, the mediation process will stop. However, many persons who considered themselves to be the "weaker" of the two spouses have been quite effective in mediation. As an unsophisticated spouse of a very powerful business executive once said, "I have the power to say no, and my spouse better listen or we'll wind up in court." If physical and or emotional abuse exists or financial abuse or overall financial mistrust, litigation may be optimal. An experienced and reputable divorce mediator will not take cases where either physical or emotional or financial abuse actively occurs.