What will Mediation Cost ?

The cost of mediation often depends upon the specific type of mediation. Mediation costs are usually based on an hourly rate or flat fee, depending upon the contract between the parties and the mediator. Divorce Mediation varies in their fees; however, the average price is $200.00 per hour. Usually, each side splits the cost and pays $100.00 per hour. Usually, if we mediate your entire divorce without too many problems we can finish mediation between six and eight hours. Once the mediation is finished, we write a Settlement Offer for the courts. There usually is no testifying of witnesses, no depositions, nothing between you and the judge that will get in the way. When you leave our office two things will happen. One, your agreement is given to your attorney to review or two, a settlement offer is signed by all parties and the document is returned by one of the parties to court.

If you go to court first, you will still most likely have to mediate. This time it will be court-ordered mediation. The court may waive the cost of court-ordered mediation, or the court may order either party to pay the entire cost of mediation or order both parties to share the cost. The parties will also bear the cost of representation by their attorneys. In voluntary mediation, the parties are responsible for mediation expenses themselves. The Bar Association states; "although there is a cost for mediation, it is possible that the over all cost of the separation or divorce will be less expensive if pursued through mediation than through litigation".

What Kinds of Issues May be Addressed through Mediation?

Each family is unique; however, we all have basic needs. Mediation addresses those basic needs and then works on each family's needs and in some cases wants. A parenting plan is vital to a successful separation and divorce. If temporary support/visitation is needed, that is where you begin. From there you change gears, looking at custody, visitation, and child support including health insurance. Every issue discussed is up to you. This is your process. Perhaps working with your CPA or investment counselor, you may create in mediation a plan to resolve issues regarding the distribution of assets/liabilities. In today's economy, it is essential to protect what you have worked for. Retirement plans and the division of wealth including investments might be a concern that you will want to resolve. Each family is different. Each family will come into this process with expectations and concerns. Each family member will have their own needs and future goals. Through mediation, we rectify situations and come up with viable solutions. Go back to our homepage and look at the pictures and the captions of some of the areas we work on. It took you years to build your life, reworking your life with a pencil, calculator and paper is a process, sometimes a painful process, and therefore this is a time for patience. Sometimes that in itself is very hard to achieve. A right mediation takes time. This is your future and in some cases your children's future. Therefore it is a time to be prepared. It is essential to focus not only on the big stuff but the little things that don't necessarily stick out. We find these smaller issues are just as important and need to be handled efficiently. Good detail planning now can save you time and money later on. Once your problems are addressed and resolved, there is nothing worst than finding out that one of you did not have a meeting of the minds. Emotionally and financially there is nothing worse for both of you to have to once again return to court. Spend the time now to do it right the first time. We are here to assist you to work through some of the difficult decisions that are necessary for a divorce. We genuinely believe there is such a thing as a "Healthy Divorce".

What Happens After an Agreement Is Reached?

With voluntary mediation, Divorce Mediation will prepare a written agreement for the parties to sign. If you have an attorney before a private mediation agreement is signed, each side may review it with his or her attorney. If corrections or changes are needed, and both parties agree, then the modifications may be made. This agreement may take effect immediately and govern the sides until they decide to divorce. At that time, the arrangement may be incorporated into the divorce decree.

Why mediation is your first choice for resolving issues.

If your mediation does not resolve your differences two things will happen. In court-ordered mediation, the case will return to the court for a decision by the master or judge if the two parties cannot agree. The mediator is forbidden to reveal to the judge anything that the sides discussed during mediation and may not be called as a witness. If voluntary mediation does not succeed, the parties always have the option of hiring attorneys and resolving their differences in court. The good news is that: 97% of divorces and parental agreements are settled by mediation. Try mediation, it most likely will work with your family's issues. Bar Association states, "When mediation is not an option, we find that most high-conflict divorces go on for years. Prolonged divorces deplete assets, entail expensive professional services, interrupt business, and interfere with opportunities for personal growth as well as the desire to get on with life". This advice goes hand-in-hand with non-mediation practices. The Bar Association goes on to said, "Divorce mediation, by contrast, helps achieve closure". Divorce Mediation agrees with the Bar Association. Mediation does bring closure in a private, peaceful, and dignified manner.

5 Tips to Prepare for Divorce Mediation

All divorces need not go to court. In most cases the law is very clear and litigation is not necessary. A Divorce Mediation is a less costly alternative that makes the dissolution of marriage less painful in terms of legal, financial and personal matters. You will still experience the mixed emotions that come with a divorce, but you will be able to handle the process with more serenity.

Here are five tips that can help before you and your spouse sit with a mediator:

  1.    Agree to agree

This first step will determine the efficacy of mediating. It is like pre-mediation, if you will. You both have to agree that mediation is the best choice for both of you. Dragging your spouse to negotiation would defeat the purpose.

You need to take the time to talk about mediation and what it entails, how much time you can commit to it and how you will share the cost.

  1.    Be prepared before a Divorce Mediation

Mediation is effective if you come to the table prepared. You need to know what you have and what you want when it’s over

Make a list of your possessions, assets and investments – shared or personal. Make an inventory of your belongings. Gather all financial documents pertaining to your income and expenses.

Your financial status will be an important part of the discussions, so you want to be as ready and accurate as possible.

  1.    Set goals

The list you made regarding what you have will be of great help in deciding what you want and what you need. You have to consider what is important to you, what you cannot live without. Try and evaluate where you can be flexible so the discussions are less heated when it comes to splitting antique furniture or mementos.

Do not forget to plan ahead. Budgeting your future income and expenses will play a major part in the mediation.

  1.    Include your children

You are going through a difficult time and your children are in for the ride. Your kids need to be reassured that your going from parenting to co-parenting will not affect their life in a damaging way. They will likely have fears and questions about the future and you should answer honestly. Custody, holidays, school and where you all will live are topics likely to come up.

  1.    Choose wisely

The choice of a mediator is as important as agreeing to end your marriage. Your future depends on how professional and qualified that person is. Do not limit your criteria to convenience of location or competitive fees. Take time to interview before hiring: areas of expertise, certification and experience.

The main outcome of mediation is to agree through collaboration. Triad Divorce Mediation offers a unique approach based on expertise and experience. By working with professionals from the financial, legal and coaching disciplines, Triad Divorce Mediation brings both parties to an agreement that works for all involved and allow you to move forward.

Does Divorce Mediation Have a Place in Domestic Violence?

Courts thread with caution in divorce cases where domestic violence has been established. Is mediation appropriate as an alternative to litigation if one spouse is victim of domestic abuse?

Knowing that domestic violence is a reality in about half of heterosexual couples in America, the odds of a mediator encountering a case of domestic abuse are that much higher. In many cases, evidence of domestic violence might be unknown when the mediation process begins, due to the silence the parties keep about it.

If the evidence of domestic violence has been brought to the attention of the mediator, he or she will follow a screening protocol to assess if the couple is a good candidate for mediation. In essence, this process will evaluate the balance of power between the spouses, assess the degree of control of the abuser and determine if there is any threat of physical danger to the parties involved. At all times, the mediator’s main concern is the safety of his clients.

Should the couple proceed with the negotiations with the help of a mediator, policies are set to avoid any risk: separate meetings, exclusive communication, presence of a peace officer for escort if the abused spouse is under considerable fear.

Ground rules can be agreed to, such as precluding topics from the discussions or preventing the parties to communicate so the outcome of mediation is not jeopardized.

For divorce mediation to have a place in a case of domestic violence, the mediators have to be skilled and able to recognize the signs of abuse- when it has not been disclosed- and able to provide a safe environment to their clients. Mediation is collaboration between the parties so the dissolution of marriage is fair to both. However, safety should never be compromised in the process.

Triad Divorce Mediation is a team of highly skilled professionals who provide legal, financial and personal advice to divorcing couples. They work towards a solid agreement for both parties even in high conflict disputes.

Communicating when going through a divorce

How can things get worse after the decision to divorce is made?  Many times, things do worsen between divorcing couples, particularly when children are involved.  Here are some tips on how to manage the chaos and survive the pressure:

  • Minimize phone communications to only emergency situations, like an illness or accident, not if you are running late!  38% of how we communicate is through tone, volume and inflection – be mindful of how you come across to others!
  • Minimize in-person contact.  55% of how we communicate is through our body language…even the sight of our former significant other can trigger us
  • Avoid reading email or any type of interaction with the other party at the beginning of the day, particularly when at work…it can derail a good part of your day
  • Create a rule to send email from the other party directly to a designated file folder so you don’t have to see it until you’re ready
  • Maximum one email per day unless emergency or time sensitive
  • Maximum one topic per email
  • Maximum 40 words per email; ideally less than 20 are preferable
  • Refrain from talking about the past, making accusations or personal attacks, call names or otherwise blame the other – it will get you nowhere fast!
  • Everything written must be child-focused (when children are involved), informative, and polite
  • Acknowledge receipt of an email and identify a timeframe for when you will respond, e.g. “acknowledging receipt of your email; will respond within 24-48 hours”
  • Refrain from immediate responses, particularly less than 3 hours – this definitely reflects an emotional response, not a logical response
  • Make sure you do respond within 24-48 hours, except in cases of emergencies or time-sensitive matters.  Even if you don’t have an answer or are waiting for information, let the other party know that
  • Frame your requests in terms of a “proposal” – consider  your response in terms of “I’ll think about it” before saying “Yes” or “No”
  • If you can’t say “yes” to a request, respond with a counter-proposal.  If agreement can’t be reached within 1-2 proposals and counter-proposals, take it back to counseling and/or mediation for guidance
  • Be mindful of strong words like “I will not” or “I refuse” or “I insist” or “Don’t you…”

Remember, you are communicating with the other person you once loved…the person who helped you bring these wonderful children into the world.  Your children have a right to love that person, even when you don’t, and to love them through their eyes, not yours.

And, even if children aren’t involved, you do yourself harm by harboring resentment and anger.  Learn to breathe deep and reach for a higher place to be…you will feel better for it.

Marriage is grand…but divorce is 20 grand!

I just had to borrow this divorce phrase found at several sources…it’s so true!  Divorce is costly! Not that I am making a case for staying married when the relationship doesn’t work, but taking a look at these figures from Divorce360.com is pretty sobering…

Stats on Divorce

  • Most marriages end before the 10-year mark
  • There are many hidden costs to divorce that most people are unaware of
  • The cost of divorce increases with income, assets accumulated, the number of children involved and the duration of marriage
  • Geography makes a big difference in the costs for emotional, financial, legal and real estate help to get through the process
  • According to the 2006 US Census Bureau:  the average American family is married, 2 children, income $50K-$75K, a home worth $185K (in CA, this increases to a home worth $535K).

Here are some aspects to consider when contemplating...

Mediated versus the Litigated Divorce

  • Time is a factor
    • the typical litigated divorce takes from 9 to 24 months
    • the mediation process can be completed within 2 to 4 months
    • The current San Diego Family Court climate
    • July 2005, Money magazine – the average divorce:
      • $3,000-10,000 for a divorce mediation
      • $16,000 for collaborative law
      • $35,000 for traditional attorney to attorney negotiation
      • a minimum of $20,000-$50,000 for trial

In today’s budget-stricken Family Court climate, parties would benefit greatly by “narrowing the issues” by first using mediation, taking only those unresolvable through mediation into litigation.

Some other aspects to consider about mediation

  • Mediation is particularly important when there is an ongoing relationship, i.e. parenting, to be maintained.
  • Mediation also helps address the emotional turmoil and stress associated with ending a relationship – it can serve as part of the healing process,
  • It is important to note that men and women handle divorce differently…mediation can help balance the different stages of transition that each of the parties is facing.
  • Even when mediation is not successful, parties still report a high degree of satisfaction with the process because of how it helps them deal with the emotional stress around the issues being mediated.

Check it out…mediation is the way to go…even in difficult cases.  Keep the money in your pocket for you and your children!

The Real Reason Divorce is So Difficult

One of my clients once wrote:

“I am going through a divorce. I pride myself on being objective, upbeat and very good at my job. However, since the divorce began, I often feel depressed and sometimes paralyzed. I feel like I am firing on only one cylinder and it is only a matter of time before my employer and my children realize I am not fully functional. Does everyone who is going through a divorce feel this way?”

The short answer: Yes.

Most people believe the most awful psychological experience anyone could have would be one’s own death or the death of a loved one. However, for many who are separating after a long-term relationship, the separation is actually “three” times worse, as follows:

End of a Relationship

First, the end of a long-term relationship is, quite literally, the end of life as my clients know it. It therefore provides the same or a substantially similar psychological experience as that of my clients’ own death, and thereby the ultimate loss.

Happily Ever After

Second, ever since we were small children, we were taught to believe in the romantic notion of “happily ever after” for our domestic relationship. The end of that relationship provides the extraordinarily rude awakening of discovering the “happily ever after” clause is not valid. My clients discover they were tricked and fooled during their entire lives into believing something which turns out to be a giant hoax, a cruel prank. My clients thereby experience the ultimate humiliation.

Trust Your Partner

Third, we were also taught we could trust our domestic partner more than we could trust anyone else in the world. When the relationship ends, my clients usually learn the persons they trusted most have turned against them and are using my clients’ most intimate secrets against them. My clients thereby experience the ultimate betrayal.

Separation Process

Therefore, the separation process often involves the most extreme and awful experiences of loss, humiliation, and betrayal. Unfortunately, this does not include the full inventory of potential damage. For example, the majority of divorces and separations which go to court are ugly. They involve almost unbearable stress, ugly conflict, major losses of time and money, compromised integrity, psychological health and collateral damage to the psychological health of the children. Therefore, the end of a long-term domestic relationship will often be the most awful situation someone will experience.

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DISCLAIMER: The articles on this web site are intended to provide general information only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice for any purpose. The use of the Internet or of this web site for communication with the author of any such article, or with any professional or any other person associated with any firm of which the author is associated, does not establish an attorney-client relationship, mediator-client relationship, psychotherapist-patient relationship or any other professional relationship of any kind. These authors and all professionals and other persons associated with any firm of which these authors are associated DO NOT represent your legal or other interests and DO NOT have any duty to advise you about or to assist you with any time-sensitive information or issue. These authors and all professionals and other persons associated with any firm of which these authors are associated DO NOT have any duty to keep confidential the information you send through the Internet or through this web site. Therefore, you must not send confidential or time-sensitive information through the Internet or through this web site. If you submit an inquiry through the Internet or through this web site you may receive a response to your inquiry from an attorney or other professional. If so, that response will include no legal advice on which you can rely for any purpose. Rather, it will consist only of comments and suggestions based on family law rules of a general nature which may or may not apply to your case in specific.

Splitting It Down the Middle — Really???

Most all of us are aware that this is a community property state. So what exactly does that mean when it comes time to splitting community assets in a divorce. Let’s look at the global explanation first and then I will attempt to give you my 2 cents or make that 1 cent; if we split it. Community property is a term used to describe property and assets acquired after the marriage. Currently, there are nine community property states. As we know, Texas is one of them.

In addition, Puerto Rico operates under a community property doctrine and Alaska allows couples to choose to designate specific items as community property. So, what does all this mean when you divorce?

Does “community property” mean a 50/50 split?

In general terms, yes. During the property distribution process in a community property state, the court will attempt to divide the property as equally as possible between the two parties. This distribution is usually done using monetary values so that if the divorcing couple came in with $100,000 in assets, each should leave with approximately 50% or $50,000.

Division of Assets

So there you go. Pretty simple, huh? All assets are not created equal and not all assets can be easily split. But a greater concern regarding division of assets it– it is suitable, reasonable and appropriate for the asset to be maintained by one of the parities.

Concerns such as the knowledge to manage certain brokerage accounts, rental real estate, small businesses, etc could put an asset in the hands of someone who is challenged to manage it, growth, it and just plain old live with it.

Questions such as , “Is it better to transfer an assets in kind (maintain the actual stock/bond /mutual fund) or liquid the holdings into cash and then transfer can bring into the picture tax concerns and estate planning issues. Should we do a QDRO with retirement assets or just maintain our own plans assuming they are relatively equal? What about the defined benefit plans which many public workers and military have? How do we value a future value asset today ?

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

Well the good news is that if you’re in mediation, or at least working together, sky is the limit. Someone like myself with a Certified Divorce financial Analyst designation can help weed through the myriad of pros and cons along with the attorney to find the best split without necessarily splitting everything.

A divorce is probably one of the most important financial crossroads you will ever encounter. Like my dad used to say , “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Spend a little extra money and get the expert advice…you will be very happy you did.

The Engagement Ring – Who Gets It When the Wedding is Cancelled?

When a marriage proposal is accompanied by an engagement ring, and someone breaks the engagement by refusing to marry, is the recipient legally obligated to return the ring?

The usual rule is the person who breaks the engagement probably loses the ring. However, “probably” does not mean “certainly.”

In our culture, an engagement ring which accompanies a proposal is usually considered to be a gift in contemplation of marriage. The underlying assumption is a gift in the form of an engagement ring is exchanged solely for each party’s promise to marry the other.
CA Civil Code §1590 addresses this type of gift. It states: “Where either party to a contemplated marriage in this State makes a gift of money or property to the other on the basis or assumption that the marriage will take place, in the event that the donee refuses to enter into the marriage as contemplated or that it is given up by mutual consent, the donor may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just.”

The language of this statute suggests the recipient must return the ring (or the value of the ring) if:

  • The recipient refuses to marry; or,
  • Both parties jointly decide not to marry.

However, the rule appears to be different if the donor subsequently refuses to marry. California courts have interpreted this statute to mean the recipient usually has no legal duty to return the ring if the donor refuses to marry.

Unfortunately, there is no certain result if the parties seek court intervention, because:

  • Even though the statute specifically applies to gifts in contemplation of marriage, legal principles of fraud and other defenses for breach of contract may apply. These principles are numerous, complicated and conflicting. One can never predict how a judge or jury will interpret and apply any of those principles.
  • One can never predict what evidence will be brought to the court’s attention. Nor can one predict how, or even whether, a judge or jury will consider or interpret that evidence.
  • The statute itself is ambiguous. It states the donor “… may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just.May” does not mean “certainly.” It means “maybe.” And one can never predict what a judge or jury will “find” to be “just.”

Therefore, depending on who calls off the wedding, the rules are probably as follows:

  • Recipient refuses to marry, due to no fraud by or other fault of the donor: Recipient returns the ring.
  • Donor refuses to marry, due to no fraud by or other fault of the recipient: Recipient keeps the ring. 
  • Both parties jointly decide to cancel the marriage: Recipient returns the ring.

Deviations from tradition may substantially increase this uncertainty. Our cultural tradition usually observes males giving engagement rings to females in heterosexual relationships. There is no certainty about how, or whether, these principles might change if:

  •  A female gives an engagement ring to a male, in a heterosexual relationship; or,
  • A male gives an engagement ring to a male, or a female gives an engagement ring to a female, in a homosexual relationship; or,
  • Both parties give and receive engagement rings; or,
  • One of the parties is transgender, or both parties are transgender.

The material on this document is intended for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal or other professional advice for any purpose. No attorney/client relationship and no confidential relationship of any kind is formed by reviewing or using this material in any way or from any direct or indirect contact with any attorney arising from that review or use. If you need legal or other professional services, consult with the appropriate, competent attorney or other professional.

Five questions parents typically ask in divorce

#1 – How will I survive not seeing my kids every day?

Yes, this is a tough transition but one that needs to happen now that you and your spouse have decided to end your union. Keeping the children’s best interests in mind, mediators work with you to develop an age-appropriate parenting plan that will keep you active in the lives of your child but not active in the life of the other parent. And, keep in mind, the divorce is between the two adults…not between the children and either of the parents.

#2 – How do we work out a schedule for the children in two houses?

Some of the important things to look at include the age of your child, your work schedules, do you travel, and geographical distance between the two houses relative to the location of the child’s school.  The important thing is the child get to see each of you regularly and predictably, without interference from either parent.  It is the parents’ responsibility to” facilitate” (not impede) the children seeing the other parent consistently, predictably and safely!  Several types of parenting plans (i.e. physical custody)are  available and designed to be age-appropriate yet flexible enough to meet the needs of the individual family.  Private and court-appointed mediators are available to help parents design effective plans.  And, be prepared to change the plan as the children get older – their needs change and the plan should too!

#3 – What to do when Mom and Dad can’t stand the sight of each other?

This is certainly understandable in divorce…you’ve decided to end your relationship…the last thing you want to do is see each other! AND, the last thing your kids want to see is the two of still fighting even though you’ve ended the marriage…the stress is too much for them, not to mention both of you.  Through structured parenting plans, transitions through the children attending school is best for the children while also minimizing the need for Mom and Dad to see each other.  We can also help you identify “neutral” exchanges when transitions happen outside of school time.  This is MUCH better for the child and definitely much better for you!

#4 – What is co-parenting vs. parallel parenting?  Which is right for me?

Here are several key highlights to consider:

  • Parents communicate regularly.
  •  Parents communicate over emergencies.
  •  Parents can communicate in person or
    over the phone.
  •  Parents use email, text messaging, or a
    third party (attorney, mediator or
    mutually agreed person).
  •  Major decisions about the child are
    discussed jointly.
  •  Major decisions are “communicated”
    rather than discussed.
  •  Parents work together as needed to
    resolve issues related to the child.
  •  Households are managed separately.  Each
    makes decisions about the child when s/he is
    in their household.
  •  Parents work together in the best
    interest of the child.
  •  Parents work separately for the best
    interests of the child.

 #5 – How do we tell the children?

A child’s age is another significant factor in how a child reacts to the changes that come with divorce. They ARE impacted differently at different age ranges.  Be aware of what is best to say…and NOT to say.

Still not sure? Get some professional guidance BEFORE you tell the children.   And, seriously consider providing the child or children with some short-term therapy/counseling so they have a “safe” place to talk about what is going on.  Talking to YOU is not necessarily safe!