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.

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!

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.