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Costs and Fees of Divorce Mediation

The divorce mediation process is significantly less costly than divorce litigation.

The typical or average divorce costs each party $7,500 to $15,000 by the time everything is done.

That same matter when mediated, would cost about $2,500 in divorce mediation fees, plus $2,000 in attorney fees for preparation and review of legal documents.

Mediation Fees
Consultant Fees
Filing Fees

If the parties prepare their own divorce papers without an attorney the cost of mediation alone is usually under $1,500 or 1/10 of the cost of the average litigated divorce.

Depending upon the complexity of the issues and the level of cooperation between the parties, the mediation and final judgment could be as low as $2,000 total for a complete divorce.

The longer it takes, the more it costs!

Another hidden cost is the time it takes to finish the divorce. Divorce mediation usually produces an agreement within a couple of months and then you are divorced. In litigation, the period to file an answer to the complaint is 35 days by itself. Is it any wonder that the typical litigated divorce as used in the above example would take from 9 months to 24 months to complete? That same divorce in the mediation process can be completed within 2 to 4 months.

To further clarify the cost advantage of the mediation process, we provide an illustration of fees charged and costs incurred in the typical divorce case example.

Obviously, these are estimates, and the actual amount of time and expense incurred would vary based upon the complexity of the issues, the level of cooperation and the emotional state of the parties. However, by providing a detailed example, it becomes easier to understand how and where money is spent in the Divorce Mediation process.


Mediation Fees

Courts rules affect how certified mediators charge fees, but the overall process is the same.

The table below sets forth the costs for the Mediation portion of the typical divorce case. The amounts reflect the total that is typically divided between the parties. For assigned cases the Court Rules require each party to pay half the fees after the mediator has expended three hours of time. As noted, this is the only difference between assigned and voluntary cases. You will not receive different treatment whether yours is an assigned or a volutary case.

Our firm charges a retainer fee for all Divorce Mediations. For assigned cases, the fee is due before the beginning of the Caucus. For voluntary cases, the fee is due before the Initial Assessment. If the mediator determines the case is not suitable for mediation, then there is a partial refund.1

In the majority of cases, 6 to 8 joint sessions are needed to resolve all of the issues in the case. In the typical example we are assuming 8 joint sessions, 2 caucuses, all out of session document review and the preparation of the Memo of Understanding, when we estimated $2,925 for the mediation fee. Only the most comlex cases would need more sessions than outlined in this example and most cases finish with less than $2,500 in mediation fees. Remember, in mediation the fees are splilt so in most cases its only $1,250.00 to arrive at a settlement.

Phase
Time / Action
Cost
Initial Assessment
Review background documents and history of parties, prepare the agenda and conduct initial joint session with both parties.
$225 - $6751
Meet each client in a single session outside the presence of the other party.
$450
Two joint sessions with the parties to identify the concerns and the overall concept for settlement.2
$450
Two joint sessions with the parties to work out all of the details for settlement.2
$450
Retainer
Payment made to the mediator to accept the case for mediation.3
$1,500
Additional Sessions
Each Session is up to one hour, typically once a week. In rare cases, sessions will be longer or more frequent than weekly. Longer sessions are charged hourly. Sessions that are outside of normal business hours are subject to a $50 surcharge.
$225/$2754
Hourly Rate
The hourly rate charged for Mediator's time outside of sessions. Telephone consultation with attorneys, appraisers or clients, drafting documents, preparing the memorandum of understanding.
$225

1 All or part of the fee may be returned if one or both of the parties are not suitable candidates for mediation.

2 There is no chronological order to the joint session phases. Typically, an issue is addressed until it is resolved. Therefore it could be viewed as Issues Identification, Agreement and Compromise as 4 sessions total.

3 For all cases where the retainer fee is paid and the case successfully concludes in an agreement, the preparation of the Mediator's Memo of Understanding is included at an addional cost based on the hourly rate. In the event the mediator determines after the Initial Assessment, that the case is not suitable for mediation then:

  • In the assigned case no Retainer Fee is paid and the case is returned to the litigation calendar;
  • In the voluntary case, the balance of the Retainer Fee is returned to the parties.

4 For any session scheduled on nights or weekends, an additional fee of $50 per session is charged. For assigned cases, the initial session may not be at night or on week ends and must be scheduled for a time period where the Superior Court is open.


Consultant Fees

Most cases will require the use of some consultants either for appraisals, education of the parties, or for expert opinions on value.

The role of the attorney in a Divorce Mediation is as a consultant not as an advocate.

The final step in the process requires that the agreement, written up as a memorandum of understanding by the mediator, be converted into a legal document called a Property Settlement Agreement. Then a lawyer drafts legal papers that are filed with the court so that a final judgment of divorce can be entered by the judge.

Phase
Time / Action
Cost
Legal Issues
While general backgound information about divorce law, support and parenting is provided by the mediator, it is expected that each party will consult with a mediation friendly attorney concerning specific legal issues that may arise.
$1,000
($500 by each party)
Valuation or Appraisal
Assume a pension valuation and a real estate appraisal in this example.
$500
Document Preparation
The Memo of Understanding is written by the mediator, however, it is not the Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). The PSA is a legal document that must be prepared. Our firm offers the parties a choice of how to proceed:
  1. The PSA is prepared by our firm in lieu of the Memo of Understanding: $500 (assumed in this example)
  2. One of the party's attorney will prepare the PSA based on the Memo of Understanding: $1,000 +/-
$500 - $1,000+/-
Pleadings and Court Appearance
This example assumes that one of the attorneys will prepare the Complaint, Judgment of Divorce and other documents to file with the court and will schedule and appear at the final dissolution court date. The other attorney will review the documents, and prepare an Entry of Appearance for the other party pro se and will not appear in court. Both parties would appear in court. If the other party also wanted an attorney to appear in court add $1,000 to the $250 shown.
$1,250/$250

The attorney fees estimated are typical of what our firm would charge for those services when another firm has mediated the case. The attorneys to whom we refer our mediation clients, typically charge similar fees.


Filing Fees

The filing fees are based upon the number of children and the types of pleadings that are required. There could be a complaint, acknowledgement of service and default; a complaint and entry of appearance (assumed in our example) or a complaint, answer and counter-claim, answer to counter-claim, and a dual judgment of divorce.

The way the pleadings are drafted, filed and pursued, is based upon the advice of each party's attorney.

Phase
Time / Action
Cost
Filing Fees
A complaint for divorce must be filed by the plaintiff. It is assumed that a complaint based on mental cruelty (similar to irerecolcialble differences), with two children is filed. It is also assumed that the defendant is not served and simply files an entry of appearance.
$250/$135
$275/$160


 
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