The average divorce lawyer in CA costs $330 an hour, and the average hourly rate for a divorce mediator is closer to $450. So, if you are considering a divorce through mediation, you may be wondering: how long will this take?
The shortest and most truthful answer is also the most unsettling: however long it takes for you and your spouse to agree on a settlement!
Despite the higher hourly rates, couples do find that their divorces tend to be shorter, less painful, and less costly with mediation when compared to working with lawyers or worse, going to trial.
Here, we’ve provided an overview of the divorce mediation process with some rough estimates for how long each part of the process will take.
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Factors in your divorce
The more complicated your divorce, the more time you’ll spend in mediation. There are a few specific factors to consider when envisioning the process and how it might go for you and your spouse.
How many assets do you have? The more you own as a couple, the more issues you’ll need to resolve about who gets what. If you have a house, you’ll have to hash out whether you’ll sell it and divide the proceeds or, if not, who gets to live there. What about your favorite sofa? The RV?
How much debt do you have? In short, it’s not just about what you have. It’s also about what you still owe and who will pay it. You’ll need to decide with your spouse who will pay the lease on your car, the mortgage on your house, and each credit card bill. Maybe Nancy needs the car for work but feels Fred should pay for it. Who will pay the balance on that line of credit you’ve been charging household expenses to?
Do you have children? There are dozens of decisions regarding how you will share parenting privileges with your spouse post-divorce. Who makes the decisions about schooling, medical treatment, and extracurricular activities? Where will the child live? What will the visitation schedule look like?
How willing are you to compromise? Some issues might be easy to resolve, and others might be more contentious. If you can’t foresee meeting halfway on specific issues, you can be sure that those are the ones you’ll spend longer working on with your mediator.
Your First Meeting
At your first meeting, you and your spouse will sign paperwork indicating that you agree to share the sensitive and confidential details of your divorce with your mediator. Then, the mediator will discuss your goals for the mediation process with you and your spouse. They’ll provide you with a list of documents they’ll need from you to proceed with the rest of the mediation process.
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Discussing The Issues
After your first meeting with your mediator, you and your spouse will go through the issues, one at a time, until you can agree to resolve your disagreements and come to a compromise. These sessions can run from one to three hours. If the issues are particularly contentious, you may need to hash each of them out over the course of several sessions.
Meeting One-on-One, or Caucuses
Discussing particularly contentious issues in person or in front of your spouse can be emotionally charged. To help you diffuse that tension and reach an agreement, a mediator might meet with you and your spouse separately on these knotty issues to get a sense of what you’re really after and what your true concerns are. These one-on-one meetings are sometimes called “caucuses.”
We’ll paint a picture for you. Let’s imagine that Sam and Pat have a heated disagreement over custody. For reasons Sam doesn’t understand, Pat doesn’t want him to have the kids over the weekend. Pat offers other days, but they’re days when Sam is at work! Bret, their mediator, meets with Pat privately to get to the bottom of the issue. Pat doesn’t want to tell Sam that the real problem is that she doesn’t trust two particular friends of Sam’s around the kids. However, she doesn’t want to say that, fearing that it will bring their tense negotiations hit an ignition point. Whereas Pat may not be able to express her needs in a diplomatic way, Bret can. This is the purpose of one on one meetings with a mediator.
After getting to the bottom of the genuine concerns, the mediator will bring the couple back together and work on a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
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The Average Length of Mediation
The average couple going through an amicable divorce in California using mediation will spend about three or four months on the process and pay about $5,000.
For less than amicable situations, the duration can certainly be longer, and the cost will be correspondingly higher.
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. If you require legal advice, please contact a licensed attorney in your local area.