True or false?
The average cost of divorce mediation is determined solely by the mediator’s hourly rate?
It might be hard to believe, but the hourly rate of the mediator only has some (but not much) bearing on what your divorce mediation costs will ultimately be.
So if it’s not only the hourly rate of the mediator, what other factors should you be concerned about?
The Real Truth Behind Divorce Mediation Costs
In addition to the mediator's hourly rate, there are at least three other factors that contribute to how much your divorce mediation will cost you.
- The competency, skill level and experience of the mediator;
- The services provided by the divorce mediator;
- The thoroughness of the mediator's process.
Let's take a closer look at each of these factors and how each contributes to your divorce mediation costs.
1. The Competency, Skill Level and Experience of the Divorce Mediator is a Factor in The Cost of Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation is an unregulated profession in the United States. That means anyone can call themselves a mediator.
But just because someone calls themself a mediator doesn't mean they're competent or qualified to do so.
Even with training, there's no guarantee someone will have the experience needed to mediate your case successfully.
There are hundreds of training classes being offered for divorce mediation in The United States. So think about how many hundreds of new mediators are being churned out every month.
The market is flooded with inexperienced divorce mediators!
What does it take to be a competent and experienced divorce mediator?
There are four characteristics an experienced and competent mediator must possess:
- The ability to expertly guide two opposing parties through a complex negotiation and ultimately to settlement while remaining neutral at all times;
- The ability to create a series of settlement options for the parties to discuss and consider based on the mediator's involvement with a variety of other cases similar to theirs;
- A command of the complex financial matters surrounding divorce;
- A comprehensive knowledge of and ability to remain current on the issues that may impact a couple's divorce settlement.
You'll rarely find expert mediators like us who practice divorce mediation full-time and possess all of the skills described above. It's more likely you'll come across mental health professionals and divorce lawyers claiming to be divorce mediators.
But when you take a closer look at what it takes to be a competent divorce mediator, you'll see things don't quite add up.
Mental health professionals who mediate part-time:
While mental health professionals are generally good about remaining neutral, given they're only mediating a fraction of the time, their experience is slow to come.
And most every mental health professional we know has told us they're not good with the "money stuff."
Which is bad news for their mediation clients because three of the four matters in divorce directly involve money.
Finally, given they're seeing patients all day and their requirements for continuing education in their primary profession are quite extensive, they're not likely to be spending much time staying on top of recent changes in divorce or mediation.
Then there's the attorney-mediators:
You'll know exactly who they are the minute you get to their websites because it will say they're a litigator, arbitrator, collaborative divorce attorney, mediator, divorce coach, etc.
In other words, they'll be anything you want them to be - as long as you hire them.
And while they may have a command of divorce law, they too fall short in three of the four competency areas. The biggest being neutrality.
Yet the ability to remain a neutral third party (and not give legal advice) is the number one requirement of being a competent divorce mediator.
And when it comes to creating options and guiding parties towards settlement, they're usually in the "tell, don't ask" camp. That's a big problem since a cornerstone of mediation is enabling the parties to control the terms of their settlement, not telling them what to do.
Finally, we all know lawyers are great with words.
But they aren't good with numbers.
Ever wonder why divorce lawyers bring in CPA's, financial advisors and divorce financial analysts (at an extra cost to their clients) to mediation sessions to help resolve a case?
The bottom line is neither mental health mediators nor lawyer-mediators are good options if you want an experienced, competent and highly skilled divorce mediator.
What does the competency and experience of the mediator have to do with mediator fees or the cost of divorce mediation?
The hidden surprises that may crop up down the road coupled with the mistakes that can be made in your agreement will wind up costing you dearly if you’re not careful.
What if an incompetent mediator lets you and your spouse agree to something improper or is unfair to one of you?
Or what if the mediator wasn't neutral or told you what to do and you're just not comfortable with the terms of your agreement?
You'd need to start over and pay another mediator to try to fix the mess the first mediator made. Or worse, you'd find yourself litigating in court unable to resolve the issues required for divorce and having to pay tens of thousands of dollars in addition to what you already paid for your unsuccessful failed mediation.
On the other hand, an experienced and highly skilled divorce mediator will expertly guide you and your spouse through your negotiations and ultimately to a settlement both parties find fair while remaining neutral at all times.
No messes to fix or extra costs to pay because your mediation will have been successful and done right the first time.
2. Understanding the Differences in Divorce Mediation Services and How They Affect The Cost of Mediation
Just as mediators come from different backgrounds, the services a particular mediator provides can vary wildly.
The scope of the services provided by the mediator is another factor that determines how much does a divorce mediation cost.
Support for Divorce Emotions:
Many mediators don’t offer services to help you deal with the intense anger and sadness that often accompanies divorce.
And let’s be honest, it’s not so much that negotiating child support or who gets the house derail a divorce. Rather, it’s the emotions fueling those negotiations that are to blame.
Fail to manage them constructively and there’s a good chance you'll find yourself in court.
Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and wasting years of your life while you, your spouse and your lawyers battle it out in divorce litigation.
But if you find divorce mediators who are skilled in managing divorce emotions and also have a divorce coach available to you throughout the mediation process, it will provide you with the emotional support you need to make the negotiation phase of mediation more productive and improve your settlement outcome.
The Thoroughness of the Negotiations:
Some mediators will ask you and your spouse what you want your agreement to look like and they'll write down whatever you say.
But a mediator that offers a comprehensive divorce mediation service will:
- Expertly and actively guide you through a series of in-depth negotiations on the issues you and your spouse (and your children) face at the time of your divorce - including your parenting plan, timesharing, child support, alimony, division of marital property and a host of other issues;
- Make sure you discuss and come to agreement on all topics required to peacefully and cost-effectively required to end your marriage - even the ones you're not aware of;
- Bring to the table a variety of creative options you may not have considered as potential solutions to your issues;
- And "future-proof" your agreement by providing guidance on what to do when circumstances change.
Working with an expert divorce mediator will eliminate the need for you to return to mediation (or worse yet, court) years after your divorce to discuss something that wasn't covered at the time of your divorce and pay extra fees.
The Drafting of the Agreement:
Speaking of drafting a divorce agreement, some mediators prepare a very basic agreement that leaves out specifics. And some only prepare a bulleted list.
You would then need to pay a drafting attorney an additional $2,500 to $3,500 to re-write your agreement so its intentions are clear.
But if you hire the right mediator and that mediator is highly skilled, he'll draft a comprehensive document called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which outlines in great detail all agreements made during your mediation.
This way you and your spouse know exactly what you both agreed to.
What does the completeness of the services provided by the mediator have to do with divorce mediation costs?
Everything a mediator can do "in-house" at the time of your mediation and includes in the cost of mediation services saves you money, time and stress.
Now and in the future.
3. The Divorce Mediator’s Process Also Contributes to The Cost of Mediation
A mediation process includes a series of forms, worksheets and systems that, in conjunction with an organized approach to document gathering and negotiation, results in a peaceful, fair, child-focused, thorough and cost-effective divorce agreement.
Why is a thorough process so critical to keeping a divorce mediator costs in line?
The divorce process is very complicated, requires a lot of paperwork and has a lot of moving parts.
Not only that, but there will be hundreds of life-changing decisions you and your spouse will need to make.
You'll want to be sure that all of the steps required are covered and carried out in a timely and efficient manner. And completed correctly and in the right order.
Think about it this way:
What do you think would happen if you built a house without first pouring a strong foundation? Or you left out some parts like structural support beams to save on cost?
The roof and walls would have no support and the house would surely come crumbling down!
It would cost you a lot more time and money to knock down and re-build than if you just built the house properly the first time.
A thorough divorce mediation process can go a long way towards making sure all issues are covered properly and in the right order so both spouses can complete mediation in a timely, productive and cost-effective fashion.
Some mediators employ very little, if any, process.
They may give you a high level list of documents to gather or worksheets to fill out and tell you to come back when you’re done.
But they won't tell you where to find these documents or how to complete the worksheets.
They may ask you to prepare a budget. Or to do an accounting of your marital assets and liabilities. But again, offer no guidance on what they mean or how to do this.
Or, they may simply start meeting with you and your spouse without a clear agenda outlining what topics need to be covered in a particular session.
Your mediation will take much longer than is necessary and you will have wasted time and incurred additional costs because the mediator didn't give you the instruction and guidance you needed to have a productive outcome.
On the other hand, working with a divorce mediator who has a thorough process can:
- Ensure you and your spouse correctly complete all needed forms and worksheets and submit all required information the mediator will need to effectively assist you;
- Prepare you both to have a fair and productive negotiation;
- Prevent you from having to return to court in the future to discuss an asset or liability that wasn't discussed during your divorce negotiations. Or miss out on something you may have been entitled to a share of.
- Help you complete your proceedings in a reasonable period of time instead of letting them drag on forever.
Making your divorce mediation cost-effective, efficient and productive.
How Much Does a Mediation Cost? Now You Know the Real Truth!
While the average cost of divorce mediation ranges between $5,000 and $9,000, now you know there is so much more to it than just the mediator's hourly rate.
So if you want to fully understand what your divorce mediation costs will ultimately be, you also need to factor in:
- The competency, skill level and experience of the mediator;
- The scope of services provided by the divorce mediator;
- The thoroughness of the mediator's process.
Before you hire a mediator for your divorce based solely on their hourly rate or the low fee they might have quoted you over the phone, do your research and make sure you're comparing "apples to apples."
Hire a mediator who is experienced, highly skilled, provides a comprehensive service and has a thorough process.
That's the only way to ultimately ensure your divorce mediation will be as cost-effective as possible.
If you want a high quality, all-inclusive flat-fee mediation that results in a fair and thorough agreement and you or your spouse lives in New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York City or Southern California, work with us!
Don't Let Your Divorce Become a Disaster!
Mediate with us instead.
Book an initial meeting for you and your spouse to get started!
Early in the process?
Get our Free eBook to learn about the benefits of mediating your divorce.
Before you go out and hire a divorce lawyer, learn why you owe it to yourself and your children to mediate instead.
Other Useful Resources: