If you're seeking to peacefully end your marriage in Washington State, divorce mediation is your best option.
And we're not just saying that because we're Washington State divorce mediators!
While other states have only recently begun promoting the use of divorce mediation, Washington State has been working to offer its residents alternative dispute resolution options as opposed to the adversarial legal system since the 1980's.
And it’s that long history and community-wide commitment to keeping a divorcing couple away from litigation that makes us proud to practice in the Evergreen State!
So whether you choose to mediate face-to-face in one of our King County offices, or take a more high-tech route using our "Mediation-On-The-Go" format (aka online divorce mediation), our mediation services are specifically designed to help smart couples divorcing in Washington State avoid the destructive process of attorney-driven litigation.
If you live anywhere in the State of Washington, you and your spouse can mediate your no-fault uncontested divorce with Joe using our innovative and convenient Mediation-On-The-Go™ online divorce mediation option.
Or if you prefer, you can mediate with Joe face-to-face in the following locations by appointment:
Seafirst Fifth Avenue Plaza:
Bellevue Skyline Tower:
The answer is: Yes!
If you don't live in King County, or near Seattle or Bellevue, you can use our online mediation format (we call it Mediation-On-The-Go or virtual divorce mediation) and still get the same great results.
In fact, our clients love the convenience so much that 90% of them choose to mediate with us in this format, even when we have an office near them.
In Washington State, divorce mediation may either be conducted using a court-supported Washington State Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), or conducted privately by working with divorce mediators like us.
And while a DRC is certainly a viable conflict resolution option for those with simple cases, they may not be best equipped to handle the complexities that most divorcing clients typically bring with them.
With that in mind, at a very high level, the Washington State divorce process using private mediation with us would proceed as follows:
The parties (you and your spouse) would engage the services of divorce mediator Joe Dillon - instead of using divorce lawyers to litigate or engaging in a collaborative law process.
Next, the divorcing parties would set a good foundation for their negotiations by completing Equitable Mediation's discovery process which is comprised of completing a series of proprietary forms and worksheets which provides the mediator with a better understanding of the couple's financial picture and situational complexities.
Assuming the parties are open to negotiation and compromise, during a private and confidential mediation session or sessions, the mediator would use his expertise in a variety of alternative dispute resolution techniques to identify, help and guide the parties to settlement on all the necessary issues (parenting plan, child support, spousal maintenance / alimony, and community property division) in their divorce case. The mediator does not give legal advice, take sides or make decisions for the parties. Instead, he helps both parties negotiate and reach fair solutions that work for each of them (and their children).
Upon the divorcing spouses reaching settlement, the mediator would then draft a document called a Memorandum of Understanding, which memorializes all of the decisions and agreement reached during the mediation sessions pertaining to all the issues.
After the divorce mediation process is completed, the couple would complete their divorce proceedings - choosing the filing option best-suited to their unique needs. They may also wish to have the divorce agreement reviewed by a family law attorney which we encourage, however, it is ultimately the parties' choice as to whether they do so.
In Washington State, issues pertaining to the care and custody of your children are known as "parenting functions" and must be mutually agreed upon by you and your spouse prior to your divorce, and drafted into a document known as a parenting plan.
The parenting plan covers all aspects of how you will work together to ensure your children have the care they need, how you will make decisions that are in their best interests, how each of you will share parenting time with them, and how you will resolve disputes should one arise.
Because there is no specific guidance for couples on how to create a parenting plan that is in the children's best-interests, the help of an experienced and professional mediator to help you through the decision-making process is critical in this very gray area.
To learn more about how parenting plans work and why they’re the most important issue you’ll face in your divorce, please read: Divorce with Kids: The Importance of a Good Parenting Plan.
While every state is required to have some sort of repeatable way for calculating child support, the method by which it is calculated can vary greatly from state to state.
Some states take a percentage of one party's income and give it to the other party. So in effect, one party is paying 100% of the child support.
While in other states, both parents pay child support. Each providing a share of their income for the care of their children, based on the number of overnights the children spend with each parent, and a host of other factors.
Washington State uses a simplified “income-shares” model which takes into account the number of children you have, and your net income. But unlike other states, it does not factor in the number of overnights they spend with each of you. Or really much else for that matter.
The child support number you'll pay or receive comes from a table developed by the State of Washington. Which may or may not meet your family's unique needs.
Add to the mix that a number of other expenses such as college and after-school activities must be negotiated separately, and you've got real potential for disagreement.
That’s why it’s important couples like you and your spouse work with a neutral third party mediator with a financial background - to ensure your children get the financial support they need and help you craft a child support agreement that won't allow them to become economic victims of your divorce.
The payment of money from one ex-spouse to another in Washington State is called spousal maintenance (sometimes referred to as maintenance, spousal support or alimony).
Unlike child support where every state has a guideline on how much a party will pay or receive, with spousal maintenance in Washington, there is no such formula. It is up to the parties to come to agreement on both an amount and a duration.
Which given the emotions most divorcing couples are undoubtedly feeling, can be quite challenging without the help of a neutral third-party expert.
Over our many years in practice, we've developed a number of unique ways to help couples resolve this difficult and emotional issue with great success. We're confident with our help, you and your spouse can come to agreement on spousal maintenance, too.
To learn more about how spousal support works in Washington State, please read: Determining Alimony in Washington State.
The division of marital assets and liabilities is typically the last issue mediating couples will need to discuss, make decisions on, and resolve, in their Washington State divorce.
In the United States, there are two methods used to divide marital assets and liabilities in divorce: equitable distribution and the concept used in the State of Washington known as community property.
Washington is a “community property state” meaning that marital assets and liabilities are split 50-50 unless the parties come to agreement otherwise on their property division.
At first you may think that dividing all marital assets and liabilities should be easy if they are to be split equally. But as we also stated above, the parties can agree otherwise, so equal is not always the case. It’s really up to you and your spouse to decide if the split of your marital assets and liabilities is going to be 50-50.
You also have to determine what marital property is, what the difference between marital and separate property is, and what happens when separate property is converted (transmuted) into community property or vice versa. None of which is very easy to do.
As you can imagine, if couples aren’t working with an experienced mediator with a financial background, this part of the divorce process can not only prove difficult, but costly, as there are a significant number of mistakes that can be made during this part of the process.
To learn more about how community property works in Washington, please read: Community Property and Divorce: Not Always 50-50.
Whether you work inside the home or outside of it, have minor children, grown children or are child-free, have been married a short time or have been together for many years, a divorce in the State of Washington using mediation is the best way to peacefully and cost-effectively end your marriage.
Take the next step and book an initial meeting for you and your spouse.
Or if you’re early in the process, learn how you benefit by mediating your divorce.
While both the Divorce Mediation and Arbitration processes involve gathering information, working with multiple parties, and conversations taking place between the participants and a third-party, there is one significant difference between them.
In arbitration, the solution to the parties’ disagreement is decided by the involved third-party arbitration professional. Whereas divorce mediators believe the solution to the parties disagreement lies with them, and helps them come to it on their own.
We feel divorce mediation is a better alternative than arbitration, as it empowers the parties to make the decisions that are in their mutual best interest. Rather than allowing a total stranger to make decisions for them that may or may not work in their particular case.
Shuttle mediation is where the mediator would help the two spouses resolve the relevant divorce issues (parenting plan, child support, alimony, division of assets and liabilities, etc.) without the spouses being present in the same room.
Shuttle mediation can be useful in cases with special circumstances (where the parties truly do wish to mediate, but they are unwilling or unable to be in the same room at the same time). However, whenever possible, we prefer direct negotiations - working with both spouses at the same time, as we have found this breeds more trust among the parties.
There is no requirement in Washington state for a divorce mediator to be licensed or certified. Virtually anyone can be a divorce mediator. And while that may be a positive in that it can provide Washington state couples alternatives to the adversarial legal system, it's critically important to ensure that the mediator you choose has the proper skills and experience to guide you through your Washington state divorce.
Learn more about how to find a good divorce mediator.
Divorce mediation in Washington requires the parties to both be willing to work together to come to agreement. And while it's perfectly normal for spouses going through a divorce to disagree or have conflict, if the arguing is going to prevent the two of you from having a respectful dialogue, compromising, and coming to agreement, then divorce mediation may not be a viable option.
While both the mediation and collaborative divorce process choose to focus on keeping couples out of family court, there are a significant number of ways in which they are different.
That's why we wrote this helpful article about mediation versus collaborative divorce to help you understand better the significant differences between the two, and the advantages that we feel mediation provides.
Divorce mediators come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some divorce mediators are attorneys, so they may refer to themselves as a "divorce mediation attorney." Other mediators are mental health professionals. While others, like Equitable Mediation founder and divorce mediator Joe Dillon, are financial professionals.
Divorce mediation costs vary depending on the skill level and experience of the divorce mediator, the scope of services included and case complexities.
Each mediator has their own fee structure, but the average cost of mediation is between $7,000 and $10,000.
Fees for our services vary based on case complexity and mediation package chosen. But even the most complex cases cost a fraction of traditional litigation using family law attorneys or collaborative law process.