Divorce Mediation Seattle and Washington State

If you're looking to peacefully divorce in Washington State mediation is your best option. And we're not just saying that because we're Seattle 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 adversarial litigation, since the 1980's.

That's why if you're in the early stages of planning for an uncontested divorce in Washington State, and want to avoid the destructive process of lawyer led litigation, you're smart to want to learn more about mediation. And below, you'll find answers to common questions about divorce mediation in Washington State.

Or, if you and your spouse already know you want to mediate, and you live in King County or anywhere else in the Evergreen State, book an initial meeting to learn more about our online divorce mediation services.

Book an Initial Meeting
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The most notable observation about working with Equitable Mediation was that the process Joe and Cheryl follow is really well described on their web site, through all the documentation they provide and make available, and via the meetings we had with them.

I am impressed by how organized they were and how smoothly our mediation went working with them!

- S.S.
former client, Bellevue, WA
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What I most appreciated about working with Equitable Mediation was their efficient and well-structured process, Cheryl's help in preparation, and Joe's constructive tone and approach during the mediation.

- S.D.
former client, Seattle, WA
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Joe and Cheryl were extremely professional and their thorough divorce mediation process was efficient and well-executed.

- L.L.
former client, Redmond, WA
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Cheryl and Joe went above and beyond throughout the entire process.

Joe did a great job of keeping the mediation going with just the right amount of personality.

And I appreciated the kind ear and warm support from Cheryl during these difficult circumstances.

- S.G.
former client, Mercer Island, WA
 

How is mediation conducted for divorces in Washington State?

In Washington State divorce mediation may either be conducted using a family law court-supported Washington State Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), or conducted privately by working with Seattle divorce mediators like us.

And while a DRC is certainly a viable conflict resolution option for those with simple cases, it may not be best equipped to handle the complexities that most divorcing clients typically have.

With that in mind, at a very high level, the Washington State divorce process using private mediation (with us) would be 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 engage in a collaborative law process.

  • Next, you would complete our discovery process which includes completing a series of proprietary forms and worksheets to provide the mediator with a better understanding of your financial picture and situational complexities. Discovery sets a good foundation for the negotiations that follow.

  • Next, during a private and confidential mediation session or sessions conducted online, the mediator will use his expertise to help and guide you and your spouse to agreement on all the necessary issues (time sharing, child support, spousal maintenance / alimony, and community property division) in your divorce case. The mediator does not give advice, take sides or make decisions for you. Instead, he helps you and your spouse negotiate and reach fair solutions that work for each of you (and your children).

  • Upon reaching a settlement agreement, the mediator would then draft a document called a Memorandum of Understanding, to memorialize all of the decisions and agreements reached during the mediation sessions pertaining to all the issues.

  • After the mediation process is completed, you would complete your divorce proceedings - choosing the filing option best-suited to your unique needs. You may also wish to have the divorce agreement reviewed by a family law attorney which we encourage, however, it is ultimately your choice as to whether to do so.

 

What are the issues that need to be resolved in divorces in Washington State?

For couples with no children or grown children, there are two primary subject areas that need to be resolved in a divorce in Washington State. For couples with minor children, there are four:

 

Creation of a Parenting Plan

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Washington State issues pertaining to care and child custody 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 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 a dispute should it 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 family mediator to help you through the decision-making process is critical in this very gray area.

 

To learn more, read: Divorce with Kids: The Importance of a Good Timesharing Arrangement.

 

 

Determining Washington State Child Support

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While every state is required to have some sort of repeatable way for determining 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, as well as 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.

 

To learn more about how child support works in Washington State, read: How to Safeguard Your Kids' Well-Being with Washington State Child Support.

 

 

Determining Spousal Maintenance

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The payment of money from one divorcing 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 the difficult and emotional issue of spousal maintenance with great success.

 

To learn more, read: Determining Alimony in Washington State.

 

 

Resolving Washington State Community Property

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The division of marital assets and liabilities is another 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 previously 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 Seattle couples aren’t working with an experienced mediator with a financial acumen, 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.

 

To learn more, read: Washington State Community Property: Not Always 50-50.

 

 

Do I also need a divorce lawyer if I am using Seattle divorce mediation?

There is no requirement in Seattle, King County or Washington State that parties have to retain a lawyer as involving attorneys is a matter of personal choice.

While some clients choose to hire a Seattle family law attorney to review their settlement agreement (known as a Memorandum of Understanding in mediation) or provide legal advice during or after the mediation process, others explicitly choose to divorce without the involvement of lawyers.

This is your divorce, so if you’d like the perspective of a divorce lawyer on a particular issue(s), you are encouraged to do so.

 

 

Do my spouse and I have to be in agreement on any or all matters prior to starting the Washington State divorce process?

No! In fact, many couples specifically wait for the mediator to help them resolve the issues.

This way, they can make certain all of the necessary issues will be covered fully - in the appropriate order and given the attention and time required.

 

 

Will divorce mediation work in complex divorces in Washington State?

While we can’t speak for all Washington State mediators, for us the answer is yes!

Most of our cases have a high degree of complexity including complicated compensation, variable compensation, deferred compensation, divorces involving a business, high assets, divorce after long-term marriage, and grey divorce.

 

 

How does mediation compare to a collaborative divorce?

While the goal of both of these divorce options is to help couples avoid court, there are significant ways they differ.

You can learn more in our post: Divorce Mediation Versus Collaborative Law Process.

 

 

What's the difference between a divorce mediator and a divorce mediation Seattle attorney?

Mediators come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some are attorneys, so they may refer to themselves as a "divorce mediation attorney." Some are mental health professionals. While others, like Equitable Mediation founder, Joe Dillon, have a financial background.

 

 

Can a divorce mediator give me legal advice?

No, they cannot - even if they are an attorney-mediator. In their role as a neutral third party, they must not provide legal advice.

You can learn more about the differences between divorce mediation and divorce lawyers in this post.

 

 

How much does a divorce cost in Washington State when mediation is used?

Divorce mediation costs vary depending on the skill level and experience of the mediator, scope of services included and case complexities.

If you’re wondering about the cost of divorce mediation, you might be focusing on the mediator’s hourly rate, or in our case, flat-fee.

But there are a number of other equally, if not more important factors contributing to the overall cost of divorce mediation.

 

One is the mediator’s experience.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well of course the more experience a mediator has, the higher their fee will be.” But that’s not what we’re talking about.

An experienced mediator is going to be sure to cover present and known and potential future issues. This way, you’ll likely avoid having to return to mediation (or worse yet, court) and spend more money down the line when circumstances change.

It’s expensive (and stressful) to try to resolve a missed issue and modify your divorce decree, so the more thorough your agreement is at the time of your divorce will be a cost-avoidance for you in the future!

 

Another factor attributed to cost are the services included in the mediation.

For example, some Seattle mediators like us include divorce coaching for emotional support, while other mediators don’t.

An experienced mediator drafts a thorough written agreement, while others write a simple agreement that would need to be re-written by an attorney at an additional cost to you.

And some mediators require each spouse to hire an attorney to review their agreement, while others who believe in the power of self-determination, don’t.

You can work with an inexperienced mediator for what you think is a low fee, but once mediation is completed, spend another few thousand dollars to have your agreement re-written by an attorney, or potentially another $10,000- $20,000 in the future to resolve missed issues.

Or you can choose an experienced mediator who might have a higher fee, but who will provide a more thorough service, written agreement, and resolution on present and anticipated future issues, which in turn, will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Each mediator has their own mediation fee structure, but the average cost of divorce mediation in Washington State is between $7,000 to $10,000

Fees for our divorce mediation services vary depending on mediation package chosen. But the good news is that even the most complex cases cost a fraction of traditional litigation using family law attorneys or collaborative law process.

 

 

How do I know if mediation is a realistic option for my uncontested divorce in Seattle?

Mediation is a feasible option if:

  • You and your spouse are both ready to take part in a truthful and transparent negotiation which requires full financial disclosure;
  • There is some level of mutual respect between you and your spouse and you’re both ready to actively participate - this is because mediation is a voluntary process;
  • You would like to have an experienced professional mediator help you identify, discuss and negotiate the required divorce issues, but you want full control over your divorce agreement and want to make your own decisions;

High Quality Divorce Mediation Seattle

For a high quality mediation in Washington State that results in a fair and thorough agreement, choose Equitable Mediation.

We mediate each case personally and do everything we can to make divorce less expensive, less time-consuming and less stressful for couples and their children.

Take the next step to a peaceful divorce and book an initial meeting for you and your spouse.

Book an Initial Meeting

 

Or if you’re early in the process, learn about the benefits of mediating.

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Where are Equitable Mediation's King County, Washington Locations?

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If you or your spouse live anywhere in Washington State, you can mediate your divorce with Joe using our convenient online divorce mediation services.

While most Seattle divorce mediators only recently began practicing online as a reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve been mediating online since 2011!

And have successfully mediated cases throughout the Seattle metropolitan area, for clients in King county, Snohomish county and Pierce county.

 

Main Phone: (425) 329-8609

Open: 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday

 

 

Other Questions About Divorce Mediation Washington State:


Are divorce mediation and arbitration the same thing?

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 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.

 

I’ve heard about something called “Shuttle Mediation.” Can you explain a bit more about what that is, and if Equitable Mediation uses that approach?

Shuttle mediation is where the mediator would help the two spouses resolve the relevant issues (parenting plan, child support, alimony, division of assets and liabilities, etc.) without both of them 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 such as with domestic violence).

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.

 

Who can be a divorce mediator in Washington State?

There is no requirement in Washington State for a mediator to be licensed or certified. That means anyone can call themselves Washington State mediators.

And while that may be a positive in that it can provide divorcing 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 divorce in Washington State.

It's not uncommon for attorneys to call themselves a "divorce mediation lawyer" or a "mediation attorney" as they feel attending law school or passing the bar also qualifies them to be divorce mediators.

But in our opinion, litigating or advocating for one party is an entirely different skill set than acting as a neutral third party and assisting both parties towards fair and equitable resolution.

Learn more about how to find a good mediator.

 

Is divorce mediation appropriate for me and my spouse if we argue a lot?

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 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 mediation may not be a viable option.

 

What’s the difference between a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA)?

In mediation, a neutral third party mediator will draft what’s known as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which contains all of the agreements the parties made with regards to items that affect their family such as parenting time and decision-making, child support, spousal maintenance and property division.

After mediation is completed, the agreements outlined in the MOU are then formally drafted by a qualified professional into a legally binding document known as the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), which is signed by the parties and is one of the (many) legal documents that are submitted to the court to finalize the parties' divorce.

 

King County Divorce Resources: