Family mediation can be an effective alternative to expensive court litigation. However, private mediators charge fees.
Angela and Bill attend a consultation. They learn that mediation typically costs less than a litigated divorce, even when both spouses have children and major disagreements. Yet, they are concerned about the cost of mediation.
1. Hourly Rates
If you and your spouse are unable to agree on key divorce issues, mediation can help you find common ground and compromise. However, mediators charge by the hour and their rates vary.
Attorney-mediators, for example, tend to charge more than mediators with only a legal background. But price shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. Mediators with additional qualifications, such as training in counseling or interpersonal conflict resolution, may be more effective at helping couples overcome challenges during the mediation process.
Some mediators also charge extra fees for things like preparing your final divorce agreement or a custody agreement. Some offer remote or online mediation, which can reduce their overhead costs. Others might require a deposit or advance payment before starting sessions or other services, and then refund the balance if the session or service doesn’t take as long as they estimated.
2. Flat Fees
Some private mediators and mediation services charge a flat fee, which typically covers all sessions, including preparation time. This can reduce uncertainty and encourage clients to participate fully in mediation, knowing that all the time spent managing their case is included in a single up-front fee.
If your case is complicated, it may require the assistance of outside neutral experts such as real estate appraisers, QDRO specialists, tax consultants and counselors, pension valuators, and other professionals. The fees charged by these experts can be significantly lower in the mediation context than in court proceedings.
Some mediators also offer reduced rates for qualified couples who qualify based on their income and financial situation. Qualifying couples are matched with an Accredited Professional Mediator and an Apprentice-Mediator who work together to mediate your case. This combination of experience and new talent ensures that your case is being managed effectively at a reasonable cost. This is a great option for those seeking to avoid expensive and uncertain litigation.
3. Session Fees
In addition to the mediator’s hourly fee, the session fees include all preparation work (conferences with attorneys and parties, reviewing documents, research), a working lunch for those present at the mediation session (full day only) and post-mediation telephone and email conferences. Fees are usually divided equally between the parties, but are determined on a case-by-case basis.
We request that a deposit equal to the full amount of time requested for mediation be paid in advance of your scheduled session. The deposit is refundable if we receive a cancellation or rescheduling notice not less than ten days before the session date.
While a private mediator may cost more than court-sponsored or community mediation, it is important to remember that a comprehensive settlement of all issues in your divorce is likely to save you significant legal costs. A single day of litigation, with its many inefficiencies and delays, is often far more costly than five full sessions of mediation with a knowledgeable, experienced professional.
4. Fees for Document Preparation
For example, a family law case that involves complex assets may require an expert real estate appraiser or financial analyst to help with property division. These experts may charge a fee to prepare a report for the mediator and the parties.
Generally, it costs less to hire nonlawyer mediators than lawyers for private mediation sessions. However, the specialized training and credentials of your mediator are important to consider as well.
Some private mediators offer a sliding scale to take income into account for their hourly rates. Additionally, if your case is appropriate for mediation through a court program, you can often attend your first session for free.
Mediation can save couples tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which they can put to better use for themselves and their families. Investing in quality mediation services can also prevent you from having to return to court years after your divorce to discuss an asset or issue that wasn’t covered during your negotiations.