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Cost Saving Tips for Mediation

Couple Working with Mediator

By Alice Ahearn, Partner, Family Law Practice and Pro Bono Practice Chair

Understanding the Cost Variables in Family Mediation

How much is this going to cost? For clients interested in mediation, this question often has the most unsatisfactory answer– I don’t know.

Given that most mediators bill at an hourly rate, the answer depends on the amount of time spent resolving issues with the parties and the time spent drafting an agreement.   

Preparing for Mediation

Pre-mediation organization can help reduce costs and streamline the resolution process. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Be organized. Ideally, you will have prepared a spreadsheet or other listing of all the marital assets and debts. Having this information ready before mediation will save you not only costs, but time as it can move the process forward more quickly. Remember, your spouse doesn’t have to take your word for account balances or value of assets, so be prepared to have statements at hand for all accounts in your name.  
  • Be prepared. Think about what issues you want to discuss at mediation before engaging a mediator. For example, do you want to discuss spousal support and property division or just property division? Maybe property division is simple, but custody is complex. Knowing in advance what issues you want to work on with the mediator will help the mediator assess how much time to allocate per issue and give you a better gauge of how long the process will take.
  • Communicate. Talk to your spouse about what you both want to get out of mediation. Even if your marriage isn’t working, one thing you can likely both agree on is that you would prefer to keep more of your marital money for yourself rather than spend it on mediators or lawyers. The more you agree on coming into mediation, the less time you spend in mediation and, therefore, the less money spent.

Effective Communication: The Key to Efficient Family Mediation

Spend some time thinking about, and, if possible, discussing these issues before coming to mediation:

  • Financial
    • What are our assets and how do we want to divide them (bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles)?
    • What are our debts and how will we pay them, or who will pay them?
    • Do we need any help dividing personal property (furniture, clothing, wine collections, pictures) or can we do that without the help of a mediator?
    • What are we going to do with the house? Are we going to sell or is one of us going to keep the house? Can one of us afford to buy out the other’s interest and qualify to refinance the property? 
    • Can we agree on values for property, or do we need to arrange appraisals?
  • Children
    • What does custody look like if we’re living in different households?
    • How will where we live – once we live physically separate and apart – impact our custody schedule?
    • Do we want to agree on any financial provisions regarding our children, such as paying for extracurricular activities or college?
    • Do we agree on what schools our children should attend?
    • Do we agree on what doctors/medical professionals our children see?
    • Are there any special needs or costs of our child that the mediator should be aware of or that we need to allocate cost sharing for?
  • Support 
    • If we’re still living in the same house, when will one of us move out?
    • How will we afford two households?
    • Will one of us need support from the other?
    • What is each of our incomes? What is the cost of health insurance? What is the cost of work related child care?
  • Taxes
    • Are we planning to file jointly or separate?
    • Who claims the children?

It is unusual for couples to be in agreement on all issues in advance of mediation, but even small agreements can be strong building blocks for overall settlement.

Contact Experienced Mediators at Geller Law Group for More Information

Please reach out to the Geller Law Group if you’d like to schedule an initial mediation consultation.  

See related:  

Alice Ahearn

Alice AhearnPartner
OFFICE: 703-687-6188 ext. 118
DIRECT: 703-982-6926
aahearn@thegellerlawgroup.com

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