Divorce Mediation is one of the one of the most popular methods of divorce in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Amanda Gordon, esq. is a mediator trained in divorce mediation and collaborative law.
1. What is Divorce Mediation?
Gordon Family Law offers divorce mediation or divorce without court. 100% of family law disputes will eventually reach settlement, but how you get to this settlement is a choice. Divorce Mediation offers clients and families the ability to control the process and make informed customizable decisions about their future.
2. What are the benefits of Divorce Mediation?
Cost. Divorce mediation costs less than hiring two litigation attorneys. Instead of hiring two attorneys - one for each spouse - you typically only hire one divorce mediator. CLICK ON THIS LINK TO SEE THE COST COMPARISON CHART
Creativity. Divorce mediation is designed to help find the optimal solution for a family. The Court system is designed to craft a fair solution. While many solutions may be fair, not all solutions are optimal. Divorce mediation allows a couple to be creative when it comes to dividing financial assets. Maybe the family home is more important to one party and maybe one party would rather keep their IRA intact. Divorce Mediation allows a family to come up with creative solutions that can meet everyones needs, not just the needs identified and defined by the Court.
Closure. Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences. Litigation is primarily an adversarial process. In a Litigated Divorce, the focus is on each side winning and losing. Divorce Mediation is not an adversarial process. In Divorce Mediation, we use the law as a guide and focus on helping your family adjust to a new structure. Even though you and your spouse may not live together, Divorce Mediators craft solutions keeping in mind that you will always be a family.
3. How long does Divorce Mediation take?
Divorce Mediation is usually significantly faster than litigation. We find that most couples are able to agree on all issues and create an agreement in four to six meetings over two or three months. When parties reach agreements in mediation, we recommend that these agreements be memorialized in writing and are happy to provide this service.
What if I want my own attorney?
You may have your own attorney at any point in divorce mediation. The parties decide what roles a consulting attorney plays in mediation. Attorneys can attend mediation, review agreements, and be there for support and guidance. Gordon Family Law encourages clients to have consulting attorneys for review of any settlement agreement drafted during mediation.
4. How much does Divorce Mediation cost?
There are two things that affect the cost of mediation. One is the cost of the Meditator per hour and the second is how many hours the mediation takes. Mediation sessions are typically between 1-3 hours. Mediators typically charge between $250 - $500 per hour. If you want your Mediator to draft a settlement agreement, those agreements take between 5 and 10 hours. Last, in California, the filing fee and miscellaneous costs are around $500. Depending on the details of your case, additional professionals like financial analysts or tax professionals may also be needed. Adding all of these costs together, a typical mediated divorce (including filing fees) will run about $4,000 - $10,000.
While the sticker price of this can be a shock, unfortunately divorce is expensive. Divorce Mediation reduces lawyer fees because there are fewer total lawyer hours in each mediation, there are lower court costs, and if both parties are a good fit for mediation then the costs are more predictable.
Many prospective clients are surprised to discover what makes a divorce more complicated and expensive. For example, the total value of your martial assets matters less than the number of encumbrances on the property (such as a mortgage or loan). Another surprising complication are tax issues related to spousal support.
What do you charge?
Gordon Family Law offers divorce mediation for a combination of flat fee and billable hours.
We charge a flat fee for preparing your Marital Settlement Agreement and any Court filings. We charge an hourly rate for any in-person meetings, complicated non administrative emails, and phone calls that are longer than 10 minutes.
If you need special services, such as a legal research letter or memo on tax issues or child support, we will give you advance notice of what you can expect to be charged. We've received positive feedback in this approach - as clients feel in control and clear about the total costs.
5. When is Divorce Mediation not appropriate?
If only one party wants mediation, it will not work. For mediation to be successful both parties must be willing to make compromises and hear the other side. Mediators specialize in de-escalating sticky issues around money, property, and parenting. However, Mediators cannot force you to reach an agreement nor are they able to act as a Judge. If you or your spouse are unlikely to work together to reach an agreement, mediation is not a good fit. If you think your spouse is hiding assets/income, that there is a threat of domestic violence, or there is a history of abuse, mediation may not be for you.
While Divorce Mediators do get paid by the hour, no Divorce Mediator wants to prolong an already stressful and uncomfortable process.
6. What if Mediation does not work, do I have to start the divorce over?
Sometimes Divorce Mediation fails. This can be due to lack of communication between the parties, or if one party is set on reconciling the marriage, or even due to fit between the Mediator and one of the parties. However, even if Mediation fails and Court has to rule on some of the issues, Mediation ensures that the other issues are already resolved. Divorce Mediation is designed to quickly move couples to the points of disagreement or sticky issues.
Beyond the division of assets and custody, many clients find that Divorce Mediation also helps with post divorce transitions. Mediation is designed to help you learn to communicate with your ex-spouse in your new roles as ex-s and not married partners.