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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common divorce mediation questions:

1. How does Mediation save money?

Over the past 20 years, many couples have used divorce mediation because it minimizes animosity and provides more control over the divorce process. However, today even more people are seeking to use divorce mediation, primarily because it saves them money.

2.  What are the costs of divorce mediation?

In divorce mediation, the cost is usually between $1000 and $5000 – depending on the complexity of the issues involved and the level of disagreement of the spouses.  It is rare to exceed $5000.

3. What are the costs of attorneys for divorce and litigated divorce?

With litigated divorces, costs can go sky high. Each party usually pays their own attorney a retainer of at least $5000, and fees go up from there. The average litigated divorce in San Diego costs $20,000.  It is not unheard of for fees to exceed $100,000.

4.  What About Do-It-Yourself Divorce?

With do-it-yourself divorces, or a paralegal “typing” service, you may only spend a few hundred dollars. However, you will not receive full legal information and may end up in court later on – fixing mistakes or addressing issues you did not anticipate – at a much greater cost.

5.  Can you Pay As You Go?

In most divorce mediations, you pay for each mediation session at the time of the session. Then you pay for the preparation of court papers before each document is prepared. Some mediators require a small retainer at the beginning to cover costs which arise between sessions.

With this approach, parties can proceed with the divorce at the same pace as their finances allow. For example, after some parties have made all of their decisions, they decide to wait a month or two before paying to have the Marital Settlement Agreement prepared.

6.  Is there a Shared Cost?

Usually, each party pays one-half of the costs of the mediation. However, there are also many cases in which one party agrees to pay all the costs, or a higher percentage than the other. In some cases, one party pays for the mediation as costs occur, then gets reimbursed for one-half in the final property division.

In litigated divorces, the costs are often driven by one party-who can force deadlines for discovery and hearings on the other party. This drives the other party’s costs upwards.

7. What about Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce involves professionals from several disciplines. These include psychologists; mediators; accountants; financial planners; lawyers and vocational evaluators. In some cases all of these specialists are necessary. In other situations the issues to be resolved do not need input from each and every one. The costs on a collaborative divorce can often be much higher than Mediation alone.

8. What You See is What You Get?

In divorce mediation, most of the cost is for mediation sessions with the parties and the mediator. The Marital Settlement Agreement is the main document, which contains the terms created in mediated sessions. Revisions of the MSA also involve direct discussions between the mediator and the parties.

In litigated divorces, much of what you pay for you never see, including: legal research, preparation of numerous documents, telephone calls between attorneys, driving to court, copying and organizing documents. While many family law attorneys try to keep their fees reasonable for these services, the client may still feel left out of most of the process for which he or she is paying.

9. The Cost of Fear and Anger?

Much of the cost of litigated divorce is driven by one or both parties’ fear or anger. This may be because of an affair, bad financial decisions, substance abuse, or other issues which caused mistrust. However, a party can still use mediation for decision-making, while using a consulting attorney to advise the client, examine financial documents, and review the Marital Settlement Agreement to protect the client’s interests. This is much less expensive than taking the whole case to court because of fear or anger. Counseling can also help remove the emotional issues from financial and legal decision-making.

10.  Is mediation inexpensive to try?

As divorce mediation is a pay-as-you-go process, there is little financial risk in attempting to use it even if you are skeptical. At worst, you might spend a few hundred dollars on mediation and end up in court anyway. However, there is greater likelihood that you will finish in mediation if you start. In that case, you may have saved yourself potentially tens of thousands of dollars.


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