Is Mediation a Good Option for an Uncontested Legal Separation?

Hello, and thank/you for this forum. My wife and I have decided to seek a legal separation. We have no children, and we have agreed about how to divide our limited assets. We don-t really need two lawyers to fight with each other about any of this, and we could certainly find better was to spend out money. Speaking of which, what are the normal fees for mediation?

Mediation CAN absolutely be a wonderful option for uncontested legal separations. My advice for determining whether or not the two of you are a good fit for mediation is for you two to answer the following questions:

  • In the event that disputes do arise during the mediation process, are you willing to commit to do everything you can to work through those issues, regardless of how uncomfortable, awkward, or painful the process is? If one or both of you would give up quickly and seek litigation as a solution, I would question whether or not there is enough commitment to the process.

  • Are you willing to accept full responsibility for the ultimate result and outcome of your mediated agreement, or alternatively, are you willing to work with a consulting attorney to protect your individual interests? Mediators are truly neutral, meaning they cannot give opinions on whether or not the agreement is fair, good, bad, or terrible. Their job is to facilitate a resolution, not judge or advise the merits or intelligence of that resolution. Working with a consulting attorney would give each of you protection and advice regarding whether or not the agreement is in your best interests.

  • If mediation does not result in a full agreement, are you willing to honor and uphold the partial agreement, or would “everything” unravel? If your approach to mediation is “all or nothing,” in the event that a full agreement cannot be reached, you would have to start the entire process over again in court.

  • Do you have the time to commit to the mediation process? Mediation requires full participation from both spouses, including timely providing documents, following directions, and consistently attending mediation sessions. Mediation appointments that stretch out with several months in between sessions tend to fail and require a lot of backtracking/reviewing of what occurred at the last session.

  • Do you understand that mediation is not marriage therapy or a forum to discuss why the marriage failed? If one or both of you believes that mediation is a way to get the other in a room to talk about the relationship, odds are that it will fail.

  • Do you actually need help in reaching agreements/making sure you truly have a full agreement, or is what you’re looking for more of document preparation assistance? If it’s the former, mediation is a good fit. If what you really need/want is help in drafting the divorce documents, you may want to look instead for that kind of service.

As for the fees for mediation, it depends on the level of assistance and number of meetings required. For parties who only use mediation services to reach the agreement and then draft the documents themselves, that will ultimately be a lower cost that having the mediator help with “everything.” A couple who is willing to work together outside of mediation sessions will save a significant amount of money, as a mediator will have fewer issues to mediate. I would strongly recommend only using a certified mediator who is also a family law attorney if you do pursue mediation if you’re looking for more of a full package of services.

Good luck!