Many couples struggle with the question of whether mediation is affordable and worth it compared to litigating their dispute in court. The answer depends on a variety of factors, including the type of dispute, mediator experience, and how long it takes to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Litigation costs can be significant, and can include hourly rates for lawyers, expert witnesses, court filing fees and other related expenses. Mediation costs can be considerably lower than fighting a dispute in court.
Mediation is a voluntary process in which trained third-party professionals help parties resolve disputes and concerns. They may assist in the divorce and family law process, workplace conflicts and commercial matters. They are also available to help couples explore their options for reconciliation, which can save both time and money.
Private mediators typically charge an hourly rate, which is usually split between the parties to the dispute. This can range from $300 to $900 per hour. A mediator with a high level of expertise or a large client base will generally charge more than a less experienced mediator.
Some private mediators offer flat rate packages, which can range from $4,000 to $5,500 for divorce mediation services. These packages often limit the number of mediation sessions and will include an extra hourly fee if additional sessions are needed. Some mediation services will quote a flat rate after an initial evaluation of your case, while others require that you request an estimate before they will quote a fee.
A couple like Angela and Bill, who have children, own a home and other assets, and have major disagreements, might expect their mediation to take six or more hours. The mediator they choose will likely tell them to expect it to take longer and encourage them to focus on their goals of reaching a settlement and preserving the relationship, even if this means a less than ideal outcome for some issues.
In addition to the hourly mediation rates, many mediators will charge for the preparation of the final agreement and other legal documents at the end of the process. Depending on the complexity of the case, these document preparation charges can add up quickly.
Another way to reduce mediation costs is by limiting the duration of the process. Some couples will agree to mediate for as few as two or three hours, especially if they believe that a resolution can be reached in this limited amount of time.
Another way to decrease mediation costs is to use unbundled legal services. Unbundled legal services involve hiring a lawyer to handle only a portion of your case, such as writing the final agreement. This can significantly lower your overall legal costs, as you only pay for what is necessary to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. This approach can be particularly effective in cases where you and your spouse have already made most of the decisions for the mediation, but need a lawyer to draft the final agreement or to troubleshoot unexpected legal consequences of an agreed upon settlement.