How much does a divorce mediator cost in San Diego? You may have this question if you’re aware that mediation is a less expensive way to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement on finances and co-parenting.
A divorce can be costly. Parting spouses can keep costs related to their divorce proceedings low with a mutual divorce. If there are sticking points getting in the way, divorce mediation is advisable to complete divorce cost-effectively.
The path to becoming legally single again can be long. On average, traditional divorce takes families at least a year. On the other hand, a mediation can be completed, on average, within three to six months.
In this post, we discuss factors that affect the cost of divorce mediation, along with some standard rates that must be used for reference only.
Court-mandated versus private mediator
In a divorce, mediation is not a necessary requirement in the state of California. Mediation is only required by California law if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on child custody and visitation. Generally, where clear and unresolved conflict exists between parties, mediation is recommended as the more cost-effective alternative to litigation. Couples typically have a say in who will mediate their case.
An option is to engage a mediator on the court’s Mediator Panel List. You’re billed $150/hour for the first two hours in case of a limited civil action. The mediator cost will increase to $250/hour for the first two hours in an unlimited civil action. If the session exceeds two hours, the mediator’s hourly rate will apply thereafter.
Couples can choose to engage a private mediator. San Diego divorce mediation cost will then depend on the mediator’s hourly rate, between $200/hour to $1,000/hour.
Divorce mediation must be attended by both spouses, their San Diego divorce attorneys, and persons with authority to settle the case. If consent is required for both sides to settle, then the relevant authorizing party must also be present during the sessions.
The mediator will help both sides explore issues related to the divorce. The spouses will ultimately make the decision. If they cannot, the case will go to the judge. Mediation is non-binding. If the parties reach an agreement, that agreement becomes a binding contract.
Is the mediator an attorney?
A divorce mediator can be attorney or another professional who has received mediation training, such as a family therapist or a financial analyst. The non-legal mediator’s cost will depend on the professional’s credentials and specialized training. Mediators with financial expertise advise spouses on how asset division may affect them. Mediators with training in counseling help spouses communicate more effectively and find creative solutions.
You may save more by using a mediator who isn’t an attorney. However, an attorney-mediator may be more effective in helping explain legal options and identifying issues in potential issues that may have unexpected legal consequences.
Divorce mediators charge an hourly rate or a flat rate
Divorce mediators may charge an hourly rate for their services. There is also an additional fee for paralegals who assist in preparing documents and other necessary tasks related to the mediation process.
Family law firms offer divorce mediation. It is a service the law office of Garwood Reeves offers. Our San Diego divorce mediation attorneys guide you through the process, explain your rights and options, and ensure that you have a thorough understanding of the implications of different decisions. We have assisted couples reach agreements over contentious matters and swiftly move on to the next chapter of their lives.
A flat rate package is based on a fixed number of hours for mediation and the cost of the mediator’s time and the paperwork for processing. While a flat rate makes the mediation cost predictable, paying by the hour can be more cost-effective when you need the mediator’s assistance for just one or two sticking points. There’s a chance that the mediation will move on more quickly and it will cost less to pay the mediator per hour than a flat rate.
A flat-rate package is not set in stone and subject to change. For example, if more issues arise during your mediation, the process may take longer to complete than expected and associated charges will also rise. Discuss additional fees with your mediator in advance to prepare your finances.
As a thumb rule, the cost of divorce mediation is directly proportional to the time duration of the mediation. This is also true for a divorce litigation. How much does a divorce mediator cost in San Diego? Here are the factors that determine the cost of mediation.
Enter mediation with a commitment to act in good faith. Cooperating with the other side will help achieve compromises and keep the process moving at a good pace. The reverse is true if either party chooses to stick to their position. It will inevitably drag the process and keep adding to your legal fees.
Children of the marriage
The average family size in America in 2021 was 3.31 people. Couples with children will have more to discuss than couples without kids. The topic of child custody and visitation rights is delicate and must place the interests of the children above all else. It is what the courts would also do. In a mediation, all issues related to children, including where they will live, the amount of child support, and details like their religious upbringing and medical treatment, are open for discussion. It can add hours to the process and affect costs.
If the divorcing spouses own multiple residences and rental properties, then reaching an agreement on property matters can take time. Marital property also consists of life insurance, IRA accounts, 401 (k) plans, joint bank accounts, and more. Here’s how much you can expect to pay for a simple, mid-sized, or complex divorce.
How much is divorce mediation for a simple divorce?
A simple divorce is one where there are no children of the marriage, or if they exist, there are no conflicts regarding child custody or parenting time. Some features of a simple divorce are as follows:
- Spouses have been married for five years or less.
- Own a residence with a minimal amount of equity
- Neither owns a business
- Spouses provide a full income disclosure
- Spouses agree on co-parenting
When the issues are straightforward, the hourly rates for a mediation attorney range from $3,000 to $8,000. Costs are lesser for shorter marriages, fewer assets, and amicability on child custody issues. However, the mediation cost may rise when spouses disagree on parenting time, cost and duration of spousal support, and whether the property is community property.
How much does divorce mediation cost for a mid-sized divorce?
A mid-sized divorce generally has the following features:
- A longer marriage of 10+ years
- A residence and rental property
- Minor children
- A small business worth $150,000-$500,000 per year, including bonuses, stocks, or additional income
- Retirement funds consisting of 401(k), 403(b), IRAs, pension, and more.
- Life insurance policies
- Investment accounts
The marital estate is usually worth between $1 million and $5 million. The cost of mediation in a mid-sized divorce is often related to a disagreement on the amount of spousal and child support, parenting time, and over the value of the business. Any claim on premarital assets or disputes on commingled property can also introduce complexity. A mediation involving these issues may cost $7,500 to $25,000 or more.
When the size of the marital estate in a mid-sized divorce is large, non-legal experts such as forensic accountants may need to get involved. With more nuances, the case is bound to start getting complex, and require each spouse to have an independent family law attorney advising them.
Divorce mediation cost for a complex divorce
The more complex a divorce case, the more time spent in negotiations and preparation. Given that a mediator in California charges clients by the hour, a complex divorce is more expensive.
How is a complex divorce defined? Complex divorces involve a few to hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate and other possessions. They may or may not involve children. When the divorce is marked by several conflicts, the divorce mediation cost can range from $25,000 to over $100,000, depending on the size of the marital property to be divided among spouses.
A complex divorce usually involves attorneys, forensic accountants, financial advisers, business or real estate advisors, and other professionals. The mediation can extend to a year or more, especially if forensic accountants need more time to value businesses.
Can’t agree on one or more issues
Some couples can’t come to an agreement on an issue while others contend with several sticking points. The more points that need to be resolved, the longer the mediation process will take and more it may cost.
Other costs involved in mediation
Apart from the cost of a mediator in California, consider other fees you will pay during the process.
There’s quite a bit of paperwork involved in the divorce mediation process, and naturally, there are costs for preparing and filing legal papers. The marital settlement agreement, which contains terms related to all aspects of your divorce, such as spousal support, property division, child custody and visitation, can take several hours to prepare. The agreement is then reviewed and submitted. Legal experts dedicate their time to creating documents that have major implications for your future. Their services are worth the fees they charge, although they shouldn’t be excessive. This is where comparisons and testimonials come in.
When finding a mediator, research the firm. Go through testimonials to see whether people say they have been overcharged and their experience working with the firm.
Mediation is a common option due to its relative cost-effectiveness compared to divorce litigation. But you still pay some fees associated with filing paperwork in court. California applies a statewide filing fee of $435.
Mediation is an option when your spouse disagrees with anything you have requested in your divorce petition. Mediation can help both sides work through their differences, but you will be working with an attorney by the time you enter mediation. Your attorney will prepare your divorce documents and serve them to your spouse. They will also help with the paperwork required to settle your case and complete your divorce. Account for the overall costs of hiring an attorney for your case.
Costs of non-legal professional services
Depending on how simple or complex your divorce is, you may need to involve non-legal professionals in the mediation process and factor expenses related to them. For example, including the costs of the expert you engage to value your properties and businesses.
Mediation costs – Who pays?
Who pays is up to the parties. In most cases, divorce mediation costs are paid from community property sources like a joint checking account. So, the couple splits the bill. When one spouse has significant separate property money, they pay more than 50% of the mediation cost.
Mediation maintains privacy and dignity while saving money
When a marriage ends, spouses face legal and emotional challenges. Divorce litigation can be more emotionally and financially draining than mediation. The choice to undergo mediation is always on the table.
If you want a drama-free divorce, mediation is the way to go. It provides a safe space for you and your spouse to engage in open and honest communication, with a shared balance of power.
Think about whether you’re willing to sit down and negotiate, considering the advantages of this route. You’ll deal with your divorce with utmost privacy, spend less overall compared to a contentious litigation, and be able to move on reasonably quickly. Mediation can spare you heartache while recognizing your rights and power to negotiate a settlement you can live with.
Find a better way forward with Garwood Reeves
Put our vast divorce mediation experience to work for you. Our attorneys have a strong track-record of guiding couples in working towards a mutually agreeable, tailored settlement agreement. Schedule an appointment to discuss your case with our attorney and learn about our divorce mediation cost.