As a divorce mediator, I have the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life. Our clients range from young couples in short term marriages to older couples who have been married for over thirty years. A lot of people, regardless of their total net worth, come to mediation because of the cost advantage. Historically, mediation has always been a lot less expensive than the traditional litigated divorce method. This is primarily because the couple is utilizing the services of one attorney-mediator instead of two separate family law attorneys. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we work on a one-time, all inclusive flat fee. This fee structure makes the mediation process both affordable and predictable for our clients. Beyond the financial part of mediation, there are many costs and I wanted to take this opportunity to educate people about what those might be.
1. Emotional Cost:
Of course, when you choose mediation you are proactively deciding to minimize the emotional impact on you, your spouse, and your children. You will be in the hands of a trained attorney-mediator who is experienced in handling the emotional aspect of your divorce and who can demonstrate kindness, compassion and respect during this trying time. If you choose litigation, on the other hand, you will have the benefit of having an advocate, but this person will not necessarily be a calming influence on your life. Many attorneys enter the role of an advocate believing that they need to assume an emotional role in the conflict in order to effectively represent the client. As a result, the attorney may become angered or upset by the actions or words of your spouse (or his or her attorney). In the midst of a crisis, having someone “get on your level” emotionally may not be what you need to heal. You can choose to place yourself in an environment that minimizes the emotional impact.
Remember, if you have minor children you are not the only person who is experiencing sadness and helplessness. Your children are experiencing the conflict in their own way too. In mediation, you can sit down with an attorney-mediator and your spouse to determine what is best for your children. You will not have to drag your children through a long and contentious custody battle. You have the option to spare your children further emotional harm from your divorce. Your children did not choose this conflict and they don’t have any control of the situation. Choose to give your children a sense of peace during this transition.
2. Unforeseen Financial Hardship:
When spouses first sign up with attorneys to go through a litigated divorce, they will typically each pay a starting retainer fee. In Orange County, the range for this initial retainer costs between $5,000 – $15,000 per spouse to get started (a combined financial outlay of between $10,000 to $30,000). Once this retainer fee is paid, all work performed by the attorney is billed against this retainer. This means that the amount deposited gets depleted each time the person picks up the phone to call his/her attorney, sends an e-mail, or goes to court. At an average billing rate of between $225 – $425 per hour, you can imagine that these fees add up very quickly. This can get expensive and is only the beginning. If other experts are needed to complete the case, you could end up paying thousands in fees for forensic accountants, elevators, and other experts. Sometimes, people spend more money litigating over assets than the actual value of the asset itself! The unforeseen costs could cause you to go through your savings, your retirement/investment accounts, and even your child’s college fund.
In mediation, your expenditures will be predictable. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we work on a one-time flat fee that is paid before you start the mediation process. All of your paperwork, mediation appointments, communication with our attorneys and staff, and even court fees will be covered in this all inclusive fee. There is no uncertainty whatsoever. If you participate in team mediation, you will be informed that this would be beneficial up front, and you will work with experts that also work on a flat fee basis. This helps keep the costs contained. Even though you are going through a divorce, you have the choice to preserve everything you have worked hard for before and during your marriage.
3. Time Away from Your Job or Business:
This ties in with the financial impact, but is also important to mention separately. When you go through the court system for your divorce, it is likely that you will have to make some court appearances with your attorney. These hearings are not scheduled at your convenience. Instead, the date of these hearings will depend on the judge’s schedule, your attorney’s availability, and whether or not your spouse’s attorney is free. Once you have a court date on calendar, your appearance will be mandatory. This means that you will have to either take off of work or leave your privately owned business. Once you get to court, there is no guarantee that you will get the chance to see the judge right away, or even on your scheduled day. The judge may place you last in line, which means you could be paying your attorney to wait around for hours while you miss more hours at work. To make matters worse, your spouse’s attorney may ask for a continuance. If they get it, the hearing will not happen until the postponed date and you will have to take a leave of absence from your job once again. You could end up paying your attorney to get nothing resolved on that date. Ouch!
At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we work hard to accommodate you. Your mediation appointments will be scheduled for days and times that are convenient for you. We don’t want you to spend more time away from work and family than you have to. If something comes up, you are more than welcome to reschedule your mediation appointment online or via phone or e-mail. We are accessible to you and work within your comfort zone.
4. Harm to Your Future:
Because litigation takes so long (it can go on for years), you will have to wait to get the closure you deserve. Your divorce will be a focal point in your life until it has been finalized. This will not only impact your outlook on life now, it can also have lasting consequences. Any time you can save to work on yourself, spend with a counselor, or re-unite with your passion in life is priceless.
At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we leverage technology and the skills of our team to ensure that you move forward with your divorce in the most time efficient manner. Many of our cases settle within 30 days!
It is important to remember that the costs of divorce are more than just financial. You have the power to choose how you want your divorce to affect you financially, emotionally and otherwise.