Let’s face it, the cost of how you get divorced is important. Lawyers cost a lot of money, especially if you and your soon-to-be-ex are heading for trial. Mediation might be an option that is better suited to your situation. But how much does mediation cost? I averaged the cost of divorce mediations I have completed in the last two years. (I charge $220 per hour* – the first 30 minutes and last 30 minutes for paperwork are free.) The average cost worked out to be $2,301 total, or, if you are dividing the cost 50/50 between you and your ex, $1,150 per person. That’s about a third of the cost of a typical $3,000 retainer paid to a divorce litigator. It’s a fraction of the cost of a trial, which in my experience typically costs more than $10,000 per person.
Costs Can Vary
OK, the average cost of $1,150 may not be the cost you pay. That is because each case is unique and may require a greater or lesser number of mediation sessions to come to a satisfactory resolution. (Usually, my mediation clients have from one two-hour session to about seven two-hour sessions.) Different factors can lead to more or fewer sessions. Do you own real estate? Do you have children? Are there complicated investments?
Getting a case settled in one session is, frankly, very, very unusual. That’s because there are a number of issues that a Separation Agreement must cover. To get divorced in Massachusetts, a judge has to review and approve your Separation Agreement. Leaving out any of these critical issues could mean that your divorce is not granted. So, for example, if you have children, your separation agreement must address your parenting plan.
It’s also important to recognize that success in mediation should not measured just by cost. It’s measured to a large extent by the durability and functionality of the resolution. Your mediated agreement is not a temporary fix. Ideally, it’s supposed to work for the rest of your lives, accommodating and responding to life’s changes. So, putting in the time to lay a foundation for a solid agreement will not just pay off in your divorce, it should help with things like co-parenting, in the future.
What About Help with Divorce Papers?
Yes, I help you with this! For starters, you are supposed to share financial information with your spouse. To do this, a Financial Statement form is required. I provide clients with this form and information about how to fill it out and file it in court.
The most important paper is a Separation Agreement. It will contain all the terms about what is happening in your divorce: property division, child custody, alimony etc. Usually, I draft this after the mediation sessions have addressed all the issues. It typically takes me two hours to draft.
Once a Separation Agreement has been drafted, I meet with you, and once you both are comfortable with the agreement it is signed and notarized at my office. Then I stop the clock on billing. Mediation is done! I will provide you with blank forms that have to be filed in Court with your Separation Agreement. These include a Joint Petition for Divorce and an Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown. It usually takes about 30 minutes at my office to fill these court forms out together.
Mediation costs frequently range from $1,500 to upwards of $4,000 total. My average cost is about $2,301 total (or $1,150 per person if sharing costs equally), however each case is unique and costs will vary. Because divorce can have an lasting impact on your family’s finances and relationships with loved ones such as children, it is important to choose the process that is right for you. While mediation avoids the stress and battle of court, another huge benefit is that a successful mediation will probably save you money too.
*2020 Update. My hourly rate is now $300. The average cost per couple is now about $3,150 total. This works out to $1,575 each if the couple is dividing the bill 50/50.