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How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?

While divorce litigation through the court system can last several months to several years and cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, divorce mediation is often considered a less expensive and faster approach to resolving the disagreements separating couples may have. However, the time you spend in mediation can vary from several weeks to many months, based on the conditions discussed below, which are evaluated during your first meeting with the mediator:

1) How much you agree and disagree on at the time of separation. The more you agree from the start, the faster a divorce mediator will be at helping you resolve outstanding issues.

2) How many assets and debts you need to divide (i.e. distribution of property). Obviously the more property there is to divide and debts to settle, the longer the procedure may take. You’ll also need to divide tax responsibilities and deductions. So too deferred income plans like 401(k) Plans or IRAs or other retirement or pension plans need to be disclosed, discussed and divided. During this stage, it is very important for both spouses to be honest and reveal all financial information, especially if they have assets or outstanding loans in their individual names. If one of the parties owns their own business it needs to be appraised with its value being considered a “Community Asset.” A mediator may recommend hiring a certified financial planner to help you negotiate the division retirement accounts and the business evaluation

3) How you want to handle child custody and visitation time. While dividing real estate property and bank accounts may go smoothly, creating a child-sharing plan may be more difficult to complete without any disagreement. An experienced mediator can help you discuss the pros and cons of common custody arrangements so parents can reach a consensus that is in the best interest of the children.

4) How to assess child support and spousal support. While attorneys and mediators refer to a state calculator to assess child support and spousal support, other financial aspects may have to be discussed, such as the sharing of extra-curricular activities or additional medical expenses and extended time for support for Special Needs Children. after evaluation of the tax consequences, spousal support can also be awarded as a one-time (non-taxable) lump sum payment during the asset division instead of it being distributed as monthly (taxable) payments. A mediator should discuss various available options with the divorcing couple and assist with the decision-making.

Once both spouses have reached an agreement, the mediator will draft the official Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) to be presented and filed with the court. It is important to remember that a divorce mediator acts as a neutral third party and does not tell any either spouse what to do. He merely provides options from which the parties decide what to do. Instead, the mediator’s job is to level the playing field, keep the communication going, brainstorm possibilities, and guide the divorcing couple to mutually agree on the outstanding issues which need to be resolved. Overall divorce mediation will cost you significantly less both financially and emotionally than litigation. The more willing to negotiate and complete the divorce process spouses are, the faster mediation will go.