Divorce doesn’t just take a big emotional toll on spouses; it takes a financial toll as well. One big cost to consider is the divorce itself. You know how they say that weddings aren’t cheap? Well, neither are divorces! Nolo.com recently surveyed its users and found that the average divorce cost $15,500. That amount is surely greater here in Orange County. The actual price for your divorce will vary greatly depending on the complexity of your estate, your goals, and – most importantly – whether you opt for mediation or expensive litigation.
What is Mediation?
Lawyers are expensive. No surprise there. The more you need to use a divorce lawyer to fight with your spouse, the higher the price tag of your divorce is going to climb. While you always have the option to “punish” your spouse by trying to litigate your entire divorce, you’ll save a lot more money (and likely avoid lots of extra stress in an already difficult situation) by opting for mediation when possible.
In mediation, both spouses work with a neutral third party, known as a mediator, to try and resolve as many of their disputes as possible without going to court. The mediator does not have any legal authority. He or she cannot force you to accept an agreement. Instead, a mediator acts as a guide, helping each spouse to articulate their priorities, find areas of compromise, and ultimately come to an agreement.
The primary requirement of mediation is that you be willing to communicate and negotiate with your spouse in good faith. The name of the game is collaboration. This may seem exceedingly difficult if you feel betrayed or heartbroken by your spouse, but mediation can save you a significant amount of money.
The Cost of Mediation
Mediation isn’t free. The mediator will charge an hourly rate for his or her time, which you and your spouse will split. Usually, this fee is much lower than what a divorce attorney will charge on an hourly basis, and don’t forget that you’ll have to pay your attorney fees all by yourself.
It is a good idea to consult with an attorney before seeking mediation. A divorce attorney can help you:
- Identify all of the assets and debts in your estate
- Prioritize which assets you want to keep vs. the assets you are willing to negotiate away to your spouse
- Develop a “game plan” for mediation so that you can get the settlement you seek
- Determine if there are areas that require litigation
Consulting with an attorney will add costs to your mediation bill, but it can also help you get what you want in mediation as well as come into the mediation process well informed and more confident with your strategy.
A Combination of Mediation and Litigation
Mediation can’t always solve every divorce issue. For example, you and your spouse may be able to find common ground and divide your estate through mediation, but you may be helplessly locked in battle on the issue of custody. What you can’t solve in mediation may need to be litigated.
At Bohm Wildish, we have a motto: “Mediate what you can, litigate what you can’t.”
We often encourage our clients to mediate as much of their divorce settlement as possible, which can save them thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees. A combination mediation and litigation strategy will be more expensive than agreeing to everything through mediation, but it will be significantly less expensive than starting with litigation.
If you live in or around Orange County and need legal guidance as you consider divorce, please contact Bohm Wildish to schedule a consultation.