WHY DOES MEDIATION COST SO MUCH?

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

My husband and I have been considering mediation because there are some issues that we just can't seem to resolve in our divorce. We seem to be hopelessly deadlocked on some financial issues and on who gets the kids when. We are hesitant to try mediation because it seems so expensive. Why does it cost so much?

Answer

Mediation fees often sound expensive when quoted by the hour. Both attorney mediators and "therapist" mediators usually charge fees which are similar to their fees as attorneys or therapists. The cost of mediation should also be compared to the alternative--the cost of a contested divorce.

Contested divorces are usually quite expensive because two lawyers are involved and both are being paid for their time. There is even a subtle incentive for the lawyers to take their time in reaching an agreement, because they are paid more the longer they work. The divorcing partners often feel like they have no control over the process (or the bill) because all discussions are taking place between their attorneys. Keep in mind that the phrase "Have your lawyer call my lawyer" means that both lawyers are going to bill for this call.

Mediation is a cooperative process which gives the couple more control over the costs and the outcome. The initial session is often discounted or even offered free-of-charge. In this session the process of mediation is fully explained, and the fees are fully disclosed. An "Agreement to Mediate" is usually signed which outlines everyone's roles, describes the process in detail, and fully discloses the fees and payment arrangements.

If you and your husband can work out your differences without a mediator you will have the most economical divorce. If you cannot, then you should at least consider mediation as an alternative. It is usually less expensive than paying two lawyers to "battle it out."

12/30/98

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