Doing divorce mediator. Tips?

Hi -

Married 24 years, getting divorced. We’ve agreed to get mediator and hammer out an agreement. Has anyone does this? Any experiences, advice to pass on?

I should add that we don’t actually have a mediator yet. Wife left a message with one, waiting for a callback. How should we select a mediator? What do we ask them, and know they’re good at this?


I think my parents used a mediator (a person from our church) for some of the divorce agreements. I don’t think it helped very much.

I hope your divorce is as quick and painless as possible, and leads to happiness for you and your (soon to be ex) spouse.

Good luck!

Here’s my patented four step plan to selecting a divorce mediator:
[li]Go watch The War of the Roses (the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner film)[/li][li]Select a mediator both of you feel will listen to and consider your position on an issue.[/li][li]Do whatever the mediator says.[/li][li]If there are any doubts, go back to Step 1.[/li][/ol]


We used a mediator. In this state child support and alimony are pretty much just formulas you plug numbers into so there isn’t a lot of discussion. It went pretty smooth. I just gave the ex everything she wanted and paid for the entire process. How hard is that?

I used a divorce mediator. She was more or less selected for us, suggested by my ex’s attorney. We each paid half her fee for 3 hours of her time.By the end of that time, we had an agreement. My ex and I were in different rooms, on different floors in her office.She spoke with each of us separately, and quickly identified the areas of disagreement. My ex had written out a detailed list of property he had left behind and we quickly went through that list, I gave him what he wanted, it was all his stuff. The major sticking point was his retirement pension (we were married almost 35 years.) She finally got him to understand that a judge would give me half of his pension and he would waste his money trying to fight it. That left some guns in dispute, my ex placed a dollar value on the guns and I picked which I wanted to keep, up to half the total value. The only surprising point the mediator brought up was that my ex could ask that we split our cash assets as of the date of divorce, rather than as of the date of separation. I wasn’t crazy about this idea as I was positive I had saved much more money than he had since we had separated. I asked the mediator to ask him if we could split our cash as of the date he left, and he agreed. Each of us returned, separately, to sign the agreement, I wrote out a check for the settlement to my ex. The agreement got sent to the judge for his signature and it was done. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Don’t “do” the divorce mediator, in the commonly understood sense of the term.

My in laws used one - which resulted in my mother in law getting screwed. Because my father in law took advantage of my mother in laws distaste of conflict and the mediator didn’t stand up to him either. As long as everyone was happy - the mediator was happy. And my mother in law hates conflict so much that she signed away all sorts of rights (like the right to some of his pension - which means that we now get to help support my mother in law. And back then child support wasn’t so formulaic, so she ended up with not enough child support. And no clause that he’d give his kids any help with college. She declared bankruptcy within a few years living like a pauper with his kids, he bought an airplane).

So, my advice is to ask the mediator what he or she will do if she (we will assume she) sees a situation being negotiated that isn’t fair. And make sure you are both happy with the answer.

We had a court appointed mediator, but ended up reaching an agreement on everything before actually meeting with them.

So, I can’t give advice on the mediation itself. BUT… I think you want to narrow the scope down before you meet with them. If there are some things you can agree on ahead of time, that will makes things go more smoothly.

If you are finding it difficult to talk through some of these things with your soon to be ex, email works really well. You can sit on an email for a day or two before responding and it makes the communication go a little smoother.

Each get your own separate family lawyers, then decide whether the two of you and the lawyers will use the collaborative family law process or not, and once that is decided, then the two of you and your lawyers decide whether to use a mediator or not.

And tip them after the mediation for propriety, before the mediation for best results.

You haven’t said if you and your wife are represented by separate legal counsel. It sounds like you’re not. You also didn’t say if there are minor children involved. A custody dispute can make mediation a lot more complicated.

Obviously the #1 thing you want in a mediator is experience. Ask how many divorce mediations they’ve conducted, and how many have been successful. Be sure the mediator is someone with whom you feel at ease.

Before you go into mediation, make a list of everything you would like to discuss. Identify your principles and what matters most to you, but try to go in with an open mind and flexibility. Avoid attacking your wife or unloading all your marital problems on the mediator. The mediator is not a judge and they aren’t there to decide who is at fault, only to help bring about a resolution. If the mediator sees you as a reasonable person who is open to compromise, they are more likely to help “bring around” the other party to see your point of view.

Sometimes it can take 2-3 sessions before you get anywhere, so don’t get frustrated if it isn’t resolved at the end of one session. Go in with open mind and realize that this is a great opportunity to avoid the time and expense of a trial.

Fifteen percent is standard. Twenty if the mediator gives you a particularly good divorce.

Make sure you have at least some legal advocate to educate you on your rights, options, etc. You don’t need representation by a lawyer with a mediator, but that doesn’t mean you should be ignorant of the law or that you shouldn’t get a second opinion on what you’re discussing with the mediator.

One example of this: a client was self-employed, so his wife had boosted her W-2 withholding so that their joint taxes were paid every year. This worked fine while they were married. When they looked at the asset allocations, they forgot that she had $15,000 of extra payroll withholding, while he was the one who would owe $15,000 of tax. The mediator never thought of this either. My client didn’t realize the problem until more than a year later… she got a giant refund, he got stuck with a tax debt that he’s still making payments on 4 years later.

Sorry for getting back late to my thread. Lots on my mind, obviously.

We went to a mediator a few days ago. The mediator is a lawyer who charges $5000 for the mediation. A second attorney was also in the room, he said it was his policy to do that. I was surprised he was a lawyer, I was expecting someone who knew divorce mediation and the law as far just that area. And the fee knocked me a bit.

He also said that we should each get our own lawyers, which also surprised me. I thought you used a mediator to keep the lawyers out of the room? Save money? Not start fights with the other lawyers?

So far all we’ve done is discuss what information he needs. We agree on a lot (not that CA gives you much choice) and had a list of assets and liabilities handy. An area of dispute is the family home, which I want to sell ASAP, she wants to wait until our son is out of school next school year, which I find excessive.

Anyway, he explained we’d provide even more info (of course) and he’d knock out a settlement agreement and we’d sit down when he was done in a few weeks.

So now I’m looking for a lawyer so we can proceed, and my wife also needs to. And finish the documents they requested (stuff like all money, all the furniture blah blah).

Oh, and the guy’s been doing mediation for 10 years, and says he does 2-3 a year.

There’s one minor child, a teenager. We’ve agreed to 50/50 time.

I don’t know if this matters, but we also have in common significant assets, on the order of 14 years of my current salary.

Why would you want to sell your child’s home and make him move if you don’t have to? Waiting until he is out of school (which I assume is the reason she wants two more school years) seems quite reasonable.

Day-um. Our mediator was $700 total, $350 from each of us.

Well, that’s 15 months away. And this is a 3000 sq ft, 4 br, 4 bath home on 2 acres, with it’s own well and septic and propane and a lot of other costs not associated with mortgage or taxes. Once I leave, it would be just two people living there. It’s impractical and expensive.

We’ve agreed to both live in the school district, so he wouldn’t leave the school or hopefully even the neighborhood, he’d keep all his friends and not be uprooted. I just think June 2015 isn’t defensible in that situation. I do understand wanting to upset things as little as possible, but we need to start winding things up and help him with it as much as we can.