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Are We There Yet? (or How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?)

Rachel Alexander Jan. 3, 2017

{4:00 minutes to read} How long is this going to take? When can we get this over with? When people are in distress, they want to know two things:

  1. That it will end.

  2. When it will end.

A clear framework and expedited process can contain some of the amorphous misery of divorce.

Mediation truncates the divorce process by, among other things:

  • Not involving the court until absolutely necessary;

  • Circumventing the back and forth between attorneys; and the ensuing back and forth between attorney and client relaying the conversations between the attorneys;

  • Facilitating a direct negotiation between the parties;

  • Beginning with the end in mind and focusing throughout on creating a settlement agreement;

  • Avoiding lengthy proceedings to act out all the inequities of the marriage;

  • Bypassing procedural impediments that are unrelated to the substantive issues and unrelated to an eventual settlement.

Mediation is typically completed within a handful of sessions, after which the mediator drafts a Memo of Understanding, Property Settlement Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement for the clients and their attorney to review. Once the parties have signed off on the Agreement, the divorce papers can be filed and a court date set (usually in a matter of several weeks). That said, mediation is client centered. Ultimately, both the timeline and number of sessions is shaped by the needs of the clients.

Shorter Timelines

Sometimes mediations are quick, even completed in one or two sessions. This might happen with parties who have:

  • Grown children or no children;

  • Completed foundational work with a mediator in the past, usually before attempting to reconcile, then deciding to move forward;

  • Had a short-term marriage where finances were held separately throughout;

  • Been separated for a long period and their emotions have cooled.

Longer Timelines and/or More Time in Mediation

Mediations tend to take longer with couples who have:

  • Long-term marriages;

  • Young children and complex, unconventional work schedules;

  • Multiple retirement assets requiring QDROs;

  • Collected a lot of misinformation from divorced friends from which they must be disabused.

Divorce mediations also generally take longer when couples:

  • Are in the thick of their conflict, still experiencing, even on a daily basis, all the things that have led them to seek a divorce;

  • Enter mediation without having had initial support for high, unresolved emotional conflict;

  • Contain one party who is fiercely opposed to the divorce;

  • Have already established an agreement on their own without adequate financial disclosures or knowledge of facts and pertinent case law.

And sometimes people choose to take more time. Sometimes clients prefer to set a pace wherein they can digest information, process emotions, and consider options.

Some clients make use of the mediation as a safe environment to discuss important issues that are peripheral to the final agreement, but nonetheless impact their lives. In some cases, the mediation is the only place divorcing people can speak at all.

How long does mediation take? As long as you need. As long as is necessary. As compact or deliberate as you make it.

Faster than litigation. Less harmful than a speeding bullet. More powerful than two litigious attorneys. You get the idea…