What is divorce mediation? How does divorce mediation work? 

Divorce mediation is the preferred option for those couples who wish to obtain a peaceful, amicable separation or divorce without having to obtain their own individual opposing attorneys, which can lead to a long, painful and costly process of a litigated divorce, and possibly result in devastating financial and emotional consequences on the family unit.

Through the assistance and guidance of an experienced divorce mediator, spouses are empowered to make all of their own decisions that form the basis of their marital settlement agreement--not the courts. The divorce mediator is an entirely neutral party who does not take sides, but rather is concerned with protecting the rights and interests of both spouses and their children.

As the architects of their own agreement, spouses fairly and efficiently resolve all their legal and financial obligations towards one another as well as all parenting matters involving the welfare and best interests of their children.  These include division of marital property, alimony and spousal support, child support and custody/children's welfare.

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Why hire a divorce mediator?

An experienced divorce mediator will ensure that a fair, reasonable and balanced agreement is achieved between separating or divorcing couples in a very efficient, kind and affordable manner.  

A divorce mediator also assists couples in working past any obstacles that may be impeding their progress towards a mutually fair settlement and may make sound and prudent suggestions designed to lead them towards making the most sensible decisions for their family’s future.

When mediating with Main Line Family Law Center, an attorney-mediator initially provide parties with an overview of the relevant law and legal concepts so that they may apply it to the specific facts and circumstances of their case. Couples are informed of all their basic legal rights and obligations under the law so that they can make informed decisions for their agreement. The attorney-mediators specifically do not provide legal advice or representation but are instead educators and facilitators of the process. Ultimately, spouses are encouraged to have their resulting agreement reviewed by independent outside counsel before signing it.

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How is divorce mediation different than litigation?

Divorce mediation involves the amicable resolution of a separation or divorce where an entirely neutral divorce mediator assists parties in achieving a wholly fair and workable agreement, including negotiating child custody, in which all of their rights and interests are discussed and fully protected.

As the architects of their own agreement, mediating parties retain exclusive control over all decisions that are made.

In litigation, by contrast, the fate of their futures lies in the hands of overworked judges, divorce lawyers and a backlogged court system which often does not have the time to fully analyze and consider those specific facts and circumstances in their matter that are most important to them. Divorce mediation ensures that the sanctity of the family’s spiritual, emotional and financial future is preserved.

How long does divorce mediation take?

This will depend on how complicated your case and the number of sessions needed. On average the mediation process can take between 3-6 months, due to the need to gather documents, get appraisals or other financial needs, and how fast or slow you both want to go. 

You can expect anywhere between 1 to 5 sessions, that last from 1-4 hours each.

Some spouses prefer to delay their divorce for health insurance reasons, when it's best for the children, going back to work, etc.  Others have been separated for some time, and have adjusted to their new life, and therefore mediation moves more quickly.

Also, for spouses seeking a divorce, there is usually, but not always, an additional mandatory 90-day waiting period that applies in Pennsylvania after they have completed their agreement and filed for divorce before they are eligible to receive a final divorce decree.

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What is the difference between court-ordered mediation and private divorce mediation?

In PA, court-ordered mediation relates to mandatory custody mediation ONLY, which all spouses in litigation must submit to as a final step to see if their custody issues can be resolved before their case gets listed before the divorce judge for initial listing and trial. Financial issues, such as alimony or child support, are not part of the court-ordered mediation.

Main Line Family Law Center offers a unique, comprehensive private mediation program which does not involve the intervention of the courts at all, even from the very beginning, and covers the discussion and resolution of all issues pertinent to a divorce, such as child custody and child support, spousal support, property division, two-household budget analyses, alimony, life insurance, estate matters and family medical insurance.

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In divorce mediation, do you offer legal help with child custody and child support?

Not all mediators are trained to offer legal guidance.  If you are looking for legal guidance, make sure to find an attorney-mediator.

In the parenting session of Main Line Family Law Center's My Healthy Divorce® Mediation Program, our parenting mediator will assist you both in achieving a legally-binding parenting plan which will resolve all issues involving both legal and physical custody of your children.

 

How much does divorce mediation cost in Pennsylvania?

It depends on the type of mediator you choose.  You could hire an attorney, financial planner, therapist or clergy as your divorce mediator and costs generally vary widely from $150-$300/hr, which usually adds up to $3,500 to $15,000 for the most complex cases.

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Remember, divorce mediation costs a small fraction of what it would otherwise cost to have your matter litigated in court with private, opposing attorneys who often charge a retainer of $2,500-$15,000 each before beginning any work on your case, which oftentimes is not refundable.

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At Main Line Family Law Center, clients are always subject to a flat fee rate for all included services, rather than the private attorney hourly rate system, so costs are contained and uncertainty of divorce is minimized. Our fees are designed to contain your costs so that you can retain more of your marital estate for your family’s financial future.

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What is the divorce mediation process like at Main Line Family Law Center?

Main Line Family Law Center’s offers a unique, comprehensive divorce mediation program, and can be customized to fit the client's particular needs and budget, 

My Healthy Divorce® mediation program typically includes:

  1. Meeting with our parenting mediator (if minor children are involved) to assist clients in obtaining a parenting plan resolving all children’s issues,
  2. Either one or two meetings with the attorney-mediator to discuss and finalize all the financial settlement terms as well as discuss generally all pertinent tax consequences (not tax advice)of the settlement,
  3. A further meeting with the attorney-mediator to review the initial draft agreement that the attorney-mediator has personally prepared, as well as additional drafts of the agreement until it is ready to be signed and notarized.

For couples who are seeking a divorce decree, we will provide them with all of the required paperwork and an outline of instructions and specific steps in which to file their matter with the county court and apply for a final decree. We will also assist with any other legal requirements which may be necessary such as obtaining a Qualified Domestic Relations (QDRO) Order to distribute any marital retirement accounts to be divided.

For clients who need additional support, we work to establish a mindset to mediate and conduct individual checkpoint calls to help them gain a positive focus of energy and perspective in preparation for their sessions.

For more complex cases, we have a Divorce Support Network of highly competent professionals.

These affiliates include therapists, coaches, to assist clients at various stages throughout the the divorce mediation program and even after clients complete the program to assist them in coping through post-separation and divorce life transitions. 

For a reasonable additional cost, clients may also opt to work with our affiliated financial planners who will help them to visualize the future value of the net assets they take with them in their settlement as well as assist them in providing sound financial advice for the most sensible marital asset division scenarios. Use of a financial planner is highly recommended in those cases with higher net worth marital estates. 

All program price quotes are on a flat fee basis designed to contain your costs so that you can retain more of your marital estate for your family’s financial future.

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How does a Main Line Family Law Center's My Healthy Divorce® Mediation Program differ from most private divorce mediation services?

My Healthy Divorce® mediation program is a peaceful divorce mediation process with a focus is on the entire family’s best interests every step of the way with complete legal and financial guidance, along with parenting and emotional support available throughout. 

The program is an entire out-of-court solution in one place. That includes 1) parenting and financial mediation, 2)a legally-binding marital settlement agreement, and 3) assistance with divorce filing with the county court. In the end, clients will have an agreement which is fully legally binding and that protects all of their rights and interests.

Some other private divorce mediation services will assist the parties in reaching an understanding on all the terms which is reduced to a so-called Memorandum of Understanding, which they must then take to another attorney to draft a formal settlement agreement and then assist them in filing the divorce for additional fees and costs.

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I have already talked to a lawyer. They said that I would do better to litigate than to mediate?

Private divorce lawyers perform a very valuable service to the clients they represent. They are trained to zealously represent their clients’ interests to obtain for them as much as they can in a divorce matter. In the end, this often leaves the other spouse in an unrealistic and untenable financial position to the extent that they are not able to meet their financial obligations.

Sadly, when this happens, it will often result in further proceedings in court, such as contempt petitions, after the divorce is over creating a vicious cycle of costly litigation that seems to have no end. The fact remains that although private divorce lawyers can suggest what their clients should receive under the law, there are no guarantees.

Going to court is always a “roll of the dice” with a variety of possible outcomes, and some of which either one or both spouses were never expecting.

Divorce mediation allows couples to control the decisions they agree are best for their family while never agreeing to anything that they will not be able to live up to. It allows for a wholly fair and comprehensive agreement designed to keep spouses out of court and that will stand the test of time.

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What happens if we start mediation, then  we can't agree?  

 

What happens if we start mediation, then it doesn't work and we can't agree?  

 

If you and your spouse are right for the process and are committed to a healthy outcome for your family, you will likely finish in mediation. The process of mediation is what the couple makes of it together. However, there can be times they cannot agree, in spite of their best efforts, and also that of the mediator. 

If you and your spouse cannot agree, you may have to finish your agreement through private lawyers. The silver lining, often times, is that the couple has usually made quite a bit of progress in mediation such that they may be left with only one or a few unresolved issues they could not overcome in mediation. This usually means they do not have to start the process all over again and go to court, and can usually come to terms on the remaining unresolved issues in a shorter period of time through their attorneys.

Although Main Line Family Law Center does not represent clients in litigated court matters, it is happy to refer its clients to a network of private divorce lawyers with reasonable hourly rates who are committed to first finding solutions to family law problems without the need for costly and painful litigation.

 

 

In divorce mediation, what financial records should I bring to the divorce mediation sessions?

Spouses will need to bring current statements of all marital assets and debts, as well as copies of tax returns for the previous three years, paystubs, W-2's, any appraisals of properties or businesses, as well as other specific items.

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What is Divorce Mediation?
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