How much does mediation cost?
Mediation usually costs far less than a litigated divorce or separation. In litigation, each party pays his or her own attorney an hourly rate to act as an advocate and counsel for that individual, including gathering evidence, conducting depositions, and writing proposals that may be accepted or rejected by the other party. In mediation, you and your ex-partner pay one hourly fee together (a substantially lower fee than most family attorneys charge) as you work together toward a single written agreement. The process is not only less expensive by the hour, but also is typically far more time-efficient, compounding the savings. See the Fees & Services page for more details about FFM’s fees.
Is mediation right for everyone?
No, it’s not, but for most people who are involved in a “typical” divorce or separation, it’s a great option. Mediation is not right for couples where there is an extreme imbalance of power (as in some domestic violence cases), where people are not able to make functional decisions for themselves (as in some cases of severe mental illness or alcohol or drug addiction), and in some other circumstances. But for adults who are able to think clearly and speak for themselves about what they would like to see happen, it is usually appropriate.
I’m overwhelmed by the emotions and information overload of divorce and separation. can mediation really work for me?
Yes, it probably can. Divorce can be incredibly stressful, and it is typical to feel overwhelmed and volatile at times. Mediation provides a way of putting a constructive framework around a lot of what you are feeling and experiencing. Mediation is not psychotherapy, but many people find that they feel calmer and more in control after mediation, knowing that they have managed the crisis of divorce or separation as well as they could with the help of an informed professional. It can also be useful to seek support from a mental health professional and/or support group as you get through the separation. It’s a lot to handle, and there is no shame in seeking help as an individual to better manage the stress.
can you provide me with legal advice?
No, I cannot. For starters, I not an attorney (my educational background is in clinical psychology). But even if I were a lawyer, mediators (even when they are attorney-mediators) are not permitted to give legal advice. This is in part because the mediator is to remain completely neutral, not making predictions or recommendations about the case. Plus, the mediator works for both parties and serves the process as a whole, not either person individually. However, a mediator can give you straightforward facts about the laws governing divorce and custody in Virginia so that you can be more informed. Additionally, a mediator can help you brainstorm potential solutions to the issues you are facing, drawing in part on his or her experience with other families in similar situations.
What if we can’t agree?
It’s okay to try mediation and not completely come to agreement, although I hope you will find that you resolve more issues than you thought might be possible. Remember that even if you don’t come to full agreement, you will probably leave mediation with a better understanding of the problems at hand and a better sense of what is most important to you as you move forward in other ways. Also, please be sure to see the other sections on this page about confidentiality and the court process for more information about what will (and won’t) happen if you don’t reach full agreement in mediation.