Divorce Mediation Cost for Simple, Mid-Sized and Complex Cases

How much does divorce mediation cost, and who pays for it?

Divorce mediation should cost you significantly less than divorce litigation. But how much less? And who pays for the cost of mediation?

This article will discuss divorce mediation costs for simple, mid-sized and complex divorces.

You and your spouse control what a divorce mediation will cost. Our divorce mediation attorneys can help both of you save money and reach a reasonable settlement.

- B. Robert Farzad

Divorce mediation cost for a simple divorce

A simple divorce includes straightforward financial issues without children or if there are children, no-conflict child custody, and parenting time issues.

For example, a simple divorce may include the following:

  1. Spouses who are married for five years,
  2. Bought a house during the marriage that has a minimal to a modest amount of equity,
  3. One or both spouses have transparent household incomes,
  4. Neither spouse is a business owner, and
  5. The spouses may have young children and want to share custody amicably.

With standard and reasonable hourly rates for a divorce mediation attorney, a mediation like this may cost $3,000 to $8,000. The shorter the marriage, the fewer assets there are to divide, and the easier the child custody issues are, the less a divorce mediation like this should cost.

Can a divorce mediation with the above hypothetical cost more than $8000?

Yes. The driving factors that increase mediation costs in cases like this are disagreements about one or some of the following:

  1. Parenting time,
  2. The amount or duration of spousal support, or
  3. Whether the home or other property is 100% community property.

We sometimes see that dispute on the latter issue when one spouse puts money into the house from premarital or other separate property proceeds. That money may have been a down payment or improvements to the property.

Divorce mediation cost for a mid-sized divorce

A mid-sized divorce usually involves the following:

  1. A longer marriage (10 + years),
  2. Minor children,
  3. A home and potentially additional real estate such as rental property,
  4. A small business or, if W2 income, income in the $150,000 to $500,000 per year. This income may include bonuses, stocks, or additional income,
  5. Investment accounts such as brokerage accounts,
  6. Retirements that may be a combination of 401(k), 403(b), pension, IRAs, etc.,
  7. Life insurance policies, and
  8. Everything else you may expect from an upper-middle-class estate in California.

These are usually marital estates worth between $1-5 million dollars.

What drives mediation costs in mid-sized divorces?

In these types of estates, the costs are usually for the following:

  1. Disputes over the amount of spousal support or the duration. We often see this when one spouse claims the other should be working and earning income (or more income).
  2. Disputes over the amount of child support, for the same reasons.
  3. Disputes over parenting time.
  4. If a business is involved, disputes over the value of the business. These disputes often require a forensic accountant to get involved, and
  5. Separate property claims if one spouse claims some of the assets include premarital assets, including an inheritance as one example.

A mediation like this may cost $7,500 to $25,000 or more.

That is a big range, and it does not include the forensic accounting cost, since that is not the cost of mediation for an attorney, but the cost of an expert one or both spouses need to value an asset such as a business or trace separate property money one spouse claims they invested into an asset.

The divorce mediation cost in mid-sized divorces is also driven by how organized and thorough the spouses are in their financial disclosures. The larger the marital estate, the more moving financial parts it has.

The more nuanced these mid-sized divorce cases are, the more critical it is for each spouse to have an independent family law attorney advising them.

Divorce mediation cost in complex divorces

Complex divorces range from $5-10 million dollar estates to hundreds of millions of dollars.

They may or may not involve children, and custody issues are rarely the driving factor in the divorce mediation cost. That is because if the spouses are in mediation, chances are the divorce does not involve high conflict child custody issues.

Divorce mediation costs in high conflict divorces can range from $25,000 to well over $100,000, depending on how much assets the spouses will divide.

These divorces usually involve forensic accountants (ideally, each side has their own), financial advisors, business and/or real estate advisors, attorneys, and other professionals.

It is not unusual for these mediations to go on for one or more years, especially if other professionals like forensic accountants need time to value businesses.

Who pays for divorce mediation?

That is up to the spouses. Most of the time, divorce mediation costs come from community property sources. For example, if the spouses have $50,000 in a joint checking account, they use that account to pay for the mediation cost. That way, each pays half and is equally invested in the process.

Sometimes, the high-earning spouse will pay for the mediation, but what is the source even then? Suppose the higher-earning spouse is paying it from a community property source. In that case, the low-earning spouse or non-working spouse is still paying half.

In divorces where one spouse has significant separate property money, it is common for that spouse to pay more than 50% of the divorce mediation costs. That is because that spouse has more access to money to do so.

The high cost of emotional choices in a divorce mediation

Emotional choices cost money in divorce mediation.

Suppose a spouse walks into a divorce mediation angry, bitter, or otherwise hostile. Suppose also that spouse lets those emotions drive their decision-making process. In that case, they will likely cause:

  1. Divorce mediation costs more.
  2. Divorce mediation takes longer.
  3. Divorce mediation will likely be unsuccessful.

Illogical choices that are emotion-based can cause divorce mediation costs to balloon far beyond what they otherwise would have been.

How do prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements affect divorce mediation costs?

Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements can lower the cost of mediation. That is because if both spouses agree to the terms of the agreement, the entire process becomes more manageable.

However, suppose the spouses want to restructure, renegotiate, or otherwise dispute the terms of the prenuptial agreement. In that case, that can increase the divorce mediation cost.

The unpredictable costs of any legal proceeding, including mediations

You should take all the numbers in this guide with a grain of salt.

Divorce mediation can cost significantly less or significantly more than the numbers in this guide. Each spouse's willingness to make complete and accurate disclosures, negotiate in good faith and negotiate a reasonable settlement is the wheels that drive the mediation cost from start to finish.

Nobody can predict the actual cost of divorce mediation because nobody can know how each spouse will handle themselves from start to finish. However, with the help of an experienced divorce attorney and two reasonable spouses, the cost of divorce mediation can be reasonable and affordable.

Want to learn more about divorce mediation?

Our family law firm offers divorce mediation throughout the State of California.

If you want to learn more about divorce mediation, check out our guides below. Click on an image to go to that page.