1. How long will it take?
Alongside “How much will this cost?”, this is probably the most common question I receive. The answer as you can probably guess is, “it depends”. The response to this question involves two parts. The first question is, “how long will the mediation process itself take?” The second question is,” How long will the court process take?”
The mediation process can vary dramatically based on several factors. First, if the parties have no children, no assets and few complicating issues, the mediation process can be very quick. I have had cases where people came in to see me and were done in two weeks. Being done means that they walked out of my office with a comprehensive divorce agreement, court papers and detailed instructions for going to court. If the case is more complicated, it will take longer. If there is real estate, retirement accounts, businesses, and financial accounts for instance, the process will inherently be longer because it will take time to gather all the necessary information. Secondly, the speed at which the mediation progresses willl greatly depend on the level of conflict between the couple. I work with couples that are extremely amicable and I work with couples that have high conflict. The more my clients can do on their own and in between sessions, the faster and cheaper the mediation will be. If they cannot communicate or talk with each other “offline” i.e.: on their own, the mediation will take more time.
Just as there are extremes in the level of conflict between the parties, there is a huge range in the length of the process. I recently helped a couple finish their divorce. They started working with me 15 years ago. This is certainly an anomaly. They were not actively mediating or negotiating for 15 years. They would come back every three to four years but for whatever reason, it took them a long time. They were very amicable, had each moved on to new relationships but just never could finish things up. I have also had couples that came in after a short marriage, no children, no property and I helped them finish everything in a week.
The second part of the question has to do with the court process. That is the easy part. Once you have a signed agreement and signed court papers, you file the paperwork with the court. Typically the court will schedule you for a hearing within about 30-45 days. You will appear in front of the court on the date of your hearing. If you filed a joint petition for your divorce (a 1A divorce), the divorce will be final 120 days from the date you went to court. If you filed a 1B complaint, the divorce will be final 90 days from your court hearing.
2. How much will it cost?
Many of the same factors that address the question, “How long will it take?” apply in response to this question. That is, obviously if the case is a high conflict case, that will greatly affect the cost. If the parties do not communicate well or are not able to negotiate on their own, then the process will last longer and cost more. If the parties insist on “fighting” about every issue down to who gets the toaster, the process will be more costly. On the other hand, if the parties are able to leave the first or second meeting with a list of issues to be discussed and information to be gathered, and they come back to the next meeting having obtained the necessary information and discussed the issues, the process will be quick. The average from the start to finish no including the free initial consultation is 3-5 sessions. Drafting the agreement typically takes about an hour and drafting the court papers typically takes .5 hour.