Often when I meet with a couple who is interested in mediation, they ask me how long it will take. My answer is always that it’s up to them. How prepared they are when they first meet with me affects whether mediation can go quickly or slowly. These are the main reasons:

  • One of the spouses may not be emotionally ready to divorce. Sometimes one spouse has been thinking about divorce for a very long time, and may have been going to counseling, processing their thoughts and feelings and also examining what the divorce may look like financially, sometimes with divorce planning assistance from a CDFA. On the other hand, the other spouse may have been caught off guard or was in a state of denial about the (un)happiness of their marriage and may be way behind in terms of processing the fact that divorce is happening. The mediation process is slowed down because the later spouse is not ready to participate in the process. The emotionally ready spouse will have to be patient and give them some time. A CDFA can help both spouses see what their financial future will hold, even as much as 20 years into the future, and that can be a big help in mediation.

  • Assets need to be valued. If there is a business or a home, those assets will have to be valued by a professional valuator. A business valuation can take several months, usually because it takes time to gather all of the documents that the valuator needs.

  • Pension documentation from an employer can take time. Especially in the case of a government pension or other retirement plan, it can take a couple of months to get the documents needed.

  • The spouses have never done a budget. It’s not uncommon for one or both spouses to spend what they have (or more) and not be aware of where their money goes. When negotiating spousal or child support, or the division of assets, each spouse will need to prepare a budget showing their living expenses so negotiations can be done in a realistic environment. At least one spouse will be changing their living situation and they will need to do some thinking about where they want to live, if they want to purchase or rent their next home, etc...
    While child support can be determined under set state guidelines, especially for more affluent couples, the guidelines don’t cover the actual expenses of raising their children. If the parents want to continue to send Bobby to band camp each summer or Julie to year round gymnastics (not to mention cars and then later, college), they need to at least guestimate what costs will be so they can negotiate and create a plan.

  • A willingness to compromise and be realistic about what the law provides. Sometimes one spouse has unrealistic expectations about what they deserve because they think they can continue “the accustomed standard of living”, no matter what. Friends and family can reinforce these expectations. Getting a legal consultation can shorten the mediation process because both spouses have an understanding about what their rights are as to spousal support, division of assets, child support and marital vs. separate property. A lot of these questions can be researched on the internet as well and I find many clients have educated themselves in this way. When both spouses can come to the table with reasonable expectations, I can educate the couple on the financial realities of settlement proposals and my skills as a mediator can help couples compromise and come up with a settlement that works for them and their family.