What is divorce mediation?
The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation understands that mediation is a healthier way to complete the divorce process. Spouses always have a choice about what process to choose: through mediation or litigation in the courts. Each differs vastly in terms of the cost, length of time, and level of conflict experienced.
We have seen the turmoil that litigation inflicts on children and families as parents battle through their divorce. Instead, we provide the opportunity to experience a respectful, lower stress, more affordable divorce. In mediation, you reach your best possible agreements, and if you have children, act in their best interests.
Our FAQ’s provide some insight into how divorce mediation works and how it can help you through your divorce or legal separation. To gain a much deeper understanding of the divorce mediation process, schedule an initial complimentary consultation.
1. Does my spouse need to be present for the initial consultation and mediation meetings?
Yes, both spouses need to be present for the initial consultation and mediation meetings.
We understand the importance of spouses receiving the same information, at the same time, from their mediator. It reinforces trust in the mediation process and creates openness and transparency that greatly benefits spouses during and after divorce. Joint meetings also support mediator neutrality, and result in maximized productivity and better quality agreements, even when significant conflict exists between spouses.
However, if helpful or necessary, we can have a “breakout” meeting.
A “breakout” occurs when the mediator meets with each of you separately in different rooms. Although most spouses remain in joint meetings for their entire mediation process, it is not uncommon that, when helpful, the mediator will speak with each spouse individually for 10 – 20 minutes and then reconvene back together to continue jointly again. Additionally, where specific circumstances or concerns call for the need to meet separately, we do so on a case-by-case basis.
2. What does mediation cost in Arizona compared to litigation?
Divorce mediation at The Aurit Center is generally 80-90% less expensive than attorney’s fees in litigation. We provide an all-inclusive and affordable flat fee, so your fee is entirely predictable from the beginning. During your initial free consultation, your potential mediator will share your personalized all-inclusive flat fee for the entire process based on a variety of factors. We fundamentally do not believe that retainers and hourly billing are in the best interests of clients going through divorce.
When divorce professionals “bill by the hour” the professional financially benefits the more you fight with your spouse. Conflict leads to more billable work for professionals. This is especially damaging when children are involved, because conflict between parents during divorce has serious psychological consequences for children.
In Maricopa County, attorneys charge initial retainer fees of generally $5,000 to $15,000 per spouse. Attorneys then bill hourly for any time spent working on your case. This includes time spent writing you emails, reading emails, phone calls, legal work and even driving from point A to point B. Once this retainer has been drained, additional retainers will be required for the attorney to continue working on your case. Attorneys estimate the average cost of a moderately contested divorce in Arizona to be $15,000 – $20,000 per spouse. Higher conflict cases easily exceed $50,000, and can climb to over $100,000 in certain lengthy cases.
Most mediators, like attorneys, bill hourly. The Aurit Center has led the way nationally with our flat-fee structure, and is now among a growing number of mediation firms around the country who provide an “anti-litigation” flat fee approach. Clients unanimously prefer flat fees, and we wouldn’t work any other way.
3. Who pays for divorce mediation?
You and your spouse decide how payment is divided.
Commonly, spouses divide fees equally. For example, if you still have joint accounts, and payment is made from this joint account, you have essentially divided fees equally. However, some spouses decide to divide fees in proportion to their respective incomes. Less often, one spouse pays the entire fee, but this depends on the circumstances. Additionally, your mediator can work with you on creative options for the sharing of fees between spouses if one or both do not have the availability to pay the fee upfront.
4. What is mediation and how does mediation work?
Mediation is a healthier way of divorcing or legally separating. Its goal is to lower conflict, and keep you in control of your own divorce terms. In mediation, spouses work with their neutral mediator who raises every single issue of the divorce, including: division of assets and debts, spousal maintenance, and all child related issues, such as parenting time, legal decision making authority, and child support.
As your mediator raises each issue, he or she will explain information about the law, and addressing what is important to each of you, help you reach your best possible agreements. You may be creative and agree upon something different than the law. You also customize your own divorce terms, instead of a Judge deciding them for you.
Once your agreements are reached, we draft your final Divorce or Legal Separation Decree. You each review the documents and can seek independent legal advice, if you choose. Upon finalizing the documents, we have a final signing meeting and file your documents with the court. There is never a time you go to court.
5. How long does divorce mediation take?
We take care of your entire case, from beginning to end, including the initial filing for divorce called a Petition, which we approach in a way that lowers conflict.
Our mediation meetings are 2 hours long. Typically, anywhere between 2 to 6 meetings are needed to come to full agreements. The entire process usually takes 2 – 4 months. Clients can move at their own pace, taking whatever time they need. Sometimes, for strategic reasons such as tax benefits or healthcare issues, spouses may elect to delay the actual finalization of their divorce.
This is in stark contrast to how long divorce litigation takes to conclude. Even a short litigated case in the courts on average takes 8 – 12 months. A year or more is very common. In litigation, there is more conflict, which causes long delays and cases that can continue for years.
6. What are the benefits of divorce mediation?
The benefits of mediation compared to litigation are astounding.
● Saves you substantial money and time
● Is confidential and private
● Is far less stressful and better for you emotionally
● Focuses on finding solutions instead of fighting
● Is successful, in that a case is very rarely not fully settled
● Keeps you in control of your own divorce terms
● Creates more respectful interactions
● Is in the best interest of children
● Increases probability of a healthy co-parenting relationship
● Prevents anyone from “losing”
7. Will my professional mediator be an Arizona attorney?
Our mediators are Arizona attorneys. However, they only act as your neutral professional mediator. When drafting and filing your legal documents, they are acting in their capacity as a Certified Legal Document Preparer. They do not act as your attorney and cannot provide you with individual legal advice.
8. Can we still have attorneys if we are in mediation?
We believe that all spouses should have access to affordable and competent legal advice during their divorce process. However, we also acknowledge that not all attorneys are productive in helping spouses who desire to have a more respectful divorce out of court.
To provide our clients with access to legal advice, we provide you with our Preferred Legal Advisors List. All Legal Advisors on our list are Arizona family law attorneys. Rather than formally representing you and requiring that you “retain” their service and pay a large “retainer,” they act as your “legal advisor” and only charge per hour for the time you spend with them. You could get advice between meetings or have your Divorce Decree reviewed before you sign. It is your choice whether you get legal advice.
To our knowledge, the advisors on our list support the integrity of mediation. They would not act to cause unnecessary conflict.
If you already have an attorney, using them is appropriate as well, and we can still meditate effectively. Of course, you may consult with anyone during mediation, including any Arizona attorney.
9. What happens if we don’t agree? We are so far apart.
It would be the most normal, expected, unsurprising event if you and your spouse do not agree on issues prior to mediation, and believe that it will be difficult, if not impossible to reach an agreement. We help people who agree on most things and want an amicable divorce, and we also help people who have high levels of conflict and staunch disagreements.
The overwhelming majority of our mediation cases reach full agreements. It would be extremely rare that even our clients with the highest levels of conflict do not reach full agreements.
In mediation, you and your spouse will communicate differently, primarily because your mediator is working to understand, clarify, and convey your thoughts and feelings in a way that aims to find a solution and guides you to your best possible agreements. Extreme threats shouted weeks or months before beginning mediation are not the realities in mediation. Past disagreements on an issue have little to do with the chances of eventually reaching an acceptable agreement in mediation either.
Most likely, even if you are far apart, you will still get to an agreement. So long as you both are willing to remain at the table, and want to reach an agreement, an agreement could be only a moment away. If reaching an agreement is not possible in mediation, the only other choice is terminating mediation and continuing the divorce within the court system, which likely would require attorney representation in litigation.
10. What happens if my spouse refuses to come to the initial consultation or does not want a divorce?
Mediation is voluntary. Each spouse must agree to take part in the mediation process. Most commonly, one spouse alone is the initiator of the divorce. The other spouse usually falls on a spectrum from tacit agreement that divorce is happening to complete refusal to acknowledge the idea of divorce. Spouses are rarely, if ever, in the same place emotionally. One is most always more ready than the other.
Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. This means that when one spouse wishes to divorce, a divorce will be finalized by the court, regardless of how the other spouse feels about it. One cannot prevent the other from getting divorced. But together, the spouses can make a life-changing choice about how the divorce will happen: mediation or litigation.
We encourage all people to attend our initial free consultation to gain as much information as possible and get answers to your questions. Even if you do not want to attend the consultation, or want to stay married, you can still become informed and more knowledgeable about your options, empowering you to your benefit.
The consultation does not begin the divorce mediation process. You may choose to begin the process sometime after your consultation. Clients often feel a sense of relief after the consultation, when it becomes clear that a simple process with tremendous support exists to help them get through this time in their life.
You could share this FAQ page and our general website with your spouse. You can also invite your spouse to contact us by phone with any questions prior to the consultation, if that helps.
11. Can we start mediation even after a Petition for Divorce has been filed or if we are in the middle of litigation?
It is never too late to begin mediation. In fact, if you have filed for divorce, or are in the middle of litigation, the sooner you begin mediation – the better. Even when litigation has caused conflict, mediation can immediately lower that conflict and completely change the tone of your divorce.
Many clients come to us right after someone has filed for divorce. We can take it from that point to the conclusion of your process. Other times, clients have come to us after a year or more of litigation. In those cases, we have been able to drastically lower conflict, reboot the process, and reach full agreements. Mediation is an option at any point throughout your divorce process.
Please know that our process includes assisting you in filing all legal documents in a low conflict and peaceful way. Thus, there is no requirement to complete any legal filings prior to mediation beginning.
12. What are my legal rights?
You each have many legal rights under Arizona law. During mediation, your mediator will give you both legal information that will inform you of certain rights. You may agree to follow the law, or may agree to come up with your own creative agreement that could be different than your rights under the law.
We also provide you with a list of Preferred Legal Advisors who can give you specific individual advice about your rights, should you want legal advice.
13. How is Mediation different from Arbitration?
In mediation, spouses have control over their divorce terms and reach agreement on them together. The mediator has no power to decide issues for the parties.
In arbitration, spouses have no control over their divorce terms because they are decided by an arbitrator who acts as a “private Judge.” The arbitrator has complete power, just like a Judge of the Court.
At The Aurit Center, we exclusively provide mediation services. We do not offer arbitration services.
14. Do you handle post-divorce mediation if we are already divorced but need help resolving issues?
We provide a simple, effective post-divorce modification process for clients we have previously worked with through divorce mediation, and for new clients who did not complete their original divorce process with our office. Most often, these issues involve parenting time, decision making, or financial issues such as child support. We help you reach agreements and draft and file all modification documents with the court to make them final.
15. How do you choose the best divorce mediator?
Choosing a divorce mediator is one of the most important decisions spouses reach during their divorce. Here are some key considerations:
● Choose a meditator that you trust. Do you feel that your mediator is honest and genuine when you meet him or her in your first consultation? What is your mediator’s level of empathy and compassion? Do you think your mediator will be an “impartial” third party?
● Does your mediator practice exclusively in divorce and family mediation? A professional who is not primarily focused on divorce mediation work may not perform at the level of practice that you need from a family law mediator. Additionally, check for your mediator’s professional licenses and educational background.
● Is your mediator active in the field of family mediation? Look for leadership in professional organizations, published articles, and dedication to continuing education.
We hope we have provided you some insight into our most frequently asked questions. We believe that healthy divorce is a choice, and are here to answer any additional questions. To learn more, contact us at 480-378-2686 or email us at email@example.com.