Divorce Mediation is Cheaper Than Going to Court
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can lower the cost of divorce—and take less time
on October 30, 2018
Updated on May 3, 2022
Your divorce doesn’t have to be completely contentious. Uswah Khan, a family law attorney in Trumbull, Connecticut, is showing more and more clients that mediation may be the best way to separate.
“I’m all for mediation,” she says, “especially having a litigation background and seeing how ugly it can get. Mediation is great, because it’s leading to preserving the relationship within the families. The solutions in the settlement come from within; it’s not a person in a robe deciding what you’re going to do with your children and your life.”
If a potential client comes to Khan seeking a divorce, she’ll often screen them, by phone, to see if they and their spouse will be a good fit. “I’ll ask them if they’ve considered mediation or collaborative divorce,” she says. “If it feels like it might be a good fit, I’ll schedule both spouses to come in and meet with me for that initial consult.”
For Khan, most divorces get mediated in four sessions. “In each session I’ll discuss something different,” she says. For example: The first session may revolve around parenting issues, while the second could be about child support; the third could cover division of assets, while the fourth may go over topics like retirement accounts and life insurance.
Most of the time, sessions last one or two hours. “If it’s becoming more adversarial towards the end of the two hours, I’ll just ask that all the sessions be one hour going forward,” Khan says. “You don’t want them to start bringing up old issues because they’ve been there for too long.”
If you meet with your mediator once a week for four sessions, you can be done in a month, no court appearances necessary. “And then I draft up all the paperwork, have them back to sign it, and they can file it in court,” says Khan, adding that 37 percent of her divorce clients have used mediation in the past year.
Of course, experienced divorce attorneys charge different rates, but Khan charges her clients around $3,000 per mediation (broken into mediation sessions). A typical divorce that goes to court may cost upwards of $20,000, much more than the cost of mediation, and can take much longer than one month to get straightened out. As a bonus, in 2018, Connecticut passed a law allowing couples seeking non-contested divorces to skip the state’s 90-day waiting period; once you’ve mediated your divorce, you can get a divorce date mere weeks later.
When Khan sees couples trying to reach an agreement through mediation, she knows there will be less of a relationship breakdown going forward. “It leads to preserving their relationship with one another, because they now that this is what they agreed to, and they’re going to make it work,” she says.
“It’s hard enough for them getting the divorce, to have it be full of anger and hostility,” Khan continues. “Whereas, if you’re eating chocolates in my office together and laughing, that’s going to create a better rapport between the clients.”