Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method where the conflicting parties negotiate for possible solutions in presence of a neutral person or a mediator.
The mediator is the facilitator and works to guide both parties towards finding a solution. Mediation in child custody is one of the ways where parents try to solve their issues regarding the custodial of the child or children outside of the court.
Child custody mediation is way cheaper when compared to leaving everything to the court. In some instances, the court may instruct the parties to mediate certain issues before asking the court to rule. The decisions made in the mediation phase are not legally binding.
However, the parties may request the judge to approve some agreements that may need to be enforced if one party fails to follow through.
It is also imperative to note that the cost of mediation can vary from one case to another, and involve different requirements. The cost is also different from one state to another or county to another. Therefore, it is dependent on many factors that we are going to discuss in this article.
Is Mediation Cheaper than Going to Court?
The cost of hiring an attorney can be expensive depending on the nature of the case, and the experience of the attorney of your choice. If the court does not appoint one, you can choose a mediator that you can more easily afford. Some states have government-regulated service providers that would make it even cheaper to go for mediation rather than to file a case in court.
Mediation also helps speed up the process in the court since the parents can negotiate some issues that would otherwise drag on forever in the court. This reduces the time you have to spend battling in court on numerous petty issues, which cuts down the overall time and cost of your case as well.
So, is mediation cheaper than going to court? Yes! Mediation is way cheaper in terms of resources and time. Apart from that, it is also beneficial for both parents and the children since the decisions of mediation are easier to comply with than the ones decided by the court.
The Cost of Mediation in A Child Custody Case
Mediation is free in some counties or states where the court appoints a mediator to family cases including child custody. In most instances, the government only pays part of the costs. They do not pay for your personal council to attend the mediation. If you plan to bring a lawyer to the meeting, be prepared to pay for their attendance yourself.
For the government-subsidized costs when using a government-regulated service provider, you can pay as little as $5 per hour, but can range from $0 to $35 per session or per hour. This can be extremely helpful when used wisely to iron out disputes that require hours of debate.
Private mediators, in most cases, range between $100 to $1000 per hour depending on the nature of the case, and the experience of the mediator. That may sound exorbitant compared to a court provided mediator, but is still way cheaper than taking your case to court since mediation doesn’t take as much time as a court case would take.
Factors that Can Affect the Cost of Mediation in A Child Custody Case
Some of the factors that can raise or lower the costs of child custody mediation include:
Voluntary vs Compelled
Voluntary or private mediation means you and the other parent of the child will pick a private mediator who is also well versed in child custody issues.
Compelled means you are ordered by the court to undergo a mediation process and the costs are pre-set by the court.
voluntary or private mediation will normally involve both parents meeting one mediator in one room simultaneously. Sometimes parents may wish to undergo mediation separately if they cannot handle being in a room together for extended periods of time, without losing their cool.
This means the mediator will be tasked with jostling between the two parents in one-on-one meetings while trying to come up with a consensus to the issues at hand.
This way takes way more time than it’s worth, and tends to bring out the worst in people as both parents try to win the favor of the mediator by bad-mouthing their EX, and bragging themselves up to no end.
That is why it is always better to be in the same room at all times, to keep the trash talk to a minimum.
To make it less difficult, the mediator can take small breaks when discussions begin to get heated or unproductive.
Like a boxing match (which it kinda is) where both sides can go to neutral corners for a few minutes to cool off, a good mediator can read the room and guide the meetings to be productive and peaceful.
As I’ve said before, the divorce or break-up is over, It’s not about you two anymore, THIS IS ABOUT THE WELL BEING OF THE CHILDREN that you still have to provide a quality life for.
Government Ordered Mediations
Some counties or states absorb or subsidize full costs of family mediations. That usually means getting a mediator who is regulated by the government.
In this case, you may only pay for facility costs to rent the room or neutral location and the costs of traveling assuming you live nearby.
If you and your ex-partner are living near each other and will not need to travel far to meet the mediator, for this case, you may be allowed (or ordered) to meet at the courthouse, or other govt. facility.
I have seen public libraries provide space, as well, especially in smaller communities.
Online / Zoom Mediations
These days many things are finding their way to the Internet, and Child Custody mediation is no exception. Many parents are finding great success in having these meetings from the comfort of their own couch or desk.
the many benefits to this format include no traveling to a central location, with possible traffic jams, bad weather, and vehicle problems. This also normally means no babysitter needed (although some still feel it necessary) which can cost quite a bit.
Also, no need to find or rent out a conference room, which can be expensive, and as an added bonus, the parties are not within each others comfort zone or “to close for comfort” which minimizes stress levels tremendously. There seems to be less yelling and screaming, and more constructive conversation with this flexible style of mediation.
More and more, these online versions of mediation are proving to be a step above the normal meet and greet style debates.
After considering the costs of mediation, you will note that the costs are cheaper as compared to going to court. There are many advantages to solving your child custody case through mediation rather than the court process.
These issues will need to be addressed one way or another, they do not go away, and only get worse if ignored. These discussions can be held in person, in mediation, or in court…
I suggest working them out, long before the courtroom and lawyers get involved.
Mediation takes a shorter time and is important in setting the base for communication and a good relationship between the parents and children even after you have separated or divorced.
It is also important for the emotional and psychological well-being of the children to settle matters through peaceful discussion and logical reasoning for the remainder of their childhood and beyond.