9. Mediation: How Long Will It Take? How Much Will It Cost?

How Long Will It Take?

It is unusual for a mediation session to last more than a day. Usually, if a case is not settled by the end of the day, the mediators and the parties agree that settlement is not likely. Sometimes, participants agree to stay in touch by letter or phone in the coming days or weeks. Many less complicated mediation sessions are scheduled for and completed in a half day.

How Much Will It Cost?

It depends. If you have a difficult case with significant property or issues involving children, you’re probably going to need a “real” mediator— that is someone who really knows what he or she is doing. The fees that mediators charge vary from rural areas to the cities. In metropolitan areas most good mediators are going to want a fee beginning in the range of $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 for a day-long session, meaning $500.00 to $750.00 for each party. There are, of course, mediators who have fees of $4,000.00 or $5,000.00 or more a day.

The other extreme of the financial spectrum are the Dispute Resolutions Centers scattered around the State in virtually every metropolitan area. The addresses and phone numbers for these centers can be found quickly by typing in “Texas Dispute Resolution Centers” or “Texas DRC” into a search engine. Most of these centers provide unpaid volunteer mediators. The centers usually charge a small mediation fee of perhaps $50.00 for each side. The mediators at these centers run the gamut of the good, the bad, and the really ugly. Unless you are on a poverty-level budget, you don’t have much property at stake, and you don’t have any child-related issues, this DRC approach has limited appeal for me.

There is one time that I would use the Dispute Resolution Center. That is when you know mediation is a waste of time, but you are “going through the motions” to keep the judge happy. If mediation is a waste of time, you might as well not waste any more money than you have to. If your opponent wants to take a chance on a volunteer mediator, it may mean that he or she believes either that the case won’t settle or that there is not much at stake.

In doing your mental computation of the cost of mediation, you must include your own attorney fees. By the time you get to mediation, you will have hired your lawyer, agreed to the amount of fees, and perhaps paid a bill or two or more. So, you can compute to fees that will result from a day of mediation plus some preparation time. Rarely, I suspect, will your own lawyer’s fees be less than what you are paying the mediator. So, contrary to the advertisements posted by the mediationis- the-cure-for-everything folks, mediation is not cheap. It is true, however, that it is usually, though not always, cheaper than trying your case.

Robin M. Green, Divorce: When It’s the Only Answer (The Ordinary Mortals Guide, Inc., 2005), Chapter 14, pp. 213-214.