How long would mediation take?

I speak a lot to the benefits of mediation, including that it’s faster than going to court, but divorcing couples may wonder how long this process could take their particular case. As something of a baseline, many spouses complete divorce mediation within three to six months. Where would you land on this spectrum? The answer greatly depends on you and your spouse or partner. Consider the following factors:

Complexity of the case

Some cases take longer than others, because there are more issues to deal with. Do you have children, own a home, have investments, and so on? You’ll have more work to do than couples that don’t. Parents having three children may need more time to discuss and reach agreement on their kids than parents with one. If a child has special needs, that, too, may warrant a longer conversation and perhaps the gathering of additional information.

Have a Picasso? You might want to have that appraised, and scheduling that appointment may take time. Far more common is meeting with an accountant, financial planner, or lawyer.

Communication between you

Can you and your spouse speak civilly and listen to each other? Or, do you bicker constantly? Couples who communicate fairly well go through the mediation process more quickly than those that don’t.

There are spouses who can even work well together outside of sessions. If that is you, so much the better; you’ll not only save time, but money as well, as there will be less to mediate about.

Doing the work that’s required outside of sessions

At a session, did you tell the mediator that you would have that Picasso valued, but just can’t seem to find the time? Yeah, that will hold things up, the same as if you don’t find out what your home is worth, or gather bank statements and other information that needs to be discussed.

Length of sessions

If you have the information you need and are ready to discuss it, you can accomplish more in a two-hour session than a one-hour session, allowing for fewer (but longer) sessions overall, and maybe over a shorter period of time. But making sessions longer only makes sense up to a point. (Some parties prefer to stop after one hour, and in those cases, that is what we do.)

Even after 90 minutes or the two-hour mark, many people are tired, and it doesn’t help clients to keep going if they aren’t thinking clearly; the same can be said of the mediator. Marathon sessions, lasting for hours — in which some divorce mediators engage — doesn’t make sense to me, and so I don’t do it.

Your respective schedules

If you both are available to meet pretty regularly, and without much time between sessions (say, every week or two), the mediation will go quickly.

But there may be a demanding work schedule, perhaps including out-of-town travel. There are parenting responsibilities that trump everything else: holidays and birthdays, school plays, and work functions. Planned vacations and the unexpected broken pipe can take precedence. A lot of what can affect the length of the mediation may have nothing to do with your separation or divorce, but rather with the other things going on in your lives.

Consideration of these factors should give you a good sense of how much time mediation would take in your situation. Again, if you are like most people, the chances are very good that you would complete the process within three to six months. But wherever you are on the continuum — or even if you fall outside of it — if you and your spouse or partner are good candidates, you can expect to spend a whole lot less time (and money) in mediation than you would fighting it out in court.

New York City and Long Island-based divorce mediator and collaborative divorce lawyer Lee Chabin helps clients end their relationships respectfully and without going to court. Contact him at lee_chabin@lc-mediate.com, (718) 229–6149, or go to http://lc-mediate.com/. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lchabin.

Disclaimer: All material in this column is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.