Running the numbers: Mediation vs the Rest

How much cash would you save by using Mediation?

Meet your alternative — Litigation

Your alternative is to use an expensive, in-court process where each spouse becomes a “party” and hires an attorney to help you fight each other.  A judge then issues a decision on various issues, which becomes binding on both of you whether you like it or not.  This is called “litigation”.

Any litigation holds the potential for costs to spiral out of control.  But the worst part may be when you realize just how little you actually get for your money.

By far the most time in a litigation is spent during the “discovery” phase.  That simply means the exchange of factual information between the parties.  Lets take a look at how wasteful and pointless discovery really is:

Discovery is a highly formalized process, where your attorney charges an hourly rate between $300 and $500 per hour to carefully draft various documents, including requests for certain documentation, and a series of questions called “interrogatories.”  This takes time because the wording has to be just right, and they have to do legal research (which you pay for) to find the right citations that root their requests in a basis of law.  Now the other side also has an attorney, and their job is to do their own legal research, and object to the form of the questions asked – to fight over the amount of information they are willing to disclose by raising legal objections to the way the questions were worded, and their underlying legal precedent.  Your lawyer is then in a position to do more research and do more drafting, while the other side does more research and more objecting.  And of course their side wants information from you as well, and the process repeats itself.  For years.  Do you see why litigation is always the most profitable route for your attorney, but the worst option for you?

Bottom line: $73,000.  $350/hr for 4 hours per week, 50 weeks in a year.  Don’t forget to add your $3,000 retainer fee!

Collaborative Law: Your 2nd best option

“Collaborative” doesn’t just mean trying to get along.  To lawyers it means something specific — This method is governed by Chapter 61 Part 3 of the Florida Statutes, “the Collaborative Law Process Act” and requires at minimum, the use of an attorney on either side, and a neutral mental health “facilitator” of your divorce settlement negotiations.  Attorneys in South Florida will cost an average of $350/hr, and a facilitator will cost around $250/hr.  So this method means paying at least 3 professionals, with each of them charging you their regular hourly rate.  Two attorneys and a facilitator could amount to $950/hr or more for the duration of your settlement negotiations.

Additionally, in cases that have some financial complexity, it is often recommended by the collaborative group that you also include a neutral financial professional, or “NFP,” who typically costs around $300/hr.  They will likely charge you to be at every meeting your team holds, even the ones where they don’t say anything or do any calculations.  You can read more about the value of these professionals here.  An entire team of professionals may be useful in a lot of cases, and its always better than litigation, but the price tag can be anywhere from $950/hr to $1250/hr or more.  An average collaborative case takes 4-6 months.

Bottom line: $19,000.  $950/hr for 1 hour per week over 20 weeks.

Mediation: Cheaper, Faster, Smarter

People are tired of wasting money on a process that does more harm than good, and is more expensive than it needs to be.  Mediation is the lean, efficient alternative to settling disputes in court.  Whether you are on the high or the low end of the income range, whether you have many complex assets or none at all, whether you have children or not, mediation will settle your divorce case faster and for less money, and with less stress and conflict than if you went to court.  It just makes sense.  And at Fair and Friendly Mediation, no retainer fee is ever necessary.

How can mediation be so much less expensive?  We respect your time, have no hidden fees, and use a transparent, easy-to-understand cost structure. Mediation uses just one professional — the neutral mediator.  We don’t divide you into teams.  We cut out the lawyers entirely (unless you really want them to be there).  We have no formal discovery process.  When it comes to dividing up the assets or calculating the child support, you get a straight answer when the law is clear, and we work together on creative solutions for everything else.

Of course, you will want to make sure the mediator has the necessary qualifications to be able to do a good job.  Most mediators will charge around $350/hr.  An average mediation will last around 6 hours total over the course of one or two days.  At Fair & Friendly Mediation, we include help with your document preparation.  We make sure you know where to go next.  We also talk to you on the phone for free and are always available for follow up questions both before and after the mediation at no extra charge.  We are with you from start to finish, and the only thing we charge for is time spent actually mediating.  The rest we see as an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to excellent service.

Bottom line: $2,100.  $350/hr for 6 hours over the course of one or two days.

Visit Fair & Friendly Mediation to learn more!  Or call us at 954-998-3247.

The NFP & The Quest to Restore Synergy

The Missing Synergy:

          The value of a collaborative team is defined by the synergy it creates when a team of professionals come together as a group and achieve greater results than any of them could individually.  That synergy is lost when team members are improperly utilized in ways that prevent them from using their skill set to offer the most value they can in a given situation.  Specifically, in many cases the Neutral Financial Professional is underutilized in 3 ways: 1) when used sporadically rather than consistently throughout the process, 2) when they are not expected to take an active role in interest-gathering, and 3) when they are insulated from the emotional dynamics of the parties, which deprives them of essential context for their financial conclusions.  Can this synergy be restored?

Collaborative Goals:

          Collaborative teams attempt to resolve potentially complex legal, financial, and logistical issues a couple faces as they negotiate a dissolution settlement.  A Neutral Financial Professional is often utilized as part of this group to provide financial analysis in areas such as business valuations, tax consequences of proposed courses of action, and forensic analysis of a financial record.  While the attorneys and mental health facilitators are expected to add value at every stage of the process, the NFP is sometimes brought onto the team in the middle of the process, or used “as needed” or in a limited capacity for the completion of specifically delineated tasks.  This approach leaves value on the table as the team is prevented from reaching its full potential.

Interests, Not Positions:

          One of the main goals of any collaborative team is to figure out the clients’ “interests,” an abstraction which underlies the specific positions or demands they bring to a negotiation.  For example, demanding a certain amount of money would be a position, while the desire to feel financially secure may be an underlying interest that drives the demand psychologically.  Understanding interests empowers the collaborative team to generate creative offers and counteroffers that help each spouse obtain the things they are truly interested in obtaining.  This is often challenging as clients may be in touch with desiring certain things or outcomes without being in touch with why they want them.  Interests are uncovered by astute professionals through discussions of various topics.  Many of a person’s interests may be uncovered through discussions about money.  Accordingly, the NFP has an essential role in discovering interests.  How?

The NFP Role:

          NFP’s are uniquely in position to offer the central goals of the collaborative process – empowerment of the parties and confidence in their negotiated outcome going forward.  A financial professional can use forensic accounting to analyze the mindset behind the financial decisions being made, they can assess the economic viability of proposed agreements, and they ultimately can propose options and financial solutions that no one else would have thought to suggest.  Doing so will allow parties to feel like the collaborative process worked – that they will be on sound financial footing going forward, and that they reached an agreement that will work for them.  But the NFP is more than an a la carte option who can be brought into financially complex divorce matters in the middle of a negotiation, towards the end after most issues have been settled, or in and out as financial questions arise.  They are not mere calculators who get called in to perform some calculations and then get put back in a pocket.  The information the NFP gathers can become part of a broader calculation.

The Synergy is Restored:

          The team’s synergy is restored when the financial professional is empowered to use his or her financial expertise in the context of the dissolution as a whole.  Being present in the process from the beginning can help the NFP calibrate their subsequent financial analysis.  By observing even non-financial discussions, the NFP will be in a better position to generate insight into client interests than if they were analyzing finances in a vacuum.  For example, the financial conclusion of “viability” of a proposed agreement will include subjective as well as objective components.  Not only do the numbers have to add up, the agreement has to account for the interests which cause money-related issues to become emotionally loaded.  Interests such as desire for retribution, feelings of entitlement, or fear of managing one’s own finances are often revealed over the course of the team meetings.  Analysis of financial documents can contribute significant insights into the mental and emotional states and subsequent needs of both parties involved in the negotiation, but this insight must be understood within the broader context of the parties’ relationship.  To fully understand and use that context requires the NFP to be present during all stages of the dissolution process.


          The NFP ought to be involved from the beginning of the process, included in every team meeting, preparatory discussion, and exploratory debriefing.  Expectations of involvement must also be developed, as NFP’s must be aware of the value they can potentially contribute to the team if properly utilized beyond the traditional role of crunching numbers.  The NFP must be given the opportunity to understand the emotional dynamics of the parties, as well as the interests that underlie their financial positions, in order to integrate context into their financial conclusions.  Such an expansive view of the role of the NFP will ensure that clients receive full value for the cost of assembling a team of professionals to resolve their marital conflicts.