Frequently Asked Questions
Don’t I need a lawyer to get divorced?
No, not necessarily. There are certain categories of divorce that are better handled if you are represented by an attorney. For example, if serious domestic violence is present, or the other person literally will not talk to you about the relationship, or insists ‘it’s my way or the highway’, the termination of your marriage may be better served using legal help. Your spouse has to answer your complaint for divorce, and if they fail to do so, there are negative consequences.
What, exactly, is mediation?
Mediation is assisted negotiation. If you are on good terms with your partner and both of you desire to end the marriage, you may be able to negotiate the terms yourself, fill out the necessary paperwork, file, and get divorced. But more likely there will be some issues that you two can’t seem to agree on. A mediator, often referred to as a ‘third-party neutral’, can often be of great assistance resolving those seemingly intractable issues.
Do mediators listen to both sides and then tell us what to do?
Some people who call themselves mediators do just that, but they should really be called ‘neutral evaluators’. These mediators are often retired judges or attorneys who know the law and can see what might happen if you two went to court over the divorce. They do give their opinions as to how you should resolve your disagreements. I practice facilitative mediation. I won’t be giving you advice on what to do, but I will be supplying legal information and sharing what I have seen happen in family court over the years.
If you won’t give us advice, what good will the legal information and stories from family court do?
As I mention in my blog post, At First, All Things Appear Difficult (July 21, 2017), you two did not need a lawyer to fall in love, plan the wedding, decide to have children and how to raise them, manage your finances, and in general, control your lives. Most adults can also handle ending the relationship, too. My job as your mediator is to help you find creative ways to resolve your disagreements, so that the divorce decree reflects what you both want from it.
Creative ways to resolve disagreements! What does that mean?
Let me give you an example: I once had a Mom and Dad who were making great progress on the terms of their divorce. They had divided their assets and debts to their satisfaction, breezed through child and spousal support numbers, and easily worked out custody (physical and legal) and their child’s holiday and vacation schedule. But they hit a wall over Sunday night. Let me explain. In their case, their daughter spent the weekend with Dad, starting Friday night. The bone of contention was when she came back to spend time with Mom. Dad asked that she stay with him Sunday night and he would bring her to school the next day. Mom insisted she come home on Sunday night to her. So, the problem was they each wanted to spend Sunday night with their child and they couldn’t see how to resolve that. I asked Dad why he wanted his daughter to stay Sunday night. He answered that he wanted to have more time to bond with her. Mom got the same question and gave the same answer. They were stymied. I then asked them how many Sundays were in a month and waited for their answer. It took a few minutes, but they soon realized that there were always at least four Sundays every month, and some months had five, and they could each have some of those Sundays with their daughter. They could share, and neither of them got the child every Sunday. With that, they were ready to write up the divorce decree. That what I mean by creativity.
What documents do I need to bring to mediation?
It depends. If there is disagreement over a particular fact, like how much debt you have, or how much money is in your 401k, financial statements could clear that up quickly. If you two don’t disagree on any issues like that, there’s no need to bring anything. (n.b.: If you are mediating post-divorce, it is necessary for me to see the divorce paperwork before we meet, so I have a sense of what you are trying to comply with.)
Can I bring witnesses to the mediation.
Witnesses come to court to testify. They are part of evidence. Since I will not be seeking evidence, there is no need to bring witnesses.
Can I bring a lawyer to mediation?
Yes, but most people don’t. They know they can always go to court if mediation doesn’t work out.
How long does mediation take?
It’s hard to say, because it all depends on the two of you. I usually schedule sessions for two hours because after that amount of time, people get tired and less productive. But if you’re both making progress we can go longer. As a rough rule, couples with children usually take three two-hour sessions to work things out, while couples without children are finished in two sessions. But don’t use those rough rules to measure your own mediation. Much depends on where each of you are in the dissolution of the relationship. Keep in mind that, in order to bring each of you up to speed on the information you need to have to make informed choices, there may be some weeks in between sessions.
How much does your mediation cost?
My basic fee is $250/hour, applied to sessions with me and the time I spend drafting documents. Participants may choose to complete the court's forms themselves, in which case the fee is applied to sessions only. The fee is to be divided equally between the couple or, if one person pays all, the amount that would have been due from the other person is included as an offset in the division of an asset or debt.
Gee, $250/hour seems high.
Attorney retainer fees in Clark County are often between $3500-$4000. That’s not including costs for copying and mailing documents to you two and the court. Let’s say you have children. If it takes you six hours of mediation to iron out your differences and complete the Joint Petition for Divorce and the Divorce Decree, you will have accrued a cost of $1500. The filing fee at court is $299 at this time. So, for $1800 you will have a divorce with provisions that you agreed you can live with, not something ordered by an official who doesn’t even know you. Clearly, it would be extremely helpful for the two of you to work out as much of your disagreements as possible before sitting down to mediate. But whether you come to mediation fully prepared or not, the experience will be much less stressful than going to court, I can assure you.
What can I expect to have at the end of a successful mediation?
If you successfully mediate your divorce, you may opt for me to prepare a completed Joint Petition for Divorce, a Decree of Divorce, and some other papers like the Family Court Cover Sheet and Affidavit of Resident Witness that one of you will file with Family Court. You will need to sign the papers. Filing is done in Family Court, 601 N Pecos Road, Las Vegas, NV.