Here are clear answers to some common questions you may have regarding mediated divorce in Virginia.
Is mediated divorce required in Virginia?
Generally, mediation isn’t a requirement for divorce, but in many cases, the judge orders the couple to mediate first instead of going into litigation right away. This is primarily because mediation saves time and money, not just for the couple but also for the court.
How much does divorce mediation cost in Virginia?
In Virginia, divorce mediation costs absolutely nothing if it was ordered by a judge. Our Commonwealth has a special fund to shoulder mediation costs, with the help of the Federal Department of Justice.
In addition, voluntary mediation is also inexpensive. A safe estimate of mediator rates in Virginia is $300 to $350 per hour, and this fee will be shared between you and your spouse. In other words, you could pay as little as $150 per hour.
Is mediation legally binding?
The mediation process itself isn’t legally binding – either party can walk away from it at any point – but it should ideally result in a legal agreement.
At the end of a successful divorce mediation, you and your spouse will have produced a document stating your agreement. Once both of you have signed it, it becomes a binding contract that is enforceable by the court. Typically, the mediated agreement is incorporated into the official divorce decree that the court makes during the finalization of your divorce.
Do I have to meet my spouse in person when mediating?
Physical, face-to-face meetings are highly preferred in mediation. Conversing in person is the most conducive way of discussing complex issues and arriving at an agreement. This way, both parties can clearly hear each other’s tone and see non-verbal cues, reducing the chance of misinterpretation. They can communicate without delay or interruption. The mediator can also moderate the dynamics of the discussion.
However, if it is not possible to meet in person – for example, if one spouse cannot travel to the venue in time – it is still feasible to mediate via teleconferencing apps like Skype. Another option would be to simply reschedule the session so that both spouses can physically attend.
Do I need to prepare anything for mediation?
Since the details of your divorce issues are discussed in mediation, it is helpful to bring relevant documents or items. For instance, you may want to bring:
- Your divorce papers
- Your completed financial affidavit
- Your proposed parenting plan
- Your child support worksheet
- Copies of your recent pay stubs
- Financial information, such as savings account numbers, property descriptions, appraisals, automobile VINs, and loan account information.
Do I need a lawyer in mediation? Can I bring a lawyer into a session?
You don’t need an attorney for mediation. We encourage a reconciliatory attitude during mediating sessions, so you don’t have to be up in arms against your spouse, and vice versa. However, lawyers are allowed into a session if you and your spouse agree on it. Remember, though, that the discussion will be between you and your spouse, not between your lawyers.
If you don’t feel confident about the legal aspects being discussed in the session, you still have the right to consult an attorney outside of mediation. However, if you and your spouse have hired a lawyer-mediator, you cannot consult with that professional – he or she must act only as a mediator, not a lawyer, in your case. In other words, you can only consult with an attorney who is not acting as the mediator between you and your spouse.
Can I bring other people to a mediating session?
Yes. Some couples bring their family and friends to provide support during mediation. Others even bring accountants or financial advisors. But again, we must emphasize that both you and your spouse will have to agree on who gets to attend your mediation sessions.
Can we mediate even if we’re unsure about divorce?
Yes! At Holcomb Mediation Center, we’re glad to serve couples who decide to mediate even before considering divorce. Mediation is a healthy way to resolve complicated marital issues, and we’re happy to hear of couples whose marriage survived because they mediated.
On the other hand, if you realize that divorce is the best option for you and your spouse, but neither of you have filed the paperwork yet, you can still come to us for mediation. The official filing of divorce is not necessary to start the mediating process.
Can we use mediation in modifying divorce orders?
Yes. If you or your ex-spouse wishes to modify a divorce order, a child custody order, or a similar decree from the court, you have the option to iron out these changes first through mediated discussions. This way, you can ensure that both of you agree to the proposed changes – without spending so much time and money on modification conflicts.
Are there cases when mediation is not recommended?
A vast majority of divorce cases benefit from mediation, but there are cases where this process may not be suitable, such as:
- When there is domestic violence
- When there is a history of manipulation by either spouse
- When there is a significant imbalance of power between the spouses (for example, if one spouse is financially dependent on the other)
- When mental health issues affect a spouse’s ability to participate in mediation.
How can we ensure that our mediator is unbiased?
You and your spouse must agree on the mediator you’re hiring – in fact, it is best if you both choose together. Find a professional who is licensed to practice in Virginia and is from an independent, reputable firm. Seek out referrals from trusted family or friends who have experienced first-hand what it’s like working with a mediator. You’ll also want to check the mediator’s testimonials to see what former clients say about them.
What if mediation doesn’t work?
In the few cases where mediation doesn’t reach an agreement, the couple is free to proceed to court for divorce litigation. It will then be up to the judge, with the help of some family experts, to decide on the couple’s disputes.
Do you have any other questions or concerns about Virginia mediated divorce? Talk to us at Holcomb Mediation Center. Our lawyer-mediators are happy to provide the clear answers you need. Give us a call at (757) 509-7832 to consult for free.