It is not enough to compare a mediator's hourly rates for the time they spend with you! How much you will ultimately pay for all professional services from start to finish is the bigger question, and that depends on how you choose to use a mediator and when. Are you choosing mediation right from the beginning as a cost effective way to get help from a neutral legal professional to gather the same information divorce attorneys and judges would, but doing it yourselves to avoid disruptive and costly litigation? Is it a goal of yours to build early customized divorce/custody/support agreements that work for everyone? Or will you see a mediator who is a traditional divorce attorney or retired judge after adversarial lawyers have been involved for a year and a half or two years and stirred up controversy at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to each of you?
99% of clients attend Detente mediations without divorce lawyers, even if they have them. Detente makes it possible for you to represent yourselves and stay entirely out of litigation and court except for a short visit when the judge signs your papers for divorce, support, and/or custody. That means you have control over all the costs and decision-making, not just the mediator's fees.
Here is what you absolutely need to know before you check out our pricing below.
More client "doing" means dramatically lower expenses all the way around. Mediators must have complete information to be effective. The cost can be reasonable or extraordinarily expensive for mediation participants to gather information that forms the basis of agreements about separate and community property assets and debts, support, retirement, and parenting plans. What makes the difference in cost? The mediator!
Detente mediation is early and comprehensive: Detente has perfected affordable, efficient, "self-contained" mediation that does not require couples to go through divorce lawyers first or at all unless they want to. Couples save tens of thousands of dollars by avoiding costly formal "discovery" used by lawyers (interrogatories, request for disclosure, request for production, request for admissions, depositions, subpoenae, and hearings). Detente mediators work directly with the parties during the Detente mediation process to guide them to informally gather and exchange at little to no cost the same relevant information they would provide in litigation to each other separately through their divorce lawyers. More importantly, the personalized interaction lets us get to know you, your family, and what you consider most important as you negotiate well-informed agreements that truly meet your family's unique needs.
In contrast to Detente, traditional mediation usually happens close to trial and requires extensive lawyer preparation and high costs. A traditional mediator's information comes from the lawyers who have had extensive involvement and incurred high fees long before mediation happens. Traditional mediators in Texas usually put a party and his or her lawyer into a room separate from the other party and his or her lawyer. The mediator goes between the rooms and uses damaging information and evidence each lawyer developed in the course of litigation against the other side to try to create so much fear of losing at trial that the parties feel compelled to settle rather than risk it. Unfortunately, the predictable consequence of such tactics is excalated conflict which makes it that much harder to settle in mediation and creates long term resentment.
Unlike Detente where we have bite sized two or three hour sessions at a time, a traditional mediation is usually an eight to twelve hour marathon during which the mediator and each of the lawyers charge hourly fees. A traditional divorce mediator's fees in the Metroplex may range from $200 to $750 per hour. Each divorce lawyer may charge between $250 and $800 or more per hour. Using these numbers, the fees for a traditional mediator and two lawyers in an eight hour traditional mediation (not a Detente mediation) may range from $5600 to $18,800.
Because it is too late to get ready for trial if a traditional mediation fails at that late stage, the lawyers must prepare for trial from day one. If each lawyer spent only ten hours doing discovery and ten hours of trial preparation (which is very little time), each party would also have paid his or her lawyer $5000 to $15,000 before ever getting to traditional mediation. By the time you get to a traditional mediation, each of you has already paid for that expensive trial preparation - whether you settle or not.
Instead, Detente offers mediation at much less expense, and most parties enter mediation without attorneys and before they have started a legal process. Most parties in Detente mediation complete mediation in two to four months at signficant costs savings. As an added bonus, parties at Detente have the option of tapping into Detente's professional resource network of communication, parenting, tax, and financial planning specialists to assist them in becoming well educated about their options before they decide what to commit to.
Total Detente mediation costs are driven by two factors: conflict and complexity. Mediators' fees are billed by the hour. Many of Detente's mediation clients gather their information, evaluate their options, complete negotiations, receive a mediated divorce or custody settlement agreement, and finish court paperwork for less than the initial retainer one divorce lawyer may quote just to get started. Lower conflict and complexity requires fewer hours; the opposite is also true. In a free consultation your mediator will estimate how long it may take you to mediate and how much it will cost for your individualized situation.
Mediation is inevitable; save time and money by doing it first. Unless there is family violence, virtually without exception a judge will order you to attend mediation before giving you a trial. It makes sense to consider exploring paths to agreements right from the beginning, rather than waiting to mediate until just before trial after paying attorneys. If you are looking for a "cheap divorce" or custody agreement we are not the place. We're serious about quality, value, and efficiency while making sure you have enough time to be well informed and educated before you make any decisions. When you are ready to separate, divorce, reconcile, or work through custody, child or spousal support, or post-divorce issues with the availability at any time to add other professionals at a reasonable price, we are just a phone call or email away. Detente is available even if you are already involved in litigation and/or are already scheduled to mediate with someone else.
We have flexibility on pricing. We have helped couples who are deeply in debt and considering bankruptcy, teenagers with a child, those who have millions of dollars, and everyone in between. We customize our services and our fees to meet each couple's and parent's individualized needs and budget.
Come in and talk with us about your situation in a free consultation and see if Detente is right for you.
Two Part Detente Mediation Fees: In Session and Out of Session
1. Fees per Hour of In Person Mediation
2. Outside of Session Services Paid by Deposit
Your mediator continues to work for you outside of mediation sessions. In addition to the in person session hourly fees that are paid at the end of each mediation session, the mediator collects money to hold on deposit for services performed outside of sessions to:
- Document agreements after each meeting
- Respond to emails and phone calls
- Coordinate with other professionals and attorneys if necessary
- Draft a legally binding settlement agreement
So you are not receiving bills for mediators’ out-of-session services as they occur, for your convenience we accept a refundable and replenishable deposit of $1500 - $3000 at the beginning and apply the out of session service fees against it. Again, this deposit is not per person; it covers both of you. We do take a one time getting started fee of $250 which covers the cost of all the preparation, filing, and educational materials we send you for the sessions. Preparing in advance when you are not paying a mediator makes the sessions cost effective when you are paying the mediator. Session fees for your professional family mediator are paid separately at each session, not from the deposit (which means Detente holds less of your money and gives you the ability to budget and plan a schedule for sessions).
Mediation is voluntary. If you decide to leave mediation or you have any deposit money remaining at the end of mediation, you get it back.
3. Court Paperwork
Parties who represent themselves ("pro se") in Texas will need to file with the court a "petition" to start a divorce or custody case and either a "waiver of service" or an "answer". Most Detente clients choose to have the Detente attorney mediator guide them through filling out and filing these initial documents which are fairly straightforward and uncomplicated. Later, after all the agreements have been made, they will also need a divorce decree or an order on the custody case to present to the judge to sign to end the marriage or to establish custody between them. The mediator can guide the parties to completing these documents themselves which saves money over hiring divorce lawyers.
In between, a Detente mediator will write for the parties a mediated settlement agreement that includes all the terms of their divorce or custody which is legally binding when both parties voluntarily sign it except under very limited circumstances. The Detente attorney-mediator can assist parties who represent themselves to customize the decree or order by incorporating the provisions of the mediated settlement agreement into excellent, free, publically available forms at www.Texaslawhelp.org for a flat fee of $499. Or, the parties can hire attorneys (at least one) to do this for them and present it to a judge and pay the attorney(s) separately. If parties hire attorneys they will not need the $499 meeting with the mediator.
In case you wanted to know, the reason a mediator (even if an attorney) does not do the paperwork for the parties is because the mediator is not practicing law when serving as a mediator, which means the mediator does not have a legal duty to represent one party's individual interests over the other party's individual interests. So, a mediator who is an attorney cannot serve as a neutral for both parties and also represent one or the other of them to draft these documents. However, Texas does allow "self help" for pro se parties which makes it easier and less expensive for them to complete the court paperwork themselves with guidance from the attorney mediator.
How much does it cost and how long does it take for a litigated divorce in Texas?* Much more and much longer than at Detente.
*Please note you can have an "uncontested" divorce without having to meet the requirements listed in the article linked above.
The greatest savings from doing Detente mediation is you avoid the expense of paying lawyers to do what you can do yourselves with our help. You are not required to have a lawyer to divorce; but divorce lawyers are welcome to join you in mediation sessions at Detente. Having the choice about how or whether divorce lawyers participate while you mediate means you control lawyers' fees. If you choose a mediation-friendly family law attorney who participates offline to help develop solutions, review your agreements, and do legal paperwork, that is fine too! We are happy to refer you to attorneys who encourage amicable solutions for families and will not create unnecessary conflict or you may find your own. Detente does not receive referral fees or share fees with any other professionals.
Peace of Mind
Your Detente attorney-mediator will tell you what the law is, analyze legal issues, and discuss your choices without taking sides. If you have your own attorney, he or she can give you individual advice and recommendations for what you should do on any specific issue if you also need that help. Please remember the mediated settlement agreement the mediator writes is legally binding when the two of you sign it. If you wish to do so, please consult with an attorney of your own choosing before you sign any final settlements so you will have the peace of mind of knowing your decisions were smart and well-informed.
To get the greatest satisfaction, value, and save the most money, make Detente mediation your first choice. Call us today at (817) 283-5100 to schedule a free consultation and your mediator will help you understand more about the process and the pricing for your personal situation.