How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?

August 1st, 2011 - Erin Johnston

Clock TimeMediation is the most efficient method of conflict resolution, divorce mediation is no exception. As a result the mediated divorce process takes a matter of hours, versus months or years.

Divorce, as is any complete legal severing of a committed relationship, is an emotional and often overwhelming process for couples. Additionally most couples who commit to a long term relationship with one another do not plan to divorce one another in the future, as a result finances, belongings, and lives are often intricately intertwined. The untangling process can trigger uncomfortable emotions and problematic communication in even the most agreeable people. This is why divorce mediation can be so helpful.

The Divorce Mediation Process

The traditional litigated divorce process exploits the conflict and draws out the process. Divorce mediation, on the other hand, focuses on the areas of shared interest or agreement (no matter how small) and builds from there. As a result, full agreement can be reached through mediation quite quickly – in a matter of hours, not months.

Divorce mediation should last no more than twelve hours, but usually is completed in four to seven hours – even when minor children are involved. This translates to a handful of targeted divorce mediation sessions.

The sessions may be a couple of hours spread out over a matter of weeks, or they may be more intensive longer sessions that resolve the terms of the divorce in a single session.  The scheduling and design of mediation sessions entirely depends on the issues in dispute and needs of the those in conflict – not the mediator.

In all cases, participating in divorce mediation should be a relatively brief targeted experience as opposed to a long drawn out regularly scheduled encounter.
The vast majority of divorces can be efficiently resolved through divorce mediation – in a matter of hours. For those cases that are not resolved quickly, it is important to ask: If a couple is not able to resolve the issues in dispute in a few sessions, are things really going to change if additional divorce mediation occurs? If divorce mediation is allowed to continue week after week, discussions focusing on the same points of conflict session after session – are the parties really working towards resolution or are they just trying to wear one another out?

Although there is no absolute number of hours prescribed for specific conflicts, most cases – even contentious divorce and child custody cases – are completely and satisfactorily resolved within 12 hours of mediation.  There is no secret to the efficient nature of mediation: mediation focuses on the areas of agreement and builds from there. In the event that targeted focused divorce mediation is not able to resolve the particulars of a divorce in a matter of hours – referring the case to litigation needs to be considered.

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