In all divorce cases, if a settlement is not reached between the parties, mediation is now required before the court will set the matter for a hearing. As a result of this requirement, new mediators are popping up every day. Although anyone with a law license can mediate a case, most mediators go through extensive training and become certified by the Tennessee Supreme Court as Rule 31 Certified Mediators. In addition, Rule 31 Certified Mediators must continue to receive training and education past the date of certification.
Not all certified mediators are attorneys. In fact, one of the best mediators I know is a non-attorney. She received her Rule 31 certification from the Tennessee Supreme Court several years ago and handles a number of mediations involving children and parents. It is refreshing for me as an attorney to be involved in a mediation with a non-attorney mediator. The focus in those mediations is almost entirely on the best interest of the children without a lot of legal stuff getting in the way.
Most divorce cases involving complex issues, however, need the guiding hand of an experienced attorney mediator. There are a handful of older more experienced attorneys that do an incredible job at helping resolve complex divorce cases. One of the mediators I use was a pediatric nurse prior to going to law school and becoming an attorney. She does an excellent job at helping resolve cases involving medical issues such as where a child has special needs or concerns. Another mediator is a former JAG officer in the Navy. He does an excellent job explaining the complex issues involved in cases where one or both of the parties are current or former military service members.
Mediators range in price from $40.00 per hour on the low end, all the way up to $400.00 per hour and even more. Usually the cost is split equally between the parties, although in certain cases the court will require the costs be borne by the party with more resources. Not only do the mediators charge for their time, but the attorneys participating in the mediation charge their clients their usual hourly rate. This means that in some cases, the cost of mediation could run as high as $1,000.00 or more per hour when all the fees are factored in.
The best way to avoid the expense involved in mediation is to settle all of the issues in your divorce or custody case. This can be done prior to or after filing the case by sitting down with the other party and working out an agreement that works for both of you. Another alternative is to have your attorney schedule a settlement conference with the other attorney. Such a conference can take place in the office of one of the attorneys and is similar to mediation except without the mediator. No matter which option you choose, it is always best to settle your case prior to turning all the decisions over to a judge.