How Long Does Mediation Take?

How Long Does Mediation Take? By Susan Ingram

{3:18 minutes to read}

When I first meet with my clients, they often ask me how long the divorce mediation process will take. My answer is: it depends. In reality, it depends on any number of different factors, such as:

  • How complex their issues are;
  • Whether they have children or not;
  • Whether they’re both “on the same page” as to the end of their relationship; and/or
  • Whether they’re waiting for certain events to occur (such as the sale of a home) before finalizing their arrangements.

The beauty of the mediation process is that the couple gets to decide how quickly or slowly they want to go. In mediation, it’s understood that one size does NOT fit all. Indeed, the process is tailor-made to the specific needs of each couple.

Certainly, there are some mediations that can wind up very quickly – in 2 to 3 sessions. Those are usually shorter marriages or ones in which the couple has no children. Generally speaking, though, most of my couples need from 4 to 7 sessions to reach full agreement on how they want to handle their separation and divorce. Occasionally, if the issues are very complicated or there’s an unusually high level of conflict, it may take longer than that.

In mediation, couples have control over the pacing of their sessions as well. Often, I will schedule sessions every two weeks. That gives the couple time in-between to process what’s been discussed during a session and also to collect information that we’ll need for the next session. On the other hand, couples may need to take some time off during the process (a few weeks or even months) for any number of reasons.

For example, I had a couple that saw me for three sessions at the beginning of the summer and then came back in mid-September to pick up the process again. Their time “on hiatus” was well spent. Their main concern in mediation was the co-parenting of their young son, aged 6. By the time they came back, they had tested several different approaches for dividing their time with their son, and ultimately found what worked best for all of them. They were much more relaxed through the rest of the mediation, having addressed their primary concern, and were able to wind everything up quickly.

While there certainly is a structure to mediation, within that structure the process itself can be very fluid and responsive to the unique needs of a specific couple. Once again, that’s the beauty of mediation – and the reason why I’ve chosen to help couples through this extraordinarily supportive and effective process.

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