How long will our Separation Mediation take?

May 25, 2017

People often ask me how long it will take to do the mediation process.
This is a great question and actually one I wish clients would ask me more often, because it tells me they’re thinking about their budgets, and weighing their options for how to get through the separation process, all of which tells me they’re thoughtful and strategic.
When you ask that question of a mediator, normally they’ll tell you it depends on two things:

  1. The complexity of the issues. Issues like an incorporated business that you own or co-own, a complex set of properties in different jurisdictions, or one or both partners paying child or spousal support to another family, these can make the mediation process take longer, because they are more difficult issues to work through.
  2. The amount of animosity in the relationship. If two people are angry and bitter with each other, negotiation takes longer because there’s less collaboration, less cooperation and less compromise.

So those two factors, the amount of complexity in the issues and the difficulty in the relationship, they determine so much about how long a mediation process will take.

Three other factors also commonly determine how long mediation takes:

  • The parties’ decision-making pace. Some people think on their feet and make decisions immediately. They’re able to make decisions they can live with. They can move forward fairly quickly. Others need time to think. They like to ponder and consider. They may need to go into their cave mentally, to mull it over and make sure they’re comfortable with the decision. These people sometimes need to consult with friends, and sometimes they don’t. Not everybody can make a decision in the moment, and live with it. Some people need more time than others to decide. They need to go away and come back.
  • How verbal the parties are. In a mediation session some people can express their ideas very quickly in a few words. Others like to add more detail and use more words to describe and process what they’re thinking and feeling. Those people are more verbal, and people who are more verbal spend more time talking. If the two parties in a mediation session are both very articulate and verbal, using lots of words to describe what’s going on and inside them, this will take more time in a mediation session.
  • How emotional issues in the relationship are continuing to impact the people in the negotiation. It’s common for the beginning part of a mediation session to be a time when people express to each other some frustration, and say some things to each other they haven’t been able to say. Often this is because they haven’t even seen each other for weeks or months or longer. It’s also not uncommon that those things can come back throughout a mediation session and need to be discussed at different points in different ways. And so when that happens, a session takes longer.

So there are some factors that will determine how long mediation takes: how many hours, or how many sessions.


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