Home » Blog » How Divorce Mediation Works in Arlington, Virginia
Divorce mediation is a more amicable, less expensive, and quicker alternative to traditional divorce litigation. In mediation, you and your spouse hire a mediator to help you analyze the issues in your divorce case and guide you through the negotiation process so that you can reach a fair and equitable settlement in your divorce.
To resolve a case at our Arlington, VA Divorce Mediation Office, a couple typically meets with a mediator for 1-4 mediation sessions, with each session lasting approximatley 2 hours.
Once you and your spouse have decided to resolve your divorce through mediation, the first step is to find a divorce mediator. You do not need to file for divorce or go to the Arlington County Circuit Court before starting the divorce mediation process. You and your spouse simply have to agree to try divorce mediation and find a mediator whose pricing, qualifications, and personality you both find acceptable. Ideally, you want to choose a mediator who has experience practicing divorce law in Virginia, as they will be more familiar with the laws, rules and customs governing your divorce in Virginia.
After you and your spouse have identified a potential mediator, the next step in the divorce mediation process in Arlington is to schedule an initial consultation. At the initial consultation, you and your spouse will meet with a divorce mediator at his or her private office, or over a video conferencing app such as Zoom, to learn about the mediation process. This meeting will give the attorney-mediator an opportunity to learn more about you and your spouses’ individual situation in order to make recommendations for the next steps. The goal of the initial consultation is for the couple to feel comfortable with the attorney-mediator and the mediation process he or she employs.
After evaluating your case, the attorney-mediator will make recommendations for how you should proceed, disclose their fees or determine how much your divorce mediation will cost based on the particular details of your situation. The attorney-mediator will disclose all costs and fees upfront. While most attorney-mediators charge hourly (like you would pay if you retained a litigation attorney for your Divorce), SnapDivorce provides you with a flat fee quote for the services you require.
After the initial consultation, should you choose to proceed with the process, you will sign a mediation agreement, pay the mediation fee (or at least a portion of it upfront), and begin to prepare for your first mediation session.
Most mediators will also ask that you sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that you will keep your discussions in mediation confidential. The rules in most states also provide for confidentiality.
Once you have signed your mediation retainer agreement, paid your mediation fee, and scheduled your first mediation session, your attorney-mediator will likely ask you to provide him or her with background information or they will provide you with a list of things to bring to the mediation. For example, if the case involves issues of dividing assets or support, the attorney-mediator may ask you to gather and send financial documentation such as tax returns and account statements or prepare a budget or outline of expenses and needs.
In addition, you should also mentally prepare for divorce mediation by thinking about the issues that are most important to you and identifying what you are willing to compromise on.
For more information on preparing for divorce mediation, check out our ultimate divorce mediation checklist.
Once you have completed the initial steps to prepare for mediation, it will be time for first mediation session. Expect this session to last between one and two hours. The mediator will start off the meeting by providing an overview of the mediation process. After that, you and your spouse will be given an opportunity to explain the situation from your point of view. The mediator will then ask follow-up questions to help get a better understanding of your situation.
In general, you and your spouse will meet with your attorney-mediator over Zoom or in his or her conference room. The goal is for the couple to feel as comfortable as possible. Mediation sessions are confidential and private between the spouses and the attorney-mediator.
During the mediation session, the three of you will begin by identifying and discussing the issues that need to be resolved, and you and your spouse will each have the opportunity to express your priorities, goals, and concerns as they relate to those issues.
Once the issues have been identified, you and your spouse will exchange relevant financial documentation (if there are financial issues) in order to value assets that will be distributed.
If your case involves custody, you and your spouse will discuss all issues related to custody, including schedules (both the kids’ and yours), living arrangements, transportation, holidays, vacations, and any other relevant issues and concerns.
After each mediation session, your attorney-mediator may draft a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) detailing the topics discussed at the mediation session, the agreements reached, and any topics that still need to be covered at the next mediation session (if applicable). The attorney-mediator will send both you and your spouse the MOU, which you should review carefully as the attorney-mediator will use this document as a guideline for the parties’ agreement.
Once you and your spouse have come to an agreement on all of the relevant issues, the attorney-mediator will draft the relevant agreement(s) that will be submitted to the Circuit Court in Arlington, VA, which may include: a martial settlement agreement (the agreement dealing with your property and support issues), a parenting plan/child custody agreement and/or a support agreement. The drafted agreement(s) will then be circulated for you and your spouse to review and sign. Depending on the terms of the agreement, once the agreement is signed, you may have to begin performing the terms of the agreement which might include closing bank accounts, transferring titles, and paying off debt.
Once the agreement is signed, your case will be referred to an affiliated attorney who will process the divorce paperwork through the Arlington County Circuit Court. You will officially be divorced once a judge signs the divorce decree, which usually takes one to two months, depending on the judge’s schedule and availability.