What does mediation cost?

“Understanding the fee structure was extremely important in helping me make the decision to mediate.”

Q: What does Graine Mediation charge?
A: Most cases are settled for a total average cost of $5,900 - $7,200. That total cost includes session fees at $450 per hour. Most cases are resolved in two 3-hour sessions. Your costs for drafting the Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) are also included in the $5,900 - $7,200 average total cost. For details, see our chart below


Divorce Mediation

Divorce Litigation

Pre-Mediation Phone Conferences – Two Choices.

Each party is entitled to one FREE 15-minute Pre-Mediation Phone Conference.

Call 571-220-1998 or schedule online.

An IN-DEPTH Pre-Mediation Phone Conference is recommended for clients with complex cases, emotionally charged divorces, and situations where clients are unsure about whether or not to move forward with a divorce. This cost is $200.

Free consultations are quickly becoming a thing of the past in Northern Virginia family law firms. Some divorce lawyers still provide quick consultations for clients, but legal advice is usually not given until after a retainer fee is paid.

Hourly Fees & Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) Fees

Total Average Cost: $5,900 - $7,200 from first Mediation Session to signed Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).

Mediation session fees are $450 per hour. Most cases are resolved in two 3-hour sessions.

The Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is charged at a flat fee, approximately $3,200 - $4,500. That fee is determined based on the complexity of your case (note that this MSA fee is included in the $5,900 - $7,200 total average cost).

There are usually no or very low fees for work done outside of the mediation session in terms of document review or legal/tax research.

For sessions beginning after 4:30pm and on weekends, there is a 20% surcharge.

Attorneys charge between $375-$550 per hour in Northern Virginia. Divorce lawyers usually charge for all of their time, even short phone calls, emails, and basic file reviews. You will also be charged for every minute that your attorney spends waiting at the courthouse for your case to be called.

Attorney fees double in size quickly because your spouse will have his or her own attorney, too.

Litigated divorces take between 1-3 years to complete, depending on the circumstances and the complexity of the case. In the Fairfax and Northern Virginia area, litigated divorces easily cost $20,000 (just to get started) and fees of up to $130,000 per spouse are not unheard of.

Office and Administrative Work

There is very little administrative overhead in mediation. In most cases, there are only nominal charges for outside phone calls and emails because the vast majority of the discussions related to settlement and the review of important information gets done in the mediation sessions.

Litigation is hugely document intensive and most of the work on your case is done without your presence or, in many cases, knowledge. Divorce litigation is complex and requires a lot of time in document preparation and management, legal research and strategizing. You will not be involved in most of these activities. As a result, many clients find it hard to keep track of what they are being billed for and why that particular service is necessary. There are also many billable hours necessary in communicating with opposing counsel, expert witnesses and court clerks. Most firms in the Fairfax and Northern Virginia area also bill for photocopies and courthouse filing fees.

Discovery and Document Production

There is no formal discovery in mediation. This saves thousands of dollars in fees and administrative costs.

Parties are required to bring all relevant and necessary information to the mediation so that both spouses can make informed settlement decisions. Which actual documents will be necessary is determined on a case-by-basis.

At Graine Mediation, we do not handle cases where either party suspects that the other is hiding assets or income. In those situations, we will refer you to an attorney to conduct formal discovery (a court-supervised process of gathering information).

Formal discovery is the norm. Conducting discovery is time consuming and outrageously expensive.

Efficient discovery requires the cooperation of both attorneys and both clients. In contested litigation, however, this is not how the game is played. That means that everyone must go to court to fight about the discovery requests. However, court houses are so backed-up with motions, based with convoluted legal strategies and maneuvering, that it often takes months to see a judge.

Retainer Fees

There are no retainer fees at Graine Mediation. Session fees are due at the end of each mediation session.

The fee for drafting the Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) must be paid in advance.

Lawyers charge retainer fees in large lump-sum payments. In the Fairfax and Northern Virginia areas, divorce lawyers’ retainer fees are at least $2,500 - $10,000 just to get started. It is rare that any of your retainer fee will be returned to you -- even if you stop the litigation. That money will get burned through quickly. When the retainer fee is used up, a new chunk of money is then required to keep the litigation in motion. This is standard.

Expert Fees

When you and your spouse reach an agreement, an expert usually isn’t necessary. However, in matters that are particularly complex, or where a third party’s expert opinion is necessary in order for both spouses are able to make informed settlement decisions, one expert is shared between the parties (i.e. no “battle of the experts”). Experts are most often needed in cases where (a) the value and income generating capacity of a small business is sought, and (b) in cases where other unique assets need to be valued by an expert.

Often times, both parties hire their own experts for advice, opinions and as a forensic expert (an expert witness in court). When each party hires their own forensic expert, it is up to judge to determine which expert is “right.” Hiring “dual experts” can get very expensive. In litigation, experts are often hired to (a) comb through voluminous financial documents looking for hidden assets, (b) to offer an opinion as to value of property, assets and businesses, and (c) to offer an assessment of which parent will do a better job at raising the children.