If you have separated and need some help reaching agreement about your financial settlement, parenting arrangements or child support then you might be considering family mediation. And I’m guessing that a key question will be ‘What will it cost?’
At Keogh Mediation I strive to make my costs clear and predictable so I’m giving you this long answer, rather than just saying “It depends …”
Different types of separation mediation
Before digging into detail I wanted to clarify that there are three quite different processes that get referred to as ‘separation mediation’, ‘family mediation’ or ‘family dispute resolution’.
The first is when people engage a mediator instead of a lawyer. This is a stepped process – a series of appointments during which the mediator guides people through the collection of information and the making of decisions. Most people get some assistance from lawyers along the way – for legal advice and drafting documents to formalise the agreements they reach. But the lawyers don’t do the negotiating or information gathering for them. In this style of mediation you may spend a fair amount on a mediator, but it will be a lot less expensive than negotiating through lawyers.
The second is sometimes called ‘compulsory parenting mediation’. People have to try and resolve a dispute about children in mediation before they are allowed to make an application to Court. Lawyers and other professionals sometimes recommend these mediations as a first step. Other times they’ll recommend it after a period of negotiating through lawyers.
The third is a one-off event, typically organised by lawyers who are already working for the parties to the dispute. The lawyers have usually completed extensive work already and it might happen after a court application has been filed. In this type of mediation you spend a little bit on the mediator and a lot on lawyers.
At Keogh Mediation I provide all these types of mediation.
Factors that affect cost
These are the main factors that will determine the cost of your mediation.
How much you want to discuss
If you want to mediate about parenting, financial settlement and child support you’ll need more time with the mediator than if you just need help with one part. And within each part you might have a few or many topics to discuss.
How complex your situation is
If you have a simple financial situation (perhaps a mortgaged house, superannuation and some cars) you’ll need less time with the mediator than if there are financial complexities such as businesses, trusts and overseas held assets.
How much emotion needs to be managed
Mediation takes longer when people are still in the grip of the difficult emotions that typically accompany separation (like anger, fear and sadness). Sometimes you can keep costs down by waiting until time has healed the wounds, but this isn’t always possible as there are often decisions that need to be made urgently.
Capacity to ‘let it go’
Mediations move more quickly when people are able to make pragmatic compromises about small differences or to ‘agree to disagree’ about factual disputes that won’t make much difference to the outcome
How quickly you can think
The speed at which each person can process new information and articulate their thoughts has a big impact on the time it will take to reach agreement
Whether you do your ‘homework’ on time
In a mediation that has multiple sessions there are usually tasks that each person needs to complete between each appointment. If you both do these tasks on time the mediation process will move more quickly and you will spend less on mediator fees
Whether you address ‘interim’ issues in mediation
There are lots of short-term decisions (about children’s care arrangements and the use of financial resources) which need to be made so that there is a ‘holding pattern’ while the negotiations about long-term arrangements are happening. If you do this part through mediation it will, obviously, increase the cost of your mediation.
Typical total costs when you’re using a mediator instead of lawyers
Although every situation is different there are some typical pathways, which can help you get a sense of what your mediation is likely to cost. These typical costs are based on the fees charged as at 6 November 2023. My fees are adjusted at the beginning of each financial year.
Financial settlement only
Mediation about financial settlement involves an ‘information gathering’ phase and a ‘decision-making’ phase. The typical total cost is $2,450 per person. This covers both phases.
Parenting plan only
Negotiating a basic parenting plan that sets out the times that children spend with each parent typically costs each person $1,450. Mediations to agree upon a more comprehensive parenting plan typically cost each person $2,650.
Financial and parenting arrangements
Separated couples who use mediation to reach agreement about parenting and their financial settlement typically spend $3,450 each if they are negotiating a basic parenting plan and $4,600 each if they are negotiating a more comprehensive parenting plan.
When a mediation covers arrangements for children’s financial support it typically increases the cost by $1,000 per person.
Including negotiations about interim parenting and /or financial arrangements typically increases the cost by $660 to $1,000 per person.
Typical cost of ‘compulsory’ parenting mediation
If you’re coming to family mediation because you’ve been told that you have to attend mediation before you can go to Court then the mediation process is likely to evolve in one of the following ways:
The first possibility, and the one everyone hopes for, is that you will manage to reach agreement and never need to go to Court. The typical total cost in this situation is $1,450 per person, or $2,450 per person when there is a lot to discuss.
The second possibility is that you won’t be able to resolve your dispute by agreement and you will need to go to Court. If this happens you will ask me to issue a ‘s60I certificate’ to verify your participation in mediation. There is a minimum amount of mediation that you need to complete to be able to ask for a s60I certificate to be issued. The cost for this minimum is $1,450 per person.
The third possibility is that I make a determination, after individual pre-mediation appointments with each of you, that it isn’t appropriate for me to run a joint session. When this happens each person has spent $450 and I am able to issue a s60I certificate, if asked by either person.
The fourth possibility is that you ask me to invite the other person to attend a mediation, but they decline the invitation (or just doesn’t respond). If this happens you will have spent $250 and you will be able to ask me to issue a s60I certificate.
Typical cost of a ‘one-off’ lawyer organised mediation
When lawyers organise a mediation after a period of negotiation and information gathering, or after Court proceedings have started, they book either a ‘half day’ or a ‘full day’ mediation. There is a set fee of $1,450 per person for a half day mediation or $2,150 per person for a full day mediation. The lawyers will also charge fees for their attendance at and preparation for the mediation.