In Utah mediation is mandatory before a client can even go to trial; they must go through a mediation process. There are plenty of private mediators out there and some of them are extremely good. The really good ones are former judges and they have been doing it for a while. They are usually booked out a few months ahead so to get an appointment have them come in and do a mediation, otherwise the waiting list is long. They are also expensive. They usually cost $250 to $350 an hour. What that means is when you go to mediation; the fee will be split fifty-fifty.
Most divorce meditations will go at least four hours and sometimes they go longer unless a lot of issues are already taken care of. That is a private mediation. If there is no money for a private mediator, there is the Utah Dispute Resolution and they are a nonprofit organization. They have mediators and their price depends on each party’s income. One must bring tax returns and pay check stubs. They analyze the income and they will offer a sliding scale rate. One must pay based on the individual’s income which is usually lower than the private mediators.
The Utah Dispute Resolution is a little bit more cumbersome process, because giving them personal tax returns, and pay check stubs. They also require a questionnaire be filled out with several pages long, before they will even schedule an appointment to mediate. All that leg work must be done upfront, but once the mediation process starts, it is just issue by issue. Everything usually gets resolved and at the end, there is a typed up agreement in which it is written that everybody signs, and it can be filed with the court.
That mediation agreement or that settlement can then be turned into your divorce decree and analyzed by a judge afterwards. Mediation is the opportunity to custom craft a settlement so to speak or it is the divorce decree. Mediation also has a lot of flexibility in which it allows clients to do things that would not get approved in court. Let me give an example. You have trade assets, one can say, “Okay, I get this car, you get this car or I’m going to take this bicycle you get this four wheeler.” Or trade items, right? Or offset them. Judges will not do that. Judges just give it all up.
He is not going to trade and he is not going to offset things. He is going to say, “Oh you cannot agree on the house? House is up for sale.” Split the equity if there is any. That is how it is going to go. It is not going to be okay. Who keeps the house who refinances it? It is none of that. There are no negotiations involved. That is why mediation is not only used and required, but it usually gives a person a better outcome than in trial, unless the case is fantastic. There have been cases where the judge was going to be predictable in trial.
We knew we were not going to do better than that in mediation. Going to trail was obvious because mediation was not going to work for our clients. There is a cost benefit analysis to it, but there is also the benefit of being done, because people want to be done with their divorce. They want to move on. The mediation process really helps with that. If mediation does not work it still takes a good three to six months depending on which judge is assigned in court and have the trial plus the cost of having the attorney and doing so. It costs both time and money.
Mediation is obviously preferred and it is definitely mandatory, but it is not like you have to give up anything if so desired. Going to trial is the alternative if mediation is not working.
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