FAQ & Glossary

Some frequently asked questions about Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce plus a helpful glossary.


Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a process involving a divorcing couple that meets together with a neutral mediator, in an informal setting, where they discuss their needs and concerns and make decisions for their future.

The mediator provides a safe, comfortable environment for negotiations. He helps the couple focus on their needs and their children's needs, rather than on complaints about each other or their feelings about the past. This enables them to talk about problems they must resolve. Everything that is said in the mediation sessions is strictly confidential. The goal is to arrive at an acceptable agreement to all the issues that must be settled.
As your mediator I guide the discussions and help you reach decisions. Soon, you will stop seeing each other as enemies in a "war" where there is only one winner and one loser. When you stop seeing each other as enemies you realize that you can work, with my help, to solve problems, rather than struggle to win or lose a fight.

Your common goals are emotional stability, good relationships with your children, and financial security. When couples focus on those goals, they can usually set anger aside and make decisions that help them get what they both need. I promote constructive communication and may suggest creative options if you reach an impasse on a particular issue. With my help you focus on the future, rather than harping on the past.

My practice is not to charge couples for the first half-hour meeting with me when I explain the divorce mediation process and answer questions.
I do not make any decisions for the couple, or tell them what they must agree to. I do not try to determine or to decide who is at fault on any issue. I do not provide therapy, counselling or legal advice to either side, although I may discuss general principles of law.
Usually, both parties contribute to the cost. The couple pays one reasonable hourly fee at the end of each session. They pay one mediator, rather than separate fees to two separate lawyers. The typical mediation takes 6 to 10 hours (4 to 6 sessions of about 1 ½ hours each).

Most mediators in the New York Metropolitan area charge between $200 and $350 per hour. There is a charge to prepare a formal, written agreement and to secure the official divorce judgment. The cost of a mediated divorce is a fraction of a litigated divorce that can take years. I will explain all the fees that you may incur in divorce mediation during our initial free consultation.
Each party may choose to consult an independent attorney to review the mediated agreement at some time before the final agreement is signed or at any time during the course of mediation. Lawyers can help clients understand how the law affects them individually.
Yes. Mediation is legally binding as soon as you both sign the written Separation Agreement. However, whatever you say or tentatively agree to during the sessions is not binding until you both sign the agreement.
Even if you are already in litigation, it is not too late to try divorce mediation. Just tell your attorneys that you want a "time out" to try mediation. Nothing that is said during the mediation sessions can be used in the litigation. It is never too late to try divorce mediation.

Collaborative Divorce

In a Collaborative Divorce, the lawyers assist you in resolving issues through a cooperative approach, rather than with adversarial strategies. It is a dispute resolution process that avoids the economic and emotional costs of going to court. This non-adversarial approach allows you, your spouse and the lawyers decide what will work best for you and for your family, rather than letting a judge make the decisions.
At the outset, the lawyers pledge not to go to court under any circumstances. If an agreement cannot be reached, they must withdraw from the case as the attorneys.

The lawyers and the parties agree at the outset to complete, voluntary and informal exchange of information, without the need to go to court.

Informal, four-person conferences are used in which the future of the couple and the family is the focus. Problem solving techniques are used to produce the best agreement possible, tailored to your family's needs.

You, your spouse and each lawyer work as part of a settlement team, not as adversaries.
In the unlikely event that you cannot reach a settlement, Collaborative Divorce Lawyers will withdraw from the process and assist you in retaining lawyers to resolve the matter in court. The result is that you will have had the best representation for the initial phase of the case and materials accumulated during the collaborative stage will be transmitted to the trial attorney so that there is a minimal loss of continuity.
  • The process is generally less costly and time consuming than litigation. The cost of an average limited contested divorce has been estimated at $65,000 and a complex full-courtroom divorce at $250,000. The average total cost of a Collaborative divorce has been computed at $20,292 and the average for a difficult or very difficult Collaborative divorce has been computed to be a total of $27,972.
  • You are each supported by your lawyers, and by a team of financial and other professionals who work to find the best resolution for the entire family.
  • You retain control of the process. No decision can be made unless you agree.
  • The process is much less time consuming than litigation.
  • Your case will be resolved with dignity, which benefits you, your spouse and your children.


A decree from a judge that declares that a marriage never existed.
A decree from a judge that dissolves a marriage and that allows each of the partners to remarry.
The time when parents are no longer legally or financially responsible for their children. It can be when the child reaches a certain age, or it can depend on certain other circumstances, such as when the child joins the armed forces or gets married.
Both parents, together, make major decisions about their minor children such as residence, healthcare, education, religious practices, etc.
A decree from a judge that declares that a married couple, living separately, are not responsible for each other. However, they are still married to each other and cannot remarry.
A voluntary process where a trained, neutral person (a mediator), helps people reach acceptable agreements together.
A written order by a court prohibiting a person from taking certain actions, such as harrassing, living with, visiting, or even contacting a spouse or children.
A deposit paid to a lawyer when he is first retained (hired). The lawyer’s hourly fee is deducted from the retainer as work is done on the case. When the retainer is used up, it has to be replenished, usually on a monthly basis. Initial retainers in divorce cases usually range from $2,500 to $10,000,or more.
A formal, written agreement signed by the husband and wife, that settles all of the issues that must be decided for a divorce. Issues include how the marital property will be divided, the terms of any maintenance (alimony) and child support that must be paid, and the parenting plan for the custody and visitation of the children. It can also contain any other agreements that the couple has reached.
Only one parent has the right to make major decisions about a minor child. There is no requirement to consult with the other parent first.
Child will live only with one parent.
This term can have two separate meanings. It can mean that a child lives with each parent for approximately the same amount of time. It can also mean that different children each live with a different parent.
A written agreement that is in effect while divorce proceedings are pending, until the final divorce judgment. It usually concerns the couple’s financial and support issues as well as parenting issues, such as where the child will be living, and visiting schedules with the non-residential parent.
The legal right of the non-custodial parent to spend time with the child.