It varies – a lot. I helped one couple finish in two weeks. Another took four years. Eight to twelve weeks is probably the average. I tell couples that while I certainly won’t encourage them to hurry, I won’t be the source of any significant delay. So the answer mainly depends on the couple. Here are the main factors that determine how long divorce mediation will take to reach a complete, documented and signed agreement.
The couple drives the scheduling of divorce mediation sessions. If neither spouse is strongly motivated to get the divorce agreements worked out, the process can drag out. Some couples are very busy and/or have work schedules that make it harder to schedule mediation sessions. And there is some work for the couple to do between sessions – mainly financial data gathering. Some couples are focused in getting this done; many others are not.
How long you’ve had to emotionally process the end of the marriage
When the reality of getting a divorce has had significant time to sink in for each spouse, the spouses tend to be more ready to move on. Then there is less resistance to the divorce and the divorce mediation process. When one spouse is still experiencing emotional upheaval, the process usually takes longer.
Whether you can work out some agreements on your own
Some couples come to me with nearly everything already worked out. Then one session is usually all that’s needed. Other couples aren’t able to have constructive conversations or make agreements outside of the mediation sessions and so their process takes a lot longer.
Whether you have minor children
When the couple has not yet separated and it’s difficult to accomplish a separation either financially or emotionally (or both), the separation itself often needs to be addressed in the mediation process. This adds extra time.
Some spouses think clearly and simply. Others do not. When a spouse has difficulty grappling with all the issues in a divorce mediation, this can slow things down.
How prepared you are
A good mediator will give you homework to do and/or materials to read before each session to help you be prepared to maximize progress. If you take this seriously and do this preparation, the process will move more quickly than if you don’t.
When the spouses still have respect and care for each other, they tend to be more flexible in working out solutions that meet everyone’s needs as well as possible. When one or both spouses has dug-in positions on one or more of the issues, this can really slow things down.
The mediator’s experience and competence
Mediators vary in the extent to which they are well-organized, efficient, respond quickly and conduct productive mediation sessions. I have found that the more experienced I become in assisting divorcing couples, the faster the process tends to go.