In traditional divorce litigation, and some other divorce resolution methods, attorneys require a significant retainer before they engage. Often, the retainer provides an initial capital infusion to get the process started, hire other professionals, or order reports. Much of the time, it merely serves to show the client’s commitment to the process, and not a specific purpose. So is a retainer really necessary for divorce mediation? In a word: no.
What’s different about divorce mediation is that mediators need very little preparation for each session. Their main objective is to help the parties discuss the issues important to their divorce during the session. Divorce mediators may prepare some reports or records to reflect agreements made along the way, and should prepare a Memorandum of Understanding at the end of mediation, which formally memorializes a final agreement. But there are no court filings, no letter writing campaigns between attorneys, no hearings, no behind the scenes studies, and no court-appointed evaluations.
In short, there is no reason to pay a retainer for divorce mediation. Itserves only to elicit a large up-front financial commitment from the parties for the benefit of the mediator, or mediation firm. It is not necessary to help the parties come to an agreement. By paying as they go, on an hourly basis for time used in mediation sessions, the parties can have better control over the cost of the process and will be able to measure that cost against the results. Now that makes more sense, doesn’t it?