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What is mediation?

Mediation is a settlement process where couples utilize an independent, neutral person (called a mediator) to aid them in negotiating the terms of their divorce and drafting a final agreement.

The mediator guides and facilitates the participants through difficult conversations with the goal of helping them reach mutual agreement on all aspects of their divorce.
What issues can be handled through mediation?

Mediation offers couples the opportunity to discuss and negotiate all relevant family law issues privately and out-of-court including: 

  • Child Custody and Co-Parenting Plans
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support (Alimony)
  • Division of Marital Assets and Liabilities
  • Expert Fees and Court Cost Allocation
  • Any other issues deemed important and relevant

Will mediation work for my situation?

Mediation is a voluntary process that is driven by the cooperation of parties who share a common goal to reach a mutually beneficial settlement.

Mediation is designed to encourage each party to express their interests and concerns, assess unresolved issues, facilitate a dialogue over options for addressing all interests, and reach a balanced settlement in a neutral, supportive environment.

The mediator does not act as an advocate but as a facilitator who helps the clients reach resolution of issues.

Emphasis is placed on negotiating solutions, and away from placing blame and perpetuating the fight. For a mediation to be successful, the participants must do just that; participate, which inevitably leads toward healing and closure. 

A good mediator empowers the participants, encourages them to focus their attention on realizing positive solutions, provides a certain level of emotional support, and assures they are well-informed regarding their rights, obligations, and options.

The best outcome to work toward is a compromise that meets everyone’s needs so that you and your former spouse can move on with your lives.

Do parties need to hire their own attorney?

Parties may choose to obtain legal, financial, and other professional advice at any time during the mediation process. All parties are encouraged to obtain a review of the final settlement agreement by independent legal counsel prior to signing the agreement. If both parties agree, attorneys may attend the mediation sessions to advise and counsel their clients, but this is generally a more expensive option (but still much cheaper than litigation).

However, keep in mind that hiring an attorney to represent you can be very expensive, particularly if they are not settlement-oriented. It’s typically much more cost-effective to utilize consulting attorneys to help guide and advise you through the process, as opposed to having them represent you and “take your case” out of your control.

Mediation is considered an economical process of dissolution, since both parties often share the expense of one mediator and then retain consulting attorneys for review or advice on a limited basis.

How long does it take to finalize a divorce?

This depends a great deal on the participants, particularly how quickly the information can be provided to the mediator for the completion of the court-mandated financial disclosures and how quickly the participants can work out an agreement.

Sometimes this happens very quickly and the final judgment can be submitted to the court in only a few short weeks from when mediation begins. 

Other times, the participants need more time to reflect on what works best for them, or they agree that an event such as the sale of the house is desired before finalizing the terms of their agreement, etc., and the process takes longer.

In mediation, if the process takes longer, it's typically because the participants need more time and not because their attorneys need more time to pile up billable hours.

Once an agreement is reached and a final judgment is signed and submitted to the court, the court typically takes 2 or more months to process the paperwork.

*Note that in California, the court cannot terminate the marital status of a couple until after 6 months from the time the case is opened with the court.  This doesn't mean that the participants and the mediator have to wait 6 months to submit the paperwork, it just means that the official date that the participants are divorced cannot be until after 6 months. 

Further details of this will be explained by the mediator during the process.

What if we need more time to mediate?

We recognize that sometimes unforeseen issues arise during mediation that need to be resolved so the parties can avoid going to court.

If your issues are (or become) more complicated and cannot be concluded during the mediation session included in the flat-rate package, additional mediation sessions can be purchased “a la carte” as needed at $300/hour.

What if we can't reach an agreement?

Well over 90% of divorce cases in California reach an agreement and settle without going to trial. The big question is when? Does it take tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars to prepare for trial, then settle right before it, or do parties take a more reasonable and rational route and commit to working through the terms of their settlement early on and save themselves all the grief and expense?

In the rare instances where an agreement is not reached in mediation, the parties always have the option to pursue whatever legal remedies they desire within the court system.

Even if there is an issue of which the participants are unwilling to compromise, they still have the option to agree upon everything else, submit a judgment on all the issues except the one that they were unable to resolve, and leave that issue for determination by the court.