Divorce Mediation FAQ

You can choose your mediator, but you can't choose your judge.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a settlement process where individuals utilize an independent, neutral person (called a mediator) to aid them in resolving their dispute, issue, or problems.

Mediation is done out-of-court, keeping your information private and confidential.

Through mediation, the participants, not the Court, maintain control over the outcome of their case.

At Conscious Divorce, we believe that choosing to mediate (and not litigate) saves families many thousands of dollars, preserves and even helps rebuild long-lasting family relationships, and protects children from the animosity that’s inherent in the adversarial nature of a litigated divorce.

What is included in the flat fee divorce mediation package?

  • All your questions answers regarding the process.
  • Straightforward questionnaires to assist you in gathering information.
  • All phone and email support.
  • One 2-hour mediation session with Michael Cotugno, in person or via video chat.
  • Preparation and drafting of all initial pleading documents.
  • Preparation and drafting of all mandatory financial disclosure documents.
  • Preparation and drafting of the final agreement and attachments.
  • Up to 1 revision of the final agreement.
  • We handle all Court filing and service of documents.
  • We receive and manage all Court correspondence.
Conscious Divorce offers this Flat Fee Divorce Mediation package for a reasonable flat-fee of $2,800.

What happens during a mediation session?

Prior to meeting for the mediation session, Michael explains the process and answers preliminary questions and concerns. Each spouse is given several questionnaires to complete. The information is used to assess the situation, draft initial paperwork and to start the settlement discussion.

When all parties are ready, both spouses meet with the mediator, Michael Cotugno, at the same time. This can be done in person, or if preferred, viturally via video conference.

During the session, Michael helps to balance the power between the participants and creates a safe, supportive environment for both parties to fully express their perspectives and interests.

He facilitates the couple through difficult conversations with the goal of helping them reach mutual agreement on all aspects of their divorce.

This includes guiding the participants through the identification of all relevant issues and all of their mandatory financial disclosure requirements.

Using his knowledge of the law, Michael also instructs participants on the fundamentals of the relevant legal issues, and provides creative options and settlement strategies.

What issues are covered in mediation?

  • 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

Who can be a mediator?

Good mediators are caring, empathetic, supportive, and highly trained experts in settling conflict.

Mediators may be attorneys or non-attorneys.

Conscious Divorce founder, Michael Cotugno, Esq. is both an experienced family law attorney and mediator.

Through his years of experience and specialized training, which includes a M.A. in Spiritual Psychology, Michael brings a grounded, yet compassionate approach in his role as a mediator.

What are the advantages of using an attorney as a mediator?

The primary advantage of using an attorney (particularly an experienced family law attorney) is that they are qualified to explain how family law works in California and provide reference points for settlement purposes.

Although the parties to a mediation are not restricted by what a court would likely order, when making fully informed decisions for what's best for you and your family, understanding what the law provides is necessary.

Non-attorney mediators are prohibited from explaining how the law would apply to your situation.

What does attorney mediator not do?

A mediator, whether an attorney or not, does not provide legal advice to either party and does not strategize with one side against the other. A mediator helps to facilitate an agreement between the parties.

How is the final agreement drafted?

Most agreements can be reached in just one mediation session. Any additional finalizing details are handled via email, phone and mail, saving everyone time, money and stress.

How many revisions of the final agreement are included?

The flat fee divorce mediation includes 1 significant revision of clarified or even renegotiated terms. 

If additional revisions are needed beyond what is included, an additional fee may be applied towards the total time spent on additional revisions or renegotiated terms.

Do parties need to hire their own attorney?

While not mandatory, 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.

Additional mediation sessions are available at $500 per 2 hour session.

What if can't reach an agreement?

Well over ninety percent 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.   

What geographical areas do you serve?

Conscious Divorce is based in San Diego, CA. Our main office is located in the Banker's Hill area of downtown San Diego, adjacent to Balboa Park.

In person mediation sessions are available in our San Diego office.

We do offer in person mediation sessions throughout Orange County and Los Angeles County. In such cases, we will work with you to determine a convenient meeting location. A $50 meeting room rental fee will be applied if needed.

For all counties throughout California, we offer online virtual mediation via video chat. 

Additional Questions?

Wherever you are in your journey, we'll help you navigate the terrain. 

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