For most of us, divorce can be the most overwhelming experience in our lives, both financially and emotionally. Fortunately, if you and your partner are willing to work together to reach a peaceful resolution to your divorce issues, then you can consider mediation. Still, you may want to engage in the mediation alongside your lawyer, who will help you understand how the process works, protect your rights as well as ensure you don’t agree on anything that might cause problems later on. We invite you to get in touch with the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer if you are considering mediation in Los Angeles, California.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is one of the most recommended negotiation methods in divorce settlements. In mediation, you and your soon-to-be ex or in some divorce cases, you, your partner, and your separate attorneys engage an unbiased third party to talk over and resolve divorce-related issues. Some of the issues discussed include property division, child support, spousal support and child custody.
Because you and your partner have the final say over your marriage, the mediator does not decide for you. Instead, they act as facilitators to help you figure out what is best for you.
When you and your spouse can't agree on who will have child custody, conflict is bound to arise. These conflicts have both psychological and emotional effects on your children. To refrain from more consequences, such cases must go through mandatory divorce mediation. The judge will not handle the case until you and your spouse attend mediation sessions with a court-appointed mediator.
Why You Should Choose Mediation in Divorce
It is Peaceful
Just because you have decided to divorce, that does not imply you have to fight with your spouse. Unlike the traditional divorce, in divorce mediation, there is no taking sides, no win or loss. There is no intimidation to make one spouse agree to a proposed agreement. Instead, the divorce mediator focuses on maintaining a respectful and peaceful dialog that benefits both parties.
Mediation is Cost-effective
A conventionally litigated divorce can be forty to sixty percent more expensive than one that uses mediation. This is because you are using one mediator instead of two attorneys. Also, all communications are done out of court, in real time and between the parties. This allows you to resolve divorce issues faster, hence, keeping costs in check.
It's More Private and Confidential
Divorce issues settled in a court allows anybody in the courtroom access to your intimate details. Mediation avoids this since it is a confidential approach; the couple doesn't have to appear in court. Mediation sessions are held in jointly agreed upon locations which are private and convenient. Also, the documents the judge receives are agreed-upon and signed.
It is Child-friendly
Another key advantage of mediation is the fact that it is child-centered. Child custody, support, and visitation issues are agreed upon quietly. Also, your children don't have to testify or appear in a family law court on either parent's behalf.
Protecting children from anger, messy details and confrontations is priceless. That means choosing mediation helps everyone including your children live a happy life and adjust quickly to the new life.
Mediation is More Flexible and Convenient
When you choose the traditional divorce process, you are told when to appear in court and what to do. And if you fail to comply, you face severe consequences. On the other hand, mediation allows all parties to choose the time and a day that is convenient for them.
Also, some mediators may offer online mediation services for location flexibility. This could be used by a couple whose partner work or live away from them and the logistics of being in the same place at the same time are impossible or by spouses who are uncomfortable being in the same room.
Mediation is Less Time-Consuming
Mediation gets marriage dissolution finalized in a couple of weeks. This is because the couple is in full control of the mediation process and they can terminate their marriage fast and move on with their lives.
Moreover, you don't have to match schedules with a judge and your attorneys or waiting for the judge to say when you will appear in court.
Divorce Mediation Process
The mediator will ask for the following details to help understand your case before beginning the process:
- How long you have been married and your marital living style
- Issues that both you and your spouse value and would like to agree upon
- Issues that you have both agreed upon
- The couple's income, assets, and liabilities
- Each spouse's parental responsibilities
- Work schedules and other commitments outside work for all parties
You will then attend the initial meeting that can be held in a comfortable conference room or any place that is convenient for all parties. At the onset of the process, the attorney will explain what is expected from the process. For instance, your mediator could tell you that all parties will be meeting in the same room for the entire process or the divorce mediator will be meeting each spouse separately from time to time to get their opinion. A good mediator should also ensure all spouses understand California family law and what the law requires should the divorce go to trial.
In addition, your divorce mediator will come up with ground rules like scheduling and confidentiality. For instance, you will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. The agreement prevents all parties from disclosing what happens during the mediation session. It's important to have an experienced family lawyer by your side to evaluate this agreement and ensure your rights are protected.
You and your partner will then discuss what you want to achieve at the end of the mediation process. Your mediator will also allocate tasks to every spouse such as carrying certain documents for the subsequent meetings.
The first meeting plays a major role in determining how negotiations and subsequent meetings will be like. A good lawyer can evaluate the couple's communication and tell what is expected to happen. The lawyer should also assist you to be in a good bargaining position with the aim of realizing full agreements at subsequent mediation sessions.
Subsequent Mediation Sessions
Depending on whether or not you have children, the subsequent mediation appointment with your mediator will focus on developing a co-parenting plan along with a financial mapping. The mediator could suggest you start dealing with simpler divorce issues. Handling and resolving the easy issues builds trust and boosts compromise especially when it comes to sensitive issues.
Reaching an agreement is not always easy. You may find yourself requiring more details at some points. Your mediator will assist you to be on track, brainstorm options and encourage both spouses to express their positions, options and what is important to them.
You will also be encouraged to use effective communication skills like listening and try understanding your partner's perspective. Understanding your partner's real concerns does not necessarily mean you've to agree with it. Instead, it helps you come up with new ideas on how to solve your divorce issues as well as encourage your partner to act the same.
Both partners should declare or reveal their income, property, liabilities, and expenses to each other. Under California law, the declaration of disclosure about personal and community property should be accurate and correct. The mediator should assist you to fill the form and then share it with your partner and the mediator.
Mediation bridges the gaps between the financially acquainted spouse and the one who has little financial knowledge. A competent mediator will give the couple options and take careful steps to ensure the mediation doesn't move forward until every spouse understands the financial implication of their decisions.
Drafting a Marital Settlement Agreement
At all mediation sessions, your mediator will be making comprehensive notes of all agreements arrived at by you and your spouse. Once all contested issues are resolved, your mediator will draft a marital settlement agreement that summarizes the agreements reached.
During mediation, it is important to have private consultations with your lawyers. You should not sign the settlement agreement before your lawyer reviews it. A qualified lawyer will ensure you understand your rights before signing anything. This helps you avoid litigation in the future.
Once you sign the agreement, the document will be sent to the family law court for the judge's approval. After the judge signs the agreement, everything stipulated in it becomes court orders.
The High Success Rate of Divorce: Is Mediation Right for You?
For divorce mediation to work, both you and your spouse should come to an agreement. You will have a smooth mediation process if the following are correct:
You have agreed as a couple to dissolve your marriage
Not every divorce is contentious and ugly. In some instances, the decision to end the marriage is mutual. Once you agree to divorce, you can file a petition for marriage dissolution together as a couple or one partner can file the petition with the other spouse's knowledge. It is easy to negotiate and reach an agreement for all unresolved issues when you both concur.
There is no domestic violence history
Most divorce mediators will not take cases with a history of domestic violence. This is because it is overwhelming for the mediator to keep the couple on track or to tell if the victim comes to an agreement as a result of intimidation or fear from the perpetrator.
Both partners are honest about finances
Division of property and finances are possibly the most contested issues in any divorce. Both partners should be ready to share sensitive financial information like pension, bank accounts, stocks, retirement, debts and other assets with the other spouse and the mediator.
In most cases, one partner tends to be aware of marital estate than the other spouse. If you have little financial information, you should investigate and know all your family possessions and debts before agreeing to any proposed property division.
You have agreed on child custody terms
Another most challenging issue is child custody, support, and visitation. Mediation is a great way to determine who will be the primary caregiver (custodial parent), the frequency and type of child visitation with the other parent, and who will be paying for child support.
It does not matter what a parent knows best about their children. The best way to make sure you protect your children's interest is by negotiating child custody with your soon-to-be ex. If you do and fail to agree, your mediator should be in a position to advise on how to settle the child custody dispute without going to court.
How Much Does Divorce Mediation in California Cost?
One of the misconceptions about mediation is that the average cost of mediation is determined by your mediator's hourly rate. Your mediator's hourly rate only determines a small percentage of the total cost. So what other factors play a main role?
The experience and competency level of the mediator
Mediation is not regulated, therefore, anyone can print business cards, build a website and call themselves a divorce mediator. Also, even with training, there is no guarantee a mediator is experienced enough to handle your case. A competent divorce mediator should have:
- The capability to guide two conflicting spouses through negotiations and reach an agreement while not taking sides
- Ability to offer different types of options for the spouses to consider based on the mediator's participation in several similar cases
- Knowledge of handling financial disputes
- Knowledgeable about current issues that could affect your divorce settlement
Services offered by the mediator
Just as different mediators use different approaches and come from diverse backgrounds, the services offered by different mediators vary a lot. Among the services offered by a mediator include emotional support, mortgage evaluation, child welfare evaluation and drafting of the divorce agreement.
The length of the mediation process
The amount of time you take to reach an agreement determines the total mediation cost you will incur. That means the more you take to resolve issues, the more sessions you attend and the more you spend on mediation.
Private Mediation vs Court-Order Divorce Mediation
Court-ordered divorce mediation is compulsory mediation sessions ordered by a court. Failure to attend these mediation sessions is considered as contempt of court. The judge will also schedule dates for your mediation sessions. Although this type of mediation is meant for couples with parenting and child custody issues, it can also assist the couple to resolve property and financial disputes. At the end of the mediation process, the court-appointed mediator must issues a written report to the court with details of your case's progress.
Private mediation, on the other hand, requires you and your spouse to agree to participate as well as choose a neutral third party who will facilitate your mediation sessions. Couples that choose private mediation will discuss various divorce issues and anything discussed in the mediation session remains private. That means these discussions cannot be used by any party in court if they fail to arrive at an agreement.
Frequently Asked Questions on Mediation in California
How long does divorce mediation take?
The length of the entire mediation process and how often mediation sessions are scheduled depends mainly on the couple's urgency and needs as well as the disputed concerns. In most cases, mediation sessions last less than twelve hours that are spread out over weeks.
If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement in a few sessions, it is likely that things will not change with more sessions.
Is divorce mediation legally binding?
Many couples are hesitant to give divorce mediation a try because they think only a court order is legally binding. Once you and your spouse sign the settlement agreement, the terms in the agreement become binding just like any case decided in court. The mediation session is like discussions where both parties present their options and an agreement is reached with the help of a mediator. Also, there are consequences if you fail to comply with the agreement terms.
How is arbitration different from divorce mediation?
Just like divorce mediation, arbitration is less time-consuming and cost-effective than the traditional litigated divorce. However, arbitration does not allow the couple to come up with their own agreement. You will present evidence and testify to the arbitrator who makes the final decisions concerning your divorce issues.
Get Help on Mediation Near Me
At Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we offer mediation services as attorneys and neutral mediators for our clients. As experts in family law, we know when and how to fight for your rights. That is why we recommend consulting us before choosing a marriage dissolution strategy. It can be disappointing to spend your time and hard-earned money pursuing divorce mediation only to be left with a trial and without a settlement agreement. Call us today at 310-695-5212 for an initial consultation to talk over your case and determine whether mediation is the most appropriate course of action. This could be the best investment you and your spouse will ever make concerning your family's future.