Understanding the Divorce Mediation Process
Television and movies often portray divorce as an adversarial process that is played out in the courtroom with much drama. While some divorces happen just like that, many couples choose to work together to hammer out the issues involved through a process called mediation. Mediation is involved in 50-80 percent of divorces occurring in the U.S. This process can be used to resolve issues such as:
- Legal separation
- Matters concerning child custody and parenting time
- Post-decree modifications as necessary to reflect changes to custody, support, and other matters
- Disputes about parenting issues post-divorce
- Issues with child custody and property involved in a partnership where there has not been a legal marriage
- Property division, including accounting for retirement plans and taxes
How the Divorce Mediation Process Works
Divorce mediation involves a discussion between the two divorcing parties about matters pertaining to the divorce that takes place under the guidance of a divorce mediator, who is an uninvolved third-party who happens to also be a family law attorney. Having a family law attorney involved ensures that the two parties address all legal areas of concern, with the goal of producing a divorce agreement that can then be reviewed and ordered by the court. Having a third party to mediate the discussion between the divorcing parties ensures that the conversation does not get sidetracked by the heavy emotions involved in divorce.
The Initial Meeting
The initial mediation session lasts for about two hours. This session will begin with the mediator explaining the process so that each party understands how the conversation will be handled. The spouses then each have the opportunity to talk about the concerns that they have. The mediator will allow each side to have a say as they discuss the various matters involved and will work with the parties to create provisions that the court will accept and that both parties agree to.
Depending on how many issues need to be resolved in the mediation process, there could be additional sessions involved in preparing your agreement. The goal is to continue mediation until such time as all of the legal issues involved in the divorce have been addressed. Parties who go into the process with the attitude of winning and hurting the other spouse often find that mediation either takes a long time or is stopped prematurely with no resolution.
Filing Your Petition
Once you have accounted for all the legal decisions that need to be made in your divorce, one of the parties can file the petition with the court. Your mediator will walk you through the steps involved in filing your petition, or can provide those services for you.
In California, a divorce cannot be finalized until at least six months after the divorce petition has been submitted to the court and both parties have received a copy.
The Benefits of Mediation
The divorce process in the courts is, by nature, adversarial. Each side hires their legal counsel and fights for parenting time and property under the hopes of “winning” against the other spouse. Mediation takes the adversarial feel away from the process, allowing divorcing couples to work together with the assistance of an attorney to make the decisions necessary to end the marital relationship. Some benefits of divorce mediation include:
- A less adversarial process, which is in the best interests of the children. Divorce mediation allows the parents to work together to completely address custody and parenting time issues. Often, parents who work together to create their own parenting agreement will continue working together to address issues that inevitably arise as the children grow and their needs change.
- Cost savings. Making decisions through the mediation process is far less expensive than the cost of litigation.
- Time savings. Courts are often over-burdened. Using the mediation process to create your own agreement can shave months off the process, allowing you to file your divorce and begin moving forward with your life as soon as possible.
- Mediation protects your privacy. Litigation involves public hearings, and the information you discuss in court becomes part of the public record. Establishing an agreement through the divorce mediation process ensures that information about your finances, assets, and children is kept private.
- An agreement custom-built to fit your family’s needs. The court process for determining personal matters involves a formula. The mediation process involves an agreement that is based on what works best for the family and is determined by the people it impacts the most.
Divorce Mediation: Myth vs. Reality
In spite of being used as a common resolution of matters pertaining to divorce, there is a lot of confusion about what mediation is. Here is a look at some common misconceptions about the process.
Myth: The mediator will ultimately decide on your agreement.
Reality: The mediator is a legal professional who serves as a third party to ensure that the discussion remains productive and that agreement that is reached is complete and enforceable from a legal standpoint.
Myth: The lawyer providing mediation services works for the other spouse, since that was the person who set up the initial meeting.
Reality: The lawyer is a third-party mediator who is working to assist the two parties in the divorce to make the necessary legal contingencies to end their marriage in a way that best serves the interests of their children and is fair and equitable to each spouse.
Myth: If you don’t resolve all of the issues you have with your spouse in your mediation session, you will still have to hire a lawyer and go to court.
Reality: If you don’t resolve all of the issues you have with your spouse in one mediation session, as long as both parties are interested in continuing to work together, there can be additional sessions scheduled. The sessions only stop when all matters are agreed upon or one or both parties state that they do not wish to continue.
Divorce Mediation in Orange County
Would you like more information about the divorce mediation process? Contact Pedrick Law Group, APC online or by calling 818-325-3934.