In tough economic times, it is important to find ways to ease the cost of divorce, both emotionally and financially. One way to do this is by taking advantage of mediation. Mediation has always made sense for a lot of couples, and is even more attractive in today’s tough economy.
Though the mediation process can often be misunderstood, it can also be a highly viable alternative to litigation. Although mediation may not be the right path for all divorcing couples — particularly in instances where domestic abuse is present, judgment is impaired by drugs or alcohol or a spouse is hiding assets — it does have significant advantages over courtroom litigation for many people.
Here are some reasons why mediation is a good option for many divorcing couples:
- It can be less expensive than litigating a divorce in court;
- It can offer privacy as California law protects settlement discussions in mediation as confidential;
- It allows the parties in a divorce to have more control of the outcome, rather than a judge; and
- It can be a more amicable way to part ways, which can prevent hostility for years down the road, especially if children are involved.
Issues for Mediation
The mediator will typically mediate the following issues:
- Child Custody and parenting plan
- Support including: Child Support; Spousal Support; Family Support
- Property division
The Mediation Process
Whether you have been referred to mediation by the courts or have chosen to initiate mediation on your own, the first step is to secure a qualified mediator and schedule a time that is best for all of the parties involved.
Initial Appointment: Once a mediator has been selected, an initial appointment is held during which both spouses attend and the general goals of the parties are discussed. During this appointment, a written agreement between the parties themselves as well as the mediator will be reviewed and signed and the mediator will assign certain tasks at this initial meeting, such as bringing in certain documentation for the next meeting.
Subsequent Appointments: A series of subsequent appointments are then conducted. Most of these appointments will involve both spouses and the mediator but sometimes the mediator may have individual meetings with only one spouse. The number of appointments will depend on the number of issues the spouses need to negotiate and the degree to which they are willing to compromise. The frequency of appointments is scheduled according to how much time spouses need to complete “homework assignments” and/or to “think” between sessions.
Agreement: The mediator will make detailed notes of agreements as they are reached during the sessions. Once all issues are resolved as a result of the mediation sessions, the mediator will draft a settlement agreement which summarizes all agreements that have been made. It is recommended that each spouse take the agreement to a “consulting attorney” to look over the final document before signing. Once signed, the document is sent to Court for approval by the Judge and the matter is concluded.