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For most couples seeking a divorce, separation is the pathway to peace away from the conflict of a tumultuous marriage. However, the thought of getting a divorce often conjures up unpleasant images of more conflict – voices shouting at each other during heated arguments echoing through a courtroom. Yet this does not have to be the reality all divorcing couples must face. Rather, in the hands of a skilled mediation attorney, a battleground can turn into a place of respectful discussion, one where both voices are heard and where conflicts are resolved, leading you both into a peaceful future. In the following paragraphs we provide an overview of the process of mediation. However, know that your case could require different action steps, and as such, this information should not be taken as legal advice. Rather, call us for a completely free consultation to see exactly how we may assist you through this stressful time.
Mediation vs. Litigation vs. Arbitration – What’s the Difference?
For the sake of clarity, let’s clear up some of the terms we will be using throughout this article. Mediation refers to the act of acquiring a mediator who will facilitate negotiations between you and your spouse regarding all or some aspects of the divorce. On the other hand, litigation is when the couple goes to court for divorce, allowing the judge to make decisions regarding child custody, property division, etc. Divorce arbitration is when an objective, third-party (or parties) oversees your divorce and helps you both reach conclusions. Similar to mediation, this will typically happen in personal meetings with you and your spouse where you negotiation the terms of your divorce. Unlike mediation, arbitration has its own set of rules and the arbitrator(s) will have the final say in any decisions, which is more like litigation. In general, mediation allows you the most freedom to choose how the negotiations will proceed and the final decisions being made.
Is Mediation Mandatory in California?
Mediation is only mandatory in California for child custody disputes. This is because mediation allows the couple to resolve past conflicts, which is best for the child, so that state of California now requires couples to attempt mediation for custody. However, knowing that litigated divorces tend to be more stressful and difficult to resolve, the judge will often require the couple to attempt mediation in all areas of their divorce (not merely custody) before going to court.
Is Mediation Better Than Divorce Court?
Typically, mediation is better than going to court for several reasons. It can allow you to rectify disagreements, save you money, and help you emotionally process the separation.
Mediation is Often Cheaper Than Going to Court
Mediation is usually the less expensive option compared to litigated divorce. Not only can it lower court fees, but you and your spouse will not have to hire separate divorce attorneys and can split the cost of hiring a single mediator. Of course, you are welcome to hire an attorney to represent you specifically during mediation, if you choose, but it is not required (we will discuss this in more detail later). Mediated divorce is also often quicker than divorce court, which will save you money in the long run.
You Have More Control Over Mediation Than in Court
Mediation also allows you to retain the most control over the situation. You and your spouse will decide how the negotiations will proceed, you both will have the final say in the decisions being made, and both of you will get a chance to express your opinions openly and respectfully.
Mediation is Easier for You and Your Children, Mentally and Emotionally
Another benefit of mediation is that it can help you process the divorce emotionally. It can help you and your husband or wife end on a more positive note by working together to come to a final resolution. Also, mediation is often better for children, since they will not have to go to court and see you both argue. The process is usually shorter since you are not operating on the judge’s time, which allows you to quickly begin rebuilding your life post-divorce.
Stages of Mediated Divorce
Know that, even while mediation has immense benefits for all those involved, it is still a highly involved process that will take some time and effort. During mediation sessions, you and your spouse will need to bring everything to the table – child custody, child support, spousal support, property division, pension division, etc. All the specifications must be discussed and decided upon in order to write up an intricate agreement that will satisfactorily end the marriage.
Finding a Mediation Attorney in Los Angeles, CA
The first step is recruiting a mediation attorney to oversee the meetings. You will want to look out for a few things when hiring a mediation attorney. First, make sure that they have worked within Los Angeles County courts, since this will guarantee that they are familiar with the laws not only in California, but in your city. Needless to say, your mediation attorney should also be meticulous and organized, so that no aspect of your life post-divorce is forgotten. They must respect your privacy and pay utmost attention to confidentiality, which is imperative to those whose work demands that their reputation be kept clean. Also, they should be equipped not only with the legal expertise, but with financial experience as well, so that areas such as property or pension division, child support, or spousal support can be handled with proficiency. necessitate. We want you to be absolutely convinced that our mediation attorneys come equipped with these characteristics, which is why we provide free consultations before you commit to anything. Aside from those basic requirements, we also are highly experienced with alleviating tensions, settling conflicts, and lending a compassionate hand during a time when emotions are running high.
Topics of Mediation in Divorce
Once mediation begins, you will provide your mediation attorney with all pertinent information regarding your property, children, marital lives leading up to the divorce, etc. We know this sounds daunting, but we will ask you specific questions and give you helpful paperwork to guide you through this. Then, based on that information, we will compose a checklist of the topics that must be negotiated during the mediation sessions, as well as help you decide on a schedule that works for you. This could all be discussed in a single session or in several smaller sessions. Again, you are in control during mediation, so your attorney will always consult with you and your spouse to see how you wish to proceed.
The Final Mediation Settlement Agreement
During the mediation sessions, you and your spouse will decide on the terms and conditions of your and your child’s lives post-divorce. As you make decisions, your mediation attorney will record them and help you write up an official settlement agreement. This document will include every detail of the conclusions you’ve reached. In fact, the more detailed the better, since it can deter future arguments that could arise due to lack of specificity. Before you sign off on it, your lawyer will guide you through the mediation agreement once more to check that everything is in order and there are no further points of contention. Never sign the agreement before your mediation attorney informs you of all possible repercussions surrounding your decisions, since it is extremely difficult to change a divorce settlement agreement after you place your signature on it. Then, once everything is satisfactory, you will sign the document and proceed with minor follow-up steps with your mediation lawyer.
Do I Need My Own Attorney for Mediated Divorce? Can My Divorce Lawyer Go to the Mediation Sessions With Me?
Neither you nor your spouse need to hire a divorce lawyer for mediation. Your shared mediation attorney will guide you through the process and help you resolve differences. However, many people worry about representing themselves, especially if they are not the best at debating. We completely understand these fears, and you are free to recruit your own divorce attorney to attend the sessions with you and provide personal legal counsel.
It is important to note that if you do decide to hire one of our mediation attorneys to mediate your divorce, we will work for both you and your spouse. This means that we will be an unbiased, third-party who provides objective guidance. Thus, we cannot operate for you on an individual basis, as that would be a conflict of interest. However, if you have already found a mediation attorney or the court has provided a mediator for you, we can then become your personal divorce attorney, representing you exclusively.
Even when you choose the less stressful and more beneficial route of mediation, divorce is incredibly difficult, both mentally and emotionally. We don’t want you to have to go through it alone. As your mediation attorney or as your personal divorce attorney, we will ensure that your rights are upheld, that conflicts are resolved and tensions are assuaged, and that you remain in control. Call us for your free consultation to see how our mediation lawyers can help.