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The word “mediation” refers to multiple issues in family law. If you wish to read about the Family Court Service Mediation for child custody and visitation, please click the link to FCS Mediation. This page addresses the subject of mediated dissolution of marriage proceedings.
Divorce mediation is really about the two spouses deciding their own dissolution issues and what is best for their family all the while avoiding contentious court litigation. Through this process, your mediator assists you in working through the issues so that the two of you may end your marriage in a non-litigious and amicable manner. This is not to say all non-mediated divorces are litigious. In fact, nothing is further from the truth: the entire legal process, starting with the California Family Code, promotes and supports the settlement process.
So if the Code promotes settlement, why do people choose to be represented by their own attorneys instead of mediating? The answer is because a neutral mediator may not advise the parties on their own individual rights. Thus the parties often want to work with their own attorney who guides them and advises them individually through the settlement process.
What are the benefits of mediation? There are several benefits to mediation:
Maintaining a civil relationship (for benefit of the children) - Mediation often reduces the tension of divorce and can help maintain your relationship for the benefit of your children
Costs – While mediation is not guaranteed to save costs, it usually does. Most mediated dissolution actions range between $3000 to $5000.
Less time – Mediated cases tend to be completed in shorter time period than litigated divorces.
Satisfaction - The parties tend to be more satisfied with the process and with one another after arriving at their “own” solutions to their case.
What are the general guidelines of mediation?
Disclosure – mediation only works if the parties are open and honest. The parties must be ready to fully disclose all pertinent information, especially as it relates to finances. If the mediator believes one or both parties are withholding or hiding information, the mediation will likely fall apart and the mediator may need to end the process. The goal of mediation is not to get everything you can or “win” the case, but to create an equitable and fair division of all assets and debts as well as to set up a child and spousal support plan that is consistent with the law and works for the parties.
Custody and Visitation – The goal of the mediator is to allow the parties to have continuing and regular time with the children. It is important for each party to be respectful of the other’s time with the children and that neither party makes any negative comments about the other in front of the children.
Fairness and Equity – It is important that the mediator remain neutral. The mediator will not advise, represent or take the side of either party. The mediator will avoid pushing or coercing either party into settlement. Both parties must feel comfortable with their agreement.
Use of Other Professionals – At times, the mediator may suggest the parties consult with other professionals such as tax and accounting experts, appraisers or even child counselors. Use of such consultants often goes a long way toward solving problems in the mediation process.
Finally, if you start down the mediation road and things fall apart you need to know that mediation is highly confidential. Neither party may drag the mediator into court to testify against the other and none of the information disclosed during the mediation may be used against the other party in future litigation proceedings.