For those who aren’t familiar with divorce, it can be surprising to get there and learn that there are actually a lot of options when it comes to calling a marriage quits. From the homemade, “do-it-yourself” divorce contracts, to uncontested, collaborative, and all the way to mediation, when it comes to divorce, couples actually have a wide variety of choices, aside from just going to court with judge and gavel. And of these different avenues, mediation is a pretty attractive option for couples hoping to avoid a long, drawn-out legal battle. Both because it can save time and money, and also because it keeps people from having to do things all on their own, a good middle-ground for everyone involved.
If you and your partner are thinking about alternative divorce court options, but don’t want the headache of having to bushwhack your way blindly through a D.I.Y. process, mediation might be just the thing. Here’s what you need to know about divorce mediation in California, and how it could work for you.
Divorce Mediation in California
To kick things off, divorce mediation is a formal meeting (or series of meetings), where both sides sit down to hash out the terms of divorce, under the supervision of a specially trained moderator. This third-party individual acts as a kind of referee during the conversations, guiding the couple through all the decision-making points necessary for finalizing their divorce. These individuals are trained in the law, and some are even former lawyers themselves, making mediation a great way for couples to explore all their divorce options in a less confrontational setting.
If your relationship with your spouse has not eroded past being able to communicate and negotiate respectfully, there are several benefits to choosing mediation over divorce court.
1. Saves Time and Money
One of the obvious benefits to mediation is the amount of time and money saved. By not going to court, couples can finalize their divorce much quicker—sometimes with just one session, completely bypassing the court’s already-overloaded schedule. And of course, less time spent with attorneys means more money in your pocket, overall.
2. Greater Control Over the Outcome
With few exceptions, judges are almost always willing to sign an agreement when the individual parties have compromised on their own. This means couples who mediate can pretty much dictate the divorce agreement however they want, including the terms of hot topic items like custody, visitation, and property division. A system works, because both parties understand that if they demand something that isn’t fair, the other side can always take it to the judge to decide.
3. Helps Family Transition
Divorce is hard on everyone involved but can be especially damaging when children are involved. Mediation is great, in that it bypasses a lot of the toxic finger-pointing and senseless contention that often comes with a court-ordered divorce. Children who see their parents working through problems in a constructive way will feel more secure and have an easier time making the transition into the family’s new normal.
4. Flexible, Confidential, and Non-Binding
The nice thing about mediation is that the proceedings are both confidential and non-binding. Meaning, if you can’t reach an agreement, not only is that okay, but you also don’t have to worry about settlement offers being used against you in court.
5. Your Attorney Can Sit In
Agreeing to work with your spouse in mediation doesn’t mean you have to ditch your attorney, either. Attorneys are allowed and even encouraged to attend mediation with their clients, though, having one present is not technically required. That being said, it’s still a really good idea to bring along your trusty family law attorney, and here’s why.
They’re really expensive, so if you’re not required to have an attorney at divorce mediation, then why in the world would you? Why not just pocket the extra cash, and take your chances in the ring on your own? Well, there are actually a lot of reasons, but here are the ones we think are most important:
1. Training and Experience
With their extensive education and on the job training, lawyers are almost always better at representing an individual’s legal interests than they are on their own. And this is true, even for mediation. While your mediator has passed all the certification requirements needed to hold the job, they’re not technically required to be an attorney. Some choose mediation because of their good negotiating skills, and not necessarily because they’re legal experts. Between law school, the bar, and the competitive nature of the legal industry, your attorney’s knowledge of the law likely surpasses not only yours, but the average mediator’s as well, making them a critical member of your team spirit.
2. Your Attorney Has Your Back
Here’s the thing, no matter how qualified your mediator is, their number one priority is to find a successful resolution to the conflict. It isn’t you. This means, occasionally, your best interests might get sacrificed on the altar of compromise—and sometimes that’s necessary, we aren’t arguing with that. However, with an attorney present, you have the peace of mind in knowing that whatever is being sacrificed really is in your best interest, and not just the mediator’s success rate.
3. Someone to Shield You
Attorneys also make excellent armor for couples who are struggling to play nice. Because while agreeing to mediation is a good first step, divorce is still emotional, no matter which way the cookie crumbles. If you’re worried about the conversations escalating into a fight, try having your attorney do the talking for you. They’ll be able to express your perspective in a diplomatic way that (hopefully) won’t ruffle feathers or push buttons the way only your spouse can.
Divorce Mediators in California
In the end, no matter if you choose mediation, or head straight on into a full-blown court battle, individuals are always free to represent themselves. However, there’s a reason why Miranda rights are required to be read at an arrest before anything can be used in court, and that’s because the average citizen often doesn’t even know what rights they’re entitled to, let alone how to argue for them. So, while hiring an attorney might seem expensive, not having one means you run a high risk of making a lot of mistakes against your own interest—some of which could be irreversible, and end up costing you a lot more in the long run.
If you or a loved one have more questions about divorce mediation in California, we may be able to help. Call us at (209) 989-4425, or get in touch online to schedule your consultation, and together we can help tailor a legal strategy that will best fit your unique circumstances.