Los Angeles Divorce Mediation Lawyer
Divorce can quickly become complex, overwhelming, and driven primarily by emotions. Often, it's difficult to reach an agreement with your spouse over crucial issues to settle the divorce.
Many divorcing couples can reach a mutual agreement independently, but many others need help from a neutral third party. Divorce mediation has proven to be a great alternative when a divorcing couple cannot find common ground and know they don't want to force a family court to make their life-changing decisions.
So, what exactly is divorce mediation? Mediation is a proven technique that has helped many divorcing couples find mutual ground in their disputes by using an impartial third-party “mediator” trained in the art of mediation.
Notably, the mediator has no authority to make any final decisions about the divorce; instead, they will work with each spouse individually to find a way to resolve disputes. The final decisions are in the hands of the divorcing spouses. Therefore, the mediator's primary purpose is to keep the conversation moving positively.
Disputes in a divorce case often center around child support, child custody, alimony, and the distribution of marital property.
These issues can significantly impact a person's happiness, quality of life, relationship with their children, and financial security. For this reason, they are often hotly contested, and divorcing couples often need to litigate these matters in order to move forward with their divorce.
One of the main problems with resorting to litigation is that it involves significant uncertainty and does not allow for input from the parties as the judge decides how these issues should be resolved.
Fortunately, if you are unable to come to an agreement about how to resolve these issues with your spouse, divorce mediation can be an effective way to resolve divorce disputes without the cost and expense of having to go to court.
If you are currently going through a divorce where child support, child custody, alimony, and/or marital property distribution are in dispute, our experienced Los Angeles divorce attorneys are here to help.
Any family law matters you are able to resolve with your spouse in mediation are spared from judgment by the court. We can evaluate your case and make a determination about whether the case would benefit from mediation. Let's review further below.
What Are the Benefits of Mediation?
Mediation is often a good choice for divorcing couples in Los Angeles who need help finalizing the details of their divorce out of court. It's an excellent environment for compromise and amicable solutions to complex divorce issues. There are many benefits to using mediation, such as the following:
- Gives both spouses primary control of the final decisions;
- The mediator has no authority to make decisions;
- The mediator only encourages open communication;
- The focus is on the disputed areas of the divorce;
- The process is less stressful than other methods;
- The mediation proceedings are confidential;
- Mediation is less expensive than litigation in court.
Facts About Divorce Mediation in California
As noted, mediation is a technique to help divorcing couples find mutual ground in their disputes. It uses an impartial third party who is trained in the art of mediation. However, they do not make any final decisions. Rather, the mediator works with each spouse to help them work through their disagreements.
The final decisions are made by the divorcing spouses. In other words, the mediator helps move the conversation in a positive direction.
No one knows or understands the issues in a divorce case better than the parties themselves. Judges only know about a divorce case to the extent the parties and their attorneys present evidence in court. Thus, the parties themselves are in the best position to resolve the case outside of court. Below are some important facts about the divorce mediation process in California:
- Mediation allows the parties to work out their divorce disputes themselves, with the assistance of a neutral mediator, and without having to go to court and let a judge resolve the disputes for them.
- Mediators have usually retired judges or practicing California family law attorneys who meet with the parties and help to facilitate a discussion about settling the pending disputes, whether they involve child custody, child support, alimony, and/or property distribution. Mediators, unlike judges, do not decide a case, and they cannot force either party to settle the pending issues. Rather, their job is to facilitate a discussion between the parties and help them to reach an agreement on all pending issues without involving the court.
- A mediation session usually begins with a joint session, where each party makes a brief statement about that party's version of the case and the issues in dispute, followed by several individual break-out sessions with the mediator. These break-out sessions usually go back and forth until an agreement is reached – or until the parties reach an impasse.
When Can You Use Divorce Mediation?
You and your spouse can use divorce mediation anytime during or after the California divorce process. You could even use it before filing for a divorce if you seek an uncontested divorce.
Since a divorce case uncovers information, you might find that mediation is necessary to explain newly discovered financial information, such as debts or assets. For example, perhaps you have more obligations and help than you realized after your divorce.
After a divorce is filed with children involved, parents can use mediation, which is an excellent way for parents to reach an agreement on child custody, child support, or parenting time. Suppose a spouse files a modification of a final child custody or visitation order. In that case, mandatory mediation will be ordered by the court.
What are the Costs of Divorce Mediation in California?
The costs of divorce mediation in California will depend on the type of mediation used. For example, you might choose any of the following:
- private mediation,
- court-associated mediation, or
- community mediation program.
Private mediation, which is the most expensive, can range as high as $8,000, but possibly less depending on the issues to resolve.
Court-associated mediation of child custody and visitation issues is free through the Los Angeles Family Court Services. In addition, some non-profit groups offer low or no-cost mediation to residents.
However, the expense of private mediation is typically much less than a divorce trial, which can cost many thousands of dollars.
What is the Mediation Process?
After you decide to use mediation to solve disputes in your Los Angeles divorce case, you and your spouse will need to choose a mediator. Afterward, you can start preparing for the mediation process by reviewing the unresolved issues with your lawyer to determine the arguments to be made.
You must also collect documents, evidence, and other relevant information to support your position. For example, in a mediation proceeding, you should expect the process to follow the steps below.
The mediation process starts with the first meeting with the mediator with everyone involved, including both spouses and their lawyers, if they want them. The mediator will review the guidelines and expectations and explain that they are confidential and that you will be expected to honor that agreement.
As noted, the mediator will also remind everyone they have no authority to make decisions and that their function is to move the disputed areas in a positive direction.
The mediator will tell you the proceedings are confidential, and you are expected to follow that agreement. The mediator will also tell you that they have no legal authority to make decisions and that their only role is to help you resolve disputes. During the opening statements, both spouses will have a chance to discuss their position on the areas of dispute and a potential resolution.
Next, in a joint session, the mediator might choose to speak openly with both spouses to better understand what each spouse is seeking. They will also encourage an open and honest discussion about the disputed areas.
Next, in individual sessions, the mediator might attempt to speak with each spouse separately to make some progress in resolving disputes. They could even go back and forth with new information. Remember, you and your spouse are using a mediator because you are not able to agree on some crucial decisions about your divorce.
After the mediator sees progress, he will bring both spouses together for another joint session. He will provide them with information from the individual sessions and then encourage negotiation to reach a mutual agreement.
If an agreement is reached, the mediator could write down the details and have spouses sign it right there. Once signed, it's considered legally binding, meaning both spouses must comply with the terms.
What If Mediation Fails?
Divorce mediation will often fail as it could involve a complex case about hotly debated issues of child custody, child support, high-value property division, retirement plans, and complex business assets.
Sometimes, if the session fails, the family court might require an additional mediation session with a different new mediator who might recommend to the court that they use other legal services and strategies to help the couple resolve their disputes before another mediation session.
Also, some judges might require the couple to use court-associated mediation when private mediation does not result in an agreement. Despite mediation results, attempting to work with your spouse using a neutral mediator might make other divorce-related negotiations easier to avoid court litigation and trial.
How Can a Lawyer Help You with Mediation?
While mediation does not occur in court, it is still important for parties who choose to mediate their disputes to have the representation of an attorney. Some of the ways in which a lawyer can help you include the following:
- Thoroughly explain the mediation process so that you can make an informed decision as to whether to pursue mediation;
- Advise you regarding the law during your mediation and let you know what options may be available;
- Inform you about the potential consequences of any options that are being considered;
- Let you know when it may be appropriate to take a break from mediation.
Contact a Los Angeles Divorce Mediation Attorney
In California, the parties may agree to resolve these issues, with or without mediation. However, a California family court judge must resolve the dispute when the parties cannot agree to resolve a divorce dispute.
A divorce can be complicated and driven by emotion. It can be challenging to remain on friendly terms with your spouse as you try to divide assets and determine alimony and child custody arrangements.
While many divorcing couples are able to come to mutually-agreed terms on their own, others need the assistance of a neutral third party. Mediation can be a great tool for divorcing couples that are unable to agree on the terms of their divorce but do not want the judge to make the decisions.
If you are in the middle of a divorce and find it challenging to reach a mutual agreement with your spouse, contact our Los Angeles divorce lawyer to discuss mediation as an option. As noted, mediation is an effective dispute resolution tool that has helped many couples overcome divorce-related disputes.
We have over 20 years of combined legal experience and have helped many clients achieve positive results through mediation. If you are still looking for common ground with your spouse but do not want the court making decisions, contact us for more information.
Our experienced Los Angeles divorce mediation attorneys can assist you with resolving your divorce, child support, child custody, alimony, and marital property disputes via the divorce mediation process. Furman & Zavatsky provide a free case evaluation via phone or contact form. To schedule a free consultation, call our office at (818) 528-3471.