Is California Divorce Mediation Right For You?

Learn California divorce mediation's process toward settlement

Our California divorce mediation attorneys can settle your divorce

Our California divorce mediation attorneys are also experienced litigators.

We have and continue to successfully litigate many cases for our clients. At our core, we are highly experienced litigators. That experience in the trenches of divorce litigation is also what makes us highly effective divorce mediators.

We know what litigation entails

We understand when litigation is worth the time and money and when it is not. That is because we do not sit in a room all day and mediate cases.

We can give husbands and wives who want to mediate their divorce a perspective very few mediators can. We do not have to speak about the litigation alternative as an abstract thought. We can educate those husbands and wives about the stress, cost and the uncertainty that comes with divorce litigation. That way, those who want to mediate their divorces remain focused on settlement. They are not left to "guess" about the alternative.

Is California divorce mediation the right choice?

Through our divorce attorneys’ years of experience, we have learned that if both a husband and a wife can set aside their anger or bitterness toward each other, focus on compromise and resolution of their disputes and make a concerted effort to avoid family court, they stand a very good chance of coming to an agreement in mediation and saving themselves many thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs as well as the pressure and stress that accompanies divorce litigation.

  1. Whether or not mediation is right for you depends on various factors but we have narrowed it down to the following questions.
  2. Can you and your spouse sit in a conference room and talk to each other without threats of financial or physical harm?
  3. Is your income and that of your spouse verifiable through supporting documents such as pay stubs, 1099 forms or tax returns?
  4. Are you and your spouse able to communicate well regarding the children, specifically on issues such as co-parenting and visitation?
  5. Do you and your spouse live a life that is free from substance abuse?
  6. Are you and your spouse willing to be open and honest with each other regarding the marital and separate property assets?
  7. Are any debts or liabilities that you or your spouse have incurred during the marriage identifiable?
  8. Have you and your spouse had a marriage without domestic violence?
  9. Are both you and your spouse determined to get your divorce completed without great financial cost to each of you so that you can each move forward with your lives?
  10. Would thousands of dollars in lawyers fees be a serious financial hardship to you and your spouse?
  11. Would you and your spouse prefer to make mutual decisions regarding your finances and your children as opposed to leaving those decisions to a judge?

What were your answers to these questions?

Did you answer most of them with a “yes”?

If so, divorce mediation may be a good choice for you and your spouse.

The three golden rules about the California divorce mediation process

Before our California divorce mediation attorneys discuss the three step process of our mediation method, let’s first talk about the three golden rules:

1. Divorce mediation is not an adversarial process

You and your spouse with the experience and knowledge of our mediators will focus on solutions, compromise and resolution. The mediation process cannot work and does not work without all three.

2. Divorce mediation does not have to be an all or nothing process

Successful mediation doesn’t always resolve every single issue. There are instances where our mediation attorneys successfully resolve some issues but others are left unresolved. There is nothing wrong with that. Being able to resolve some of the issues can still save you many thousands of dollars and get both you and your spouse on the right path to resolving the other issues, in due time. That is why patience when going through an divorce mediation is a must.

3. Divorce mediation requires both you and yours spouse to be willing participants

No matter how much you may want a settlement, if your spouse does not want to participate and is not willing to put in the time, it will not work. If you and your spouse believe that the divorce mediation process is right for you and both of you call follow the three golden rules, then you owe it to yourself to contact our experienced attorneys for an initial consultation. Our mediators can help you save time, stress and a lot of money through the mediation process. Ready to learn about the three step process? You may be surprised how simple it is and how much our mediation process will instinctively make sense to you.

Orientation is step one of the California divoce mediation process

The California divorce mediation process starts with “orientation.”

Orientation helps you become familiar with the overall goals. Think of it as a roadmap to the destination. Here is what we discuss in orientation:

  • The duration of your marriage and the marital lifestyle you and your spouse had.
  • The details of both your role and that of your spouse in the care and day to day routines of your children.
  • Your work schedule and that of your spouse as well as other commitments the two of you have outside of work.
  • All sources of income you and your spouse have, the family’s current financial stability as well as any adjustments or fluctuations in income that you and your spouse may expect in your future.
  • Your family estate and review the assets, debts, expenses and liabilities.
  • What issues are most important to each of you so we can determine where you and your spouse have common ground and on what issues we will need to help each of you reach resolution.

Our mediators take their time to go over all of these things with you because we want to not only be informed on the facts and issues in your case but want to make sure you and your spouse have an equal voice in the process and are able to explain everything that you believe is important to us as well as to each other.

This is a critical part of the orientation process because it not only helps familiarize us with the divorce dynamics but also helps us assist you in reaching resolution.

Frequently asked questions for step one of the California divorce mediation process

Let’s go through some frequently asked questions about the orientation process of California divorce mediation.

My spouse is very emotional…can mediation help with that?

This is a question we are sometimes asked. The answer is yes. Our mediation attorneys do understand that any breakup can include resentment and bitterness. However, we will show you and your spouse how setting aside those emotions and instead focusing on solutions will help you and your spouse not only make good decisions for yourselves but also for your children. If you have chosen mediation, then you have already expressed an interest in resolution. We will work hard with you to ensure that the focus never changes.

How long will the orientation process take?

Orientation will take between 2 to 4 hours of time, depending on your particular facts and issues in your divorce case. Many times, we can charge you a flat fee for this divorce mediation orientation so you and your spouse can take your time with us and make the best of the first session. Our attorneys will offer you flexible scheduling so that you and your spouse can be sure to find time to meet with us.

Should my spouseand I bring any paperwork to us to the orientation?

During the orientation process of mediation, you and your spouse can bring with you the basic financial documents which will include you and your spouses pay stubs, the last three years of tax returns as well as any bank and brokerage statements. If you and your spouse have any retirement accounts or 401(k)s, though statements will also be helpful. If you and your spouse wish to bring additional paperwork to the orientation, our mediators will be happy to sit down and discuss the additional paperwork with you.

Do my spouse and I have to be in the same room during the divorce mediation process?

In the beginning, answer to that question is yes. We believe it is best for you and your spouse to learn to set those emotions aside and get started on the right foot with your orientation process. If you and your spouse do not believe you can sit in the same room together, then it is unlikely that the process will be helpful to you. That is why we prefer that you to be in the same room when we discuss everything with you.

Is it possible that my spouse and I can settle the entire case at the divorce mediation orientation?

The short answer is yes. If you have a simple divorce mediation with no custody issues and a small financial estate, it is very possible for you and your spouse to be able to settle your entire divorce at the first session. However, it is important for you to understand that there are still going to be certain disclosures that have to be exchanged between you and your spouse. These are mandatory pursuant to the California Family Code and cannot be waived under any circumstances. While we can come to an agreement in principle on all the issues at the initial orientation, final settlement cannot be reached until you and your spouse exchange all of the necessary disclosure documents and sign the settlement agreement.

Step two of the California divorce mediation process is "disclosures"

There is one thing that the litigation and mediation process have in common.

In both cases, it is mandatory that the spouses exchange declarations of disclosure that set forth all of the income, expenses, assets, and debts of the family estate. That is because spouses are considered to be fiduciaries to each other.

1. Disclosure is a duty, not a choice

Spouses have an absolute duty to disclose accurately and completely all the transactions that involve community property (and under some circumstances even separate property) and each spouse has a shared right to equal management and control of community property.

2. Misconduct can cause severe punishment

Conduct that can get spouses in trouble include emptying out bank or brokerage accounts, failing to disclose or hiding assets, failing to disclose or hiding income, or diverting income or assets to an undisclosed source. Such conduct can result in the innocent spouse receiving his or her community portion of the hidden assets as well as interest and attorneys fees.

In some cases, the Family Court can even give 100% of the undisclosed asset to the innocent spouse. That is why disclosures are such a critical part of the California divorce mediation process. Our attorneys take the time to go over with both of you the details of the marital estate, all of the financial aspects of its and we will help you complete both the schedule of assets and debts as well as income and expense declaration forms that California law requires both of you to complete.

In addition, our attorneys will ensure that all the appropriate forms are completed and filed with the court so that you and your spouse can rest assured that, so long as each of you told the truth, you will have a valid and enforceable settlement and judgment.

Frequently asked questions for step two of the California divorce mediation process

Let’s discuss some frequently asked questions about the disclosure step of the California divorce mediation process.

How long will the disclosure process take?

The disclosure portion of the mediation process can take anywhere between 1 to 3 sessions with communication in between which will include phone calls and emails. Some of this will depend on the complexity of your case as well as the level of cooperation that we receive from you and your spouse.

What is the goal of the disclosure process?

The goal is to ensure a complete and accurate disclosure by both you and your spouse so that we can help you move forward on the third phase of the divorce mediation process – resolution.

Do I really have to disclose everything?

Yes. Failure to make complete disclosures can result in serious financial consequences against the spouse who failed to make the disclosures. The spouse who failed to do it can be monetarily sanctioned and even lose the asset, or the value of the asset if it has been sold or cannot be found.

Do I have to complete all of the paperwork myself?

No. Our attorneys will help you. You do have to provide the information but, once everything is provided, we will type everything up for you.

What if I believe my spouse has not disclosed everything?

Then our mediators will ask. Open line of communication is present throughout the entire process. The words “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” applies to every aspect of this.

Step three of the California divorce mediation process is resolution

The final step of the California divorce mediation process is resolution.

By the time that you have come here, you can be proud of the fact that you and your spouse have taken the time to discuss the issues, have completed all of the disclosures of your entire financial estate and are well on your way to come to an agreement on all the major issues on your case.

The resolution process includes five steps

Here is the five step process to resolution.

 It starts with identifying the issues

Our mediation attorneys will sit down with both of you and identify the issues that contain the least amount of disputes between you and your spouse. We do this so that we can get the easy issues out of the way and then focus our attention on the more difficult parts of your case.

 The second step is child custody

California Child custody is the second part of the resolution process.

Our divorce mediation attorneys take the time to discuss with you the best custody and visitation plan for you and your children. We will talk about the difference between joint and sole custody as well as help you determine the best plan consistent with the Orange County parenting guidelines.

These guidelines have been created by family law judges and experts to help parents understand how the court typically approaches visitation and custody issues within the context of the children’s ages as well as the particular circumstances of the case. Although other counties also have guidelines, we have found that Orange County's guidelines are more comprehensive and a great starting point. 

 The third step is child and spousal support

Child support and alimony (also called spousal support) comes third.

Child support is typically a simple formula wherein we input the timeshare (percentage) each of you have with the children, each of your incomes and the other mandatory California guideline factors.

The issue of alimony will involve an evaluation of the marital lifestyle. We will discuss with you the lifestyle during the marriage that you and your spouse enjoyed and help you determine a reasonable spousal support number that is consistent with that lifestyle. Your input in this part of the case is critical.

 The fourth step is division of assets and debts

We next approach division of assets and debts.

We will help you identify what assets are community or separate property and how we believe the court will divide the assets and debts. As is true throughout the entire process, your input and that of your spouse is critical. If you and your spouse have made full and complete disclosures, we can help you reach a fair resolution consistent with California law.

 The stipulated judgment is the final step

When we have resolved all the issues in your mediation, we prepare the final settlement documents in the form of a stipulated judgment. We present the judgment to you and give each of you by the time to review it and ask questions as well as give your input.

Frequently asked questions for step three of the California divorce mediation process

Here are some frequently asked questions about the resolution step of the California divorce mediation process.

How long does the resolution part of the process take?

The resolution process of California divorce mediation will take one to three sessions. Most cases can be resolved in two. Complex cases take longer.

Can custody and support be modified or are we stuck with the deal forever?

Child support and child custody are always modifiable. There are certain minimum requirements before the court can order a modification but don’t worry too much about this. We discuss child custody modifications on this page. We discuss child support modifications on this one. Alimony (often called spousal support) is also modifiable but that can be a little more involved. Read this informative article on how spousal support is modified.

What if we agree on some things and not everything?

No problem. The more issues you resolve, the less you litigate but our divorce mediators understand that sometimes, we cannot resolve 100% of every issue. Once we have settled everything that we reasonably can, you and your spouse are able to litigate any issues you have left. Before you do so, we will give you a very good idea of what you can reasonably expect in the litigation process so you are informed and going into the process with your eyes open.

What are a California divorce mediation's expected fees and costs?

Our divorce mediators offer flat fees, hourly rates and a combination of the two. We are flexible and reasonable.

Here is the best part… Most divorce mediations on simple cases can be resolved for under $3,000.00 and, except for the more complex cases, nearly all of them can be resolved for under $5,000.00. Ready to get your divorce case settled? We are a phone call away and are ready to help you and your spouse resolve your divorce through mediation.

Are you ready to start your divorce mediation?

Taking the first step takes courage. That courage can start you down a path to resolve your divorce peacefully and cost effectively. Contact us for an affordable mediation session. When you are ready to start, we are ready to help.