3 Step Divorce Mediation Process Made to Succeed

Easy to understand and easy to navigate for every divorce mediation

Orientation is step one of the California divorce 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.

Questions and answers about the orientation phase of the mediation process

These are the question we often hear about the first step of the divorce mediation process.

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

This is a question we are sometimes asked. The answer is yes.

Our divorce mediation attorneys 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 1 to 4 hours of time, depending on your particular facts and issues in your divorce case.

Since we handle most mediations through a well-known virtual platform (Zoom or Microsoft Teams, for example), orientation is easy and can take place in the comfort of your home.

Our attorneys will offer you flexible scheduling so that you and your spouse can be sure to find time to meet with us. It does not have to be in one session and we can break up the orientation process as needed.

Should my spouse and I prepare any documents for the orientation process?

During the orientation process of mediation, you can (but are not required to) share basic financial documents which may 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, the most recent statement will also be helpful.

If you and your spouse wish to offer and discuss additional documents, our divorce mediation attorneys will be happy to sit down and discuss the additional documents 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 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.

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 must make full and accurate disclosures. This includes the preliminary declaration of disclosure and, unless waived by mutual, written agreement, the final declaration of disclosure.

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 a breach of fiduciary duty, the innocent spouse receiving his or her community portion of the hidden assets as well as interest and attorneys fees, and more.

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.

Questions and answers to the disclosure step of the divorce mediation process

Here are questions and answers spouses ask us about the disclosure process during divorce mediation.

How long will the disclosure process take?

The disclosure portion of the mediation process can take anywhere between 1 to 3 sessions in most divorce mediations. There will be 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. On complex cases, the disclosure process can take longer.

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, both of the spouses must disclose everything. 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 divorce mediation attorneys will help you and your spouse complete the paperwork. You do have to provide the information but, once everything is provided, we can help both of you get everything in final form.

What if I believe my spouse has not disclosed everything?

Then divorce mediation attorneys 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.

This is also where one or both spouses getting their own independent attorney involved will be helpful. The attorney for each spouse can provide helpful advice about the law and disclosure duties.

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 children's best interest.

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.

Questions and answers to the resolution step of the divorce mediation process

Resolution is the final part of the divorce mediation process and these are some of the questions spouses ask.

How long does the resolution part of the process take?

Most cases can be resolved within 2-6 weeks after the resolution process starts, assuming the spouses are fully engaged in the process. Complex cases take much 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 now. Our divorce mediation attorneys can explain this process to you and your spouse so both of you can return to us when there is a need for modification.

Just like a divorce can be mediated successfully, so can post judgment modification issues.

What if we agree on some things and not everything?

No problem. The more issues you resolve, the less you litigate but our divorce mediation attorneys 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. Hopefully it does not come to that and even those remaining issues can be resolved.

Are you and your spouse ready to start the divorce mediation process?

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 a mediation session. When you and your spouse are ready to start, we are ready to help.

Want to learn more about divorce mediation before you start?

Check out our informative guides linked below. Click on an image to visit the guide.