If you are preparing to divorce, you have probably been given a lot of unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family. Most divorced couples have gone through a process which is combative, frustrating, and ultimately emotionally damaging. But it does not have to be like that.
For couples who want to avoid the trauma associated with a traditional divorce, mediation can be a good option. For parents, it helps to set the tone for amicable dispute resolution in the years to come as divorced co-parents. It also allows much more control over the process and a focus on what is important for you to move on with your life.
What is mediation?
The process of mediation can be recommended by the courts in California, or it can be entered into voluntarily from the start. It is presided over by a trained professional agreed to in advance by both parties. The mediator is not a judge, and his or her decisions are not final – they are recommendations to both parties to help them make their own choices.
Every aspect of divorce is on the table for negotiation in mediation. This includes all issues related to child support, child custody, visitation, and so on. The assets are usually split as required by California law.
Since the final decisions belong to the couple, a mediator will usually ask each party to clearly identify what is important to them in the process. This brings an element of control not always found in highly contested divorces, where a judge makes all of the decisions.
Is mediation right for you?
The process does not always work for everyone. If your finances are complex, such as in a family business, it may be too difficult to come to terms on your own. In cases involving abuse or neglect it may be too difficult to bring the couple together for the mediation process as well.
Mediation works best for a typical family that simply has made the decision to go their own way. The emphasis is always on keeping it as simple as possible, which is exactly what most divorcing couples would prefer. It is also entirely confidential and anything said during mediation cannot be used in any subsequent court trial, should mediation break down.
How can we get it started?
In order to understand how mediation can work in your particular situation, a consultation with a family lawyer experienced in the mediation process is usually the best place to start. Both parties will have to agree to move forward in this way, so the first agreement in the process has to be that mediation itself is the way to go.
If you are interested in understanding how mediation can work for you and would like to avoid the trauma of a traditional divorce it is good to at least consider mediation as an alternative.