How Common is Divorce Mediation in California?

If you’re at the beginning stages of thinking about getting divorced, you’re probably starting to wonder what your options are. Divorce mediation, in California, is becoming more common as  people seek ways to avoid lengthy and costly divorce litigation.

There are several different ways that you can complete your divorce and one of those is divorce mediation in California. As an experienced divorce mediator, attorney and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in California, I’ve found that it can be very overwhelming to understand what your options are when it comes to completing your divorce. Sometimes, people just don’t know what all their options are or where to start.

cheerful african american woman in outerwear pointing at ducks in pond near son, autumnal nature

Although I certainly am the biggest advocate for divorce mediation in California, I think it’s even more important to know what your options are before you make the decision. One of the reasons that we always provide a free consultation to prospective clients is because we know how important it is to gather the information to be able to make an informed decision for you and your family.

Do-It-Yourself Divorce

Now before I get more into a do-it-yourself divorce, I must caution that there are going to be very few people who can completely do their divorce on their own and even fewer who should do it on their own, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include that as an option.

By a “do-it-yourself divorce,” it means what it says: that you and your spouse negotiate, file, and draft all the paperwork by yourself and don’t work with any professionals to help.

If you don’t have children and there are really no assets or debts to divide, then it’s possible that you could do it on your own. But even then, we find that the court paperwork can be very confusing if you’re not used to filing them out. Additionally, if you’re doing your divorce completely on your own, then you’ll need multiple trips to the courthouse to make sure that everything gets filed correctly.

Even if you think that you can do your divorce on your own, I advise looking into options that can help you with at least parts of the process, so you make sure that everything is done correctly. Far too often I find people calling us after they’ve tried to do the divorce on their own, and the paperwork has gotten kicked back to them more than once. They get sick of dealing with it. Remember: it can cost more to have everything fixed then it would if you had just gotten some help in the first place.

California Divorce Mediation

These days, more and more people seem to know that mediation is an option. However, I still find that people don’t always understand exactly what mediation entails, or what the process will look like.

Scheduling a consultation with one or more California divorce mediators is a great way to learn more about mediation (as is exploring many of our other blog articles that talk about the mediation process).

From a high-level perspective though, mediation is a process of working with a neutral third party (the mediator) to negotiate and resolve all the issues of your divorce. The mediator, even if they are an attorney, like I am, will not be representing you or your spouse, nor will they be the judge who makes the decision for you.

Mediation is a voluntary process where you as the parties get to make the final decision. The mediator, however, is there to guide and facilitate the conversation, to ask questions, provide legal information as needed and to assist in problem solving and providing options.

What To Expect During A Divorce Mediation Consult

Now, every mediator is going to work a little bit differently in their specific process, but for us, our California divorce mediation process includes initial individual meetings with each party to better understand their interests, answer questions and talk through the process. Then, there will be joint mediation meetings with the mediator and both spouses together to work through the various issues. On average we find that our clients usually need about 4-5 joint mediation meetings to get through everything but sometimes that number is lower or higher depending on the specific situation. There is no one size fits all model because every couple and family are unique.

Over the eleven years that I’ve been a divorce mediator, I have seen divorce mediation become more and more common. Once people realize that it’s an option, they often don’t want to spend the time, money, and stress on litigating their divorce.

Instead of automatically jumping to hire the most aggressive divorce attorney possible, people realize that they would rather stay out of court. They learn that instead of paying for their divorce attorney’s kids’ college, they would rather pay for their own kids’ college. They also learn that they’ll spend a fraction of what they would on litigation. Even beyond the money, I think it’s become more common for people to realize that they want control over their situation, but they also know that they can’t do it on their own (for the reasons discussion above. California divorce mediation is a great way to accomplish both.

Collaborative Law

Another option that is kind of in between mediation and litigation is what is called Collaborative Law, where the parties both agree that they want to stay out of court but they both have their own attorneys. Both parties work along with other professionals to negotiate and reach agreements out of court. Both are still represented, but the attorneys agree that if the case were to go to court that they would not represent the parties and there may be other professionals such as a mediator, divorce coach, therapist, CDFA(s) etc. involved as well.

Collaborative law can be great way to stay out of court, but many people find that the process can get very expensive because of how many professionals are involved. A divorce mediation where the couple has their own attorneys or has consulting attorneys can reach the same resolution without having to commit to the Collaborative Law process. Additionally, because both attorneys agree not to go to court, if you end up dropping out of the Collaborative law process, you must spend the time and money to find a new attorney and get them up to speed.

Litigation

Lastly, and I say lastly because really it should be your last option that you look at but for some people it is necessary, there is always litigation. In a traditional litigation process, both parties hire their own attorneys, who will represent them in court from filing the initial petition and response, to disclosures including any discovery, subpoenas etc. and then hearing(s), settlement conference(s) and even ultimately trial if necessary. The litigation process can take a year, or it can take multiple years; it all depends on how many issues there are to discuss, how backed up the courts are and how much arguing occurs.

In addition to your attorney and your spouse’s attorneys, there are situations where other professionals end up being included as well. You never really know how much the litigation process is going to cost until you finish with it, but it’s never cheap.

While there are certainly some situations in which having your own attorney is necessary, I do find that there are ways to be represented and have your own attorney without a full-out litigated divorce.

We understand how overwhelming the process can be. We want to make sure that you have all the knowledge to make an informed decision.

If you are interested in learning more about your options, Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center today for a free informational call or joint consultation.

By: Amanda Singer, Esq., MDR, CDFA®

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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