Often when you are at the beginning a separation or divorce, most people have never been through a process like this nor had to consider it, so the conversations can be overwhelming. This is completely understandable, as it’s rarely the way anyone pictures things going or plans for in their life. I speak to many people who are at the precipice of navigating these waters, and I wanted to take a moment to share some of the insights I have learned when considering what is important when choosing the right divorce mediator in California for your case. Some of these may be subjective, but will give ideas of what may be important to you.
What should someone look for in a divorce mediator in California?
First and foremost, you want to find a mediator who helps both parties feel comfortable and confident throughout the process. Empathy is key, especially when navigating tricky conversations. While your mediator needs to maintain neutrality—limiting one-on-one communication as much as possible—it’s crucial that you both feel heard and included.
One aspect that people often overlook is perception. Framing expectations clearly can avoid negative perceptions and ensure everyone feels part of the process. Remember, mediation is fundamentally about conversation, sometimes about difficult topics. The ability to express wants and expectations positively can make the entire process more seamless.
Ultimately, picking a divorce mediator in California is a personal journey, but you should feel as comfortable as possible with the person guiding you through this challenging time. You should not feel intimidated by your mediator, nor should you attempt to intimidate your mediator.
How important are a mediator’s qualifications and background?
Credentials matter. At West Coast Family Mediation Center, for instance, our mediators are not only certified but also all have their Juris Doctorate (law degree) and are Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA). What this means for you is that our mediators are equipped to guide you through the divorce process and offer valuable insights.
Though it isn’t uncommon to need additional professionals, it’s like having a primary care doctor for 99% of your needs but knowing they’ll refer you to a specialist for the remaining 1%. For example, we always recommend consulting an attorney to review any agreements, maintaining our neutrality while ensuring you’re fully informed. So, find a mediator whose background aligns with your needs as closely as possible.
What should one consider regarding cost and transparency when selecting a mediator?
Transparency is key. Here at West Coast Family Mediation Center, we offer flat fee packages and only charge hourly rates if your needs exceed what’s in your purchased package. This keeps costs as predictable as possible.
You should also consider the complexity of your situation. If you own multiple properties or have retirement accounts and businesses, or you are in the military, your mediator should have experience and knowledge dealing with these specific scenarios. While cost is always a consideration, the mediator’s expertise and personality often speak for themselves and make the decision easier.
Can you share some tips for vetting a mediator’s style and approach?
When vetting a mediator, it’s essential to assess their style and approach. Read reviews, or even read their blogs or media that is accessible.
Each mediator has a unique way of guiding the process, and their style must align with your comfort level and communication preferences. Some mediators take a very structured approach, while others may be more flexible. Knowing what you’re getting into beforehand will help you make an informed decision. This is the part that may be subjective, yes cost will be part of the decision-making process, but it shouldn’t be the only factor.
If there is an option for a free joint consultation, as we provide, then this can also be helpful to you and your spouse. These are often wonderful ways to ask general questions you both may have, but also like any interview, allows you to get to know them a little bit before making a final decision.
If you are ready to move forward or learn more about legal separation or divorce in California, West Coast Family Mediation Center can help! We have presence in San Diego and Orange County, but can serve the entire state virtually. Please feel free to contact us online or call us at 858-736-2411.
By: Anthony Snead, Mediation Coordinator