California Divorce Mediation
Just because you and your spouse are divorcing doesn’t mean the process has to be bitter or contentious. Divorce mediation may be right for your situation. Divorce is never a simple decision but the two of you may agree that your marriage no longer works. You may continue to maintain an amicable relationship with your soon to be ex-spouse, especially if you have children that you co-parent.
Instead of taking your case to court to be decided by a judge, you and your spouse could work out any disagreements in divorce mediation.
Mediation helps both parties take control of the divorce process. Litigation can drag out for months and carry a heavy toll, emotionally and economically. In contrast, a private divorce mediation happens on your own schedule, catered specifically to your family’s needs.
Resolving your divorce out of court can help make a difficult and emotional process easier for you and your family. As a result, mediation is one of the most frequently used methods of determining the terms of a divorce. You and your spouse decide how to settle your affairs between each other with the help of a neutral mediator and the counsel of your lawyers.
Mediation can be an excellent option for high-profile professionals and busy industry leaders who want a successful negotiation where they are ultimately in charge of the outcome. Even complex, high-net-worth divorces can benefit from mediation.
Our talented lawyers can help you protect your interests and navigate a favorable path to your post-divorce future. Call the Moradi Saslaw San Francisco and Bay Area offices today at 415.872.1080 to discuss whether mediation is the right choice for you.
Pros and Cons of Divorce Mediation
Pros of Divorce Mediation
- You decide the terms of your divorce, not a third party like a judge.
- You and your spouse control the mediation process, including the schedule.
- Mediation works well in cases with common interests, like children.
- Any personal or financial information disclosed during mediation remains private and confidential, unlike court documents that go into the public record.
- Mediation usually allows for a faster resolution than litigation.
- The mediation process can help improve communication between you and your spouse and avoid conflicts in the future.
- You can and should have a lawyer to help you with legal advice during the process.
Cons of Divorce Mediation
- Mediators cannot order you or your spouse to cooperate, so if one party acts in bad faith they can effectively delay proceedings to avoid paying support.
- Both sides must be open to compromise for a successful mediation.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work in California?
Step 1: Hiring a Divorce Attorney
You can use mediation at any point in the divorce process to resolve issues between you and your spouse. You should hire an attorney to best represent your interests in the mediation process. In simple cases where both parties have equal negotiating power, you could hire a single attorney to be your mediator without the need for individual lawyers for you and your spouse. Otherwise, you will each need your own attorney.
In some cases, spouses may start with just a mediator but hire attorneys later in the process as more complicated issues arise. Whatever your needs, the lawyers at Moradi Saslaw are dedicated to getting you the most logical, practical, and favorable terms for your family.
Step 2: Mediation Introduction
This first stage of the mediation process sets the tone for the rest. After meeting with your lawyer, you’ll work with your spouse and a neutral, third-party mediator to:
- Provide background information about your situation
- Communicate what issues are at stake in your divorce
- Assess the issues where you and your spouse disagree the most
- Set expectations for how the mediation will be conducted, and
- Choose the best approach for your situation.
Your lawyer can help you communicate your needs and represent your interests.
Step 3: Information Gathering
The information-gathering stage can start at or after your first mediation session and can take two or three sessions to fully complete. In order to have the best chance at success, it’s important that you, your spouse, and your mediator are fully informed of all the relevant facts in your case. If certain information is under dispute or unavailable, your mediator will help you find ways to access or determine the information you need to know.
You may have to provide financial documents like tax returns, bank and mortgage statements, insurance policies, and title documents. The mediator will summarize all of the information from both parties and discuss the legal rules and laws that apply to your case.
Step 4: Framing Needs and Interests
In the framing stage, the mediator will outline the “needs and interests” of both parties. This covers property and debt division, child custody and support, and spousal support/alimony. You may choose to complete this stage in separate or joint sessions with your spouse.
In many cases, you and your spouse’s interests may overlap. This happens often when children are involved. These common interests can increase the chance of you and your spouse coming to a mutually agreed-upon settlement.
Step 5: Negotiation
Once all of your needs and interests have been established, the mediator will help both sides negotiate an acceptable settlement agreement. This will usually start with suggestions of the different options available to resolve your issues.
The negotiation stage focuses on problem-solving. It requires both sides to make compromises to find common ground. You and your spouse, with the help of your separate legal teams, can discuss and evaluate the options until you find one that works the best for your goals.
Step 6: Conclusion and Settlement
Once you’ve addressed the most important issues, the mediator will put a draft settlement into writing and send it to both parties. Your lawyer will help you read and understand the terms and make sure your interests are covered. After you and your spouse sign the settlement agreement, the mediator will file it with the court to become a legally binding document.
Divorce Mediation Example
Below is a generalized example of the divorce mediation process:
John Doe is a venture capitalist with a large portfolio of investments. Jake Doe is a neurosurgeon who works at a major university and enjoys collecting art. The Does have been married fifteen years and have three adopted children aged 7, 10, and 12.
John and Jake remain on amicable terms despite ending their marriage. They plan to keep a friendly relationship to cooperate and co-parent their children after the divorce. They agree that their combined assets add up to $20 million, although expert appraisers would have to be hired to value Jake’s art collection and John’s business interests. The couple also owns a second vacation home on the beach.
John approaches our firm for divorce representation. His goals are to share custody of their children and keep ownership and control of his venture capital firm. He also wants the divorce process to be as short and painless as possible for his family’s sake.
As John’s lawyer, we see an opportunity to simplify the divorce process with a mediation. Our office organizes a mediation between John and Jake with a neutral, third-party mediator. Both John and Jake bring their own lawyers to mediation with them.
Rather than each party hiring a large team of appraisal experts, John and Jake agree to hire a single wealth management expert who will work with the mediator to divide up their assets in the most practical way with the least amount of conflict.
Once the wealth assessment has been completed, our firm helps John negotiate an agreement and work out the details, which include:
- Equal custody of the Doe children between both spouses,
- 50-50 interest in the vacation home with terms for split use,
- John buying out Jake’s community property interest in his venture capital firm, minus his own community property interest in Jake’s art collection, and
- Jake keeping his art collection.
The mediator drafts a written divorce settlement agreement based on these terms and sends it to both parties to look over. Once they sign, the settlement agreement is filed with the court and the terms become legally binding. John and Jake are officially divorced.
Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce Mediation
How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?
The answer depends on the complexity of your case. No divorce is the same and mediation is a personalized process. Most divorce mediations require at least three or four 2-hour mediation sessions over one or two months.
If your case is more complicated with significant assets that require valuation by expert appraisers, your mediation could take anywhere between four to six months. At Moradi Saslaw, our mediation team is dedicated to achieving your goals with efficiency in mind.
What Happens After Divorce Mediation?
Once you sign your divorce settlement agreement, you or your mediator will file it with the local California county court where you live. A judge will review your settlement agreement to make sure it adheres to California’s laws and maintains the best interest of your children.
Once the judge processes your divorce settlement agreement, they will issue a judgment to dissolve your marriage under the terms you’ve submitted. As soon as the judge approves and the court processes the paperwork, your divorce will become official.
Is Divorce Mediation Right for You?
Just because you’re facing a high-net-worth divorce doesn’t mean that mediation is difficult or impossible. In fact, your wealth and various income sources may make the mediation process even easier. If you have children, mediation might be the best way to meet all the needs of your family. Through mediation, you could successfully negotiate a low-conflict resolution to even the most difficult issues and keep a good relationship with your spouse moving forward.
The legal team at Moradi Saslaw is here to support you in every step of the divorce and mediation process. Whether you need a financial specialist, forensic accountant, trained appraiser, business valuator, actuary, or vocational expert, we’ve got you covered. We can act as either a neutral, third-party mediator or your own personal counsel to a mediation.
Our family law attorneys have years of experience successfully working with couples to mediate their divorces and move forward with their lives. We specialize in handling the unique needs of high-net-worth individuals. When it comes to protecting your family and your assets, choose a local California mediator near you that you can trust.
Call our San Francisco and Bay Area family law attorneys at 415.872.1080 today to find out if divorce mediation is right for you.