Every year for the past 20 years in the United States, between 2,300 and 4,000 divorces have occurred each year. Divorce is not uncommon, and neither are horror stories of court battles dragging out a divorce. This fear of a court battle may be causing you sleepless nights and agonizing stress, but there is an alternative to taking your case to court.
Mediation is a meeting with a neutral third party that facilitates conversations between you and your spouse, with the end goal of dividing assets, debts, child and spousal support, and custody arrangements. The mediator does not make these decisions for you but provides a neutral space while offering support and tools to ensure the conversations are productive and civil.
Divorce in California
There are two types of divorce in California: contested and uncontested. A contested divorce occurs when the spouses cannot agree on a portion or all the divorce aspects. A judge must hold a trial, examine the presented evidence, call witnesses, and decide how the divorce will be settled. These cases are typically expensive and lengthy.
However, spouses can file for an uncontested divorce if both agree on the issues associated with ending their marriage. An uncontested divorce can be filed through an easy solution like an online divorce service. Mediation can help the two parties settle any issues with the divorce, allowing the uncontested divorce to occur unchallenged.
If the divorcing spouses both agree to work through mediation, there are many benefits to this method versus traditional litigation:
- More control. During mediation, both parties work together to create an agreement that they both can live with. The conversations and subsequent decisions are all driven by the disputing parties. If the divorce goes through traditional litigation, the decisions are made by a judge from only the evidence presented during the divorce trial. Neither spouse may be happy with the judge’s decisions, and there is little room for negotiation.
- Better relationship. Though the divorce is ending the marriage, maintaining an amicable relationship is important if the parties must remain in contact with each other, like in a co-parenting situation. Mediation provides an environment to work together, where litigation typically pits the disputing parties against one another. This can result in animosity and feelings of betrayal that can be difficult to handle post-divorce.
- Faster resolution. Mediation usually completes a divorce quicker than litigation. A few sessions of mediation take much less time than waiting for the months and possibly years associated with litigation. Finding a new rhythm to your life is important following a divorce, and the months and possibly years saved with mediation allows you to do that sooner.
Once you’ve decided mediation is a possibility for you and your spouse, there are several important steps you must take to ensure a successful mediation.
- Have an Open Conversation With Your Spouse
Not only must both spouses agree to the mediation, but the decision must also be made in a good faith effort to solve the issues. This does not require you and your spouse to be best friends — it means you both must be willing to have meaningful conversations about your concerns and work together to find mutually beneficial results.
- Have an Open Conversation With Your Spouse
During the decision process to use mediation, logistics such as fees, scheduling, and filing responsibilities should also be discussed. This is also the time to choose a mediator who fits within both of your schedules and meets your needs. California does not have state-wide standards of qualifications for mediators, so a mediator may only have 40 hours of basic mediation training. Consider a divorce attorney with experience mediating divorces to ensure you’re working with a skilled mediator. Also, ensure the mediator has experience in your local region, as divorce laws can vary in each jurisdiction.
Finally, try to find points you’re already in agreement with. If you and your spouse are in a good enough place to work through some issues before meeting with the mediator, you can save time and money while in mediation.
- Record All Your Assets
It is going to be impossible to divide the marital assets if you don’t know everything you have. The mediator can only help divide what you state you own. The goal here is to create a master list containing everything you and your spouse own. This should include all property, from your real estate to vehicles to personal property like furniture, jewelry, and artwork. Your master list should also include all financial property like bank accounts, credit cards, stocks, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts. Everything you own should be accounted for on this list.
Next, income information from paystubs, self-employment profit/loss statements, Social Security, or child support payments should be recorded. You’ll then want to catalog your recurring expenses and liabilities such as mortgage payments, health insurance, utilities, student loans, credit card payments, and any other relevant payments.
- Determine Your Goals
If mediation is successful, you and your spouse will have split apart all your marital assets and liabilities. Walking into the mediation with an idea of the things important to you and the things you’re willing to part with can make negotiations in the meeting more productive. Catalog everything else between these extremes in order of importance to you while also keeping in mind the things important to your spouse.
If you and your spouse have children, decide on parental access separately from financial decisions. Bargaining your children against your financial desires is never in their best interests.
Divorce Mediation in Pasadena, California
Though we’ve outlined steps you can take to improve the success of your divorce mediation, it can all feel overwhelming while you’re dealing with the emotions of your marriage ending. Choosing an experienced mediator can increase the likelihood of reaching an agreement in mediation, even if you do not feel completely prepared before the session.
If mediation is not right for you, we can also discuss progressing to litigation instead of mediation. Many couples have been able to find common ground and end their marriage while going through mediation with the Law Offices of Patricia Rigdon. Contact us today to see if mediation is right for you.