Divorce Mediation in California

The divorce mediation process in California allows divorcing and separating couples to plan their lives post-divorce and make good decisions about their future. The only other alternative to divorce mediation is allowing a court to decide your marital disputes. When spouses have the opportunity to craft their own agreement, they are much more likely to comply with it.

Fresno family law attorney Rick Banks can answer your questions about divorce mediation and can represent you at mediation proceedings. This article discusses the mediation processs.

Family Law Mediators

A mediator is a neutral, certified third party who presides over mediation proceedings and helps a couple resolve disputes related to their pending divorce or separation. Disputes may be related to child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, or property distribution.

During divorce mediation proceedings, the mediator will allow each party to speak and will facilitate discussions between the parties. The mediator may also provide information to the parties about the legal system and may offer insight about how lawyers or judges might view certain issues that are in dispute.

Given the highly personal and emotional nature of divorce and separation proceedings, the mediator also has the job of keeping discussions between the parties civil and respectful at all times.

The Mediation Process

As part of the divorce mediation process, the couple typically meets with the mediator for several sessions, with each session lasting one or two hours. The first step in the divorce mediation process is for the couple and the mediator to meet and decide which issues will be discussed and to identify the information that needs to be gathered. This often includes financial data and information from appraisers or accountants. It is important to understand that no divorce or separation case is too financially complicated that it cannot be settled via divorce mediation proceedings.

During the second and subsequent meetings, the couple and the mediator will discuss how to compromise and resolve the disputed issues in a way that meets the needs of both parties, as well as the minor children. The mediator may also share information with the couple about the court system and common ways that divorce disputes are resolved in that context.

Mediation Agreements

Once the parties have reached a consensus on all disputed issues, the mediator will draft a formal written agreement which both parties must sign. After the agreement has been signed, it is contractually enforceable. The mediator will then file the parties’ signed agreement and other necessary paperwork with the court.

Length of Time Needed to Complete

The length of time needed to complete divorce mediation proceedings depends largely upon the novelty and complexity of the disputed issues, as well as the participants’ willingness to work together to reach an agreement. Most cases require at least three or four mediation sessions, each of which lasts approximately two hours. These mediation sessions are spread out over the course of a month or two. In cases where the disputed issues are complex, the entire process can take four to six months to complete.

Costs of Divorce Mediation

In the divorce mediation context, attorneys do not operate on a contingency fee basis. Rather, they charge a retainer fee of between $2,500 and $5,000, on average. The attorney will then bill the client for any services provided in addition to the time covered by the initial retainer fee. The retainer fee can be significantly more than $5,000 in complex divorce or separation cases. However, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • On average, total divorce litigation costs can run two to ten times higher than the cost of an average mediation; and
  • Divorce cases have the potential to drag on for many years, causing emotional turmoil for everyone involved.

Failing to agree on all Contested Issues

In the minority of cases, the parties may not agree on every single issue, or some issues may remain unresolved. In those instances, the mediator will still prepare a mediation agreement on all settled issues. The parties can then litigate these issues in court or return to the mediation table at a later date.

Contact a Fresno Divorce Mediation Lawyer Today for a Free Initial Consultation

Mediation is not a substitute for a good divorce lawyer. Ideally, both parties to a divorce or separation dispute should have independent legal counsel, since the mediator cannot offer legal advice during mediation proceedings.

Divorce attorney Rick Banks can provide you with a free initial consultation and case review and can assist you with managing your mediation and divorce proceedings. Contact family law attorney Rick Banks at 559-222-4891 to discuss your case and the possibility of divorce mediation.