What is mediation for divorce and how does it work in California?
A mediator can suggest solutions but cannot make decisions
The mediator has the option to make suggestions for a solution, although cannot make any decision nor enforce decisions that appear to be made. It allows both parties to get their cards on the table, so each knows what the other wants and why he or she wants it. Many like to have their family law attorneys or divorce attorneys present during mediation, but divorce lawyers that do attend primarily do so to offer their clients moral support. A San Diego divorce lawyer can use the knowledge gained in mediation sessions to advise their clients on how to proceed.
What are the steps in mediation?
The first step in mediation is deciding whether you believe it is a good negotiating method for your circumstances. For mediation to work, both parties need to be flexible enough to compromise. When there is a history of abuse or manipulation, mediation may not work as well or at all. It may still be attempted, but if one person feels vulnerable, that person may want to have a lawyer present.
Once mediation is decided as an option, a mediator should be selected. The court keeps a listing of mediators who are part of the Civil Mediation Panel. Couples may also find their own private mediators if they wish.
Those who choose a mediator from the mediation panel list will limit the cost of their mediation to no more than $150 an hour for the first two hours for cases where no more than $25,000 is at stake, and $250 an hour if more is at stake. Any mediation time over two hours will need to be paid at whatever price the mediator charges. Private mediators usually charge between $200 and $1,000 per hour.
Are there different courthouses or places for mediation?
Mediation sessions should be held in a neutral location that is private and where all parties feel comfortable. This may be at a private mediator’s office or at the courthouse. In San Diego, this will most often be The Family Law Court for the Central Division, located at 1555 Sixth Avenue, San Diego, California, 92101.
What Mediation is like and what to Expect
Mediation sessions are attended by the mediator, the parties involved in the dispute, their attorneys and anyone who has authority to settle the case.
In order to prepare for mediation, it is a good idea to talk to your divorce lawyer about the issues that are important to you and relevant to your case. Each party is encouraged to firmly and effectively communicate their point of view and preferred outcome. Parties are also encouraged to listen carefully to each other as well as to the mediator.
The mediator doesn’t make decisions but may suggest compromises as the mediation session progresses. They can also help to steer the discussion back on topic as needed. Whatever progress is made during the mediation session, the divorce lawyers involved will review the agreed-upon matters and the conflicts that remain with their clients. They will either file the mediation agreement with the court after both parties sign or will suggest other negotiation techniques to pursue.
The mediator has limited involvement at this point but is required to file a Statement of Agreement/Non-agreement with the court. In some cases, the judge will ask the mediator to make recommendations on some issues before issuing a final judgment.
Divorce Lawyers are Helpful in Mediation Agreements
Normally, California divorces cannot become final until six months after the original filing date. However, those who successfully reach an agreement in mediation may be able to have their divorces finalized sooner. For help navigating through all your options in divorce, contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates to schedule a consultation.