Mediation is a confidential and efficient path to divorce that can help you maintain an amicable relationship with your soon-to-be former spouse. This form of alternative dispute resolution provides many benefits — and provides spouses with an avenue to avoid contested hearings in court and litigation. Consider the following divorce mediation tips before moving forward to make the most out of your time in negotiations.
Before you begin mediation, determine what your objectives and goals are. For example, you might want to focus on parenting time, property division, or who gets to keep the family home. Knowing what your priorities are in advance can help you stay focused during mediation sessions when negotiating a settlement.
Be reasonable in your proposals and think of the process with a business-like and courteous mindset.
Come prepared and know what you have. A universal divorce mediation tip is to come to the sessions well-prepared. Compile a list of your property, assets, and debts in advance can help ensure you are organized and ready to negotiate how it will be divided. Label each asset based on whether it was obtained before or during the marriage, and bring statements for accounts with you that are current and statements from the date you and your spouse separated. List community assets and assets you believe or your or your spouse’s separate property.
The law in California requires spouses in a divorce to be fully transparent with one another about their financial and property information. Failure to do so can have harsh penalties, and even result in the set-aside of your entire Judgment of Divorce. For mediation to work, both parties need to be transparent and honest. Each spouse must make a full financial disclosure and be willing to share documentation regarding their tax returns, banking information, investments, assets, and property. This facilitates informed decision-making — and is important when it comes to communicating financial expectations and concerns. Not only is concealing assets or income unethical during the divorce process, but it can also lead to long-term consequences, an unfair settlement, and an invalid divorce judgment.
Mediation allows the parties to specifically tailor their divorce agreement to their needs, rather than let a judge decide the outcome. Compromise between the parties is necessary in order for successful results to be achieved in mediation. For example, if you’d like to keep a particular piece of community property, you may have to be willing to give something else up in negotiations. Remember, mediation is not about winning or losing — the goal is to reach a peaceful settlement that works for both spouses and allows you both to move on from your divorce.
Divorce can be stressful and emotionally overwhelming, but it’s crucial to keep your emotions in check during mediation. Yelling, name-calling, or rude or dismissive comments will get you nowhere fast. Focus on the issues at hand and try to set aside any anger or negative feelings about your spouse. This is critical to engaging in healthy communication and having respectful discussions to resolve the issues that need to be determined in your case.
We recommend reading the book, Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After by Katherine Woodward Thomas, to help you get in the right mindset for mediation.
Mediation provides you and your spouse the opportunity to work together to achieve creative solutions for your family and for your co-parenting relationship. By using mediation, you can also save time that would otherwise be spent in litigation and afford yourself more quality time with your children.
Although mediation can often resolve divorce matters faster and more efficiently than litigation, you should be prepared for more than one session. Even if you are amicable with your spouse, there are a wide range of matters that must be discussed and it’s unlikely you will get to all of them in just one day. Mediation can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the complexity of the issues that must be resolved and each spouse’s willingness to compromise.
Make sure you are using a qualified mediator for the issues you need to address. Mediators are not required to be attorneys in California. Much time and money in mediation can be wasted if your mediator fails to draft a clear agreement, or if your mediator simply does not understand the law. While mediators do not give legal advice, a good mediator with a family law background will often give you an insight into the law framework, so that you can make a reasonable offer, now that you understand the framework.
When mediation is used for divorce, the negotiations, discussions, and settlement offers made are totally confidential and protected by the mediation privilege. Be sure to have an attorney review any mediation agreement before you sign it and bind yourself to the terms. Once an agreement is signed by the parties, it will be sent to the judge for signature and conversion into a court order, it will be binding on you, and the agreement will not remain confidential.
If you are considering divorce, a knowledgeable family law attorney can discuss your options and whether mediation is right for your case. Located in Walnut Creek, Bednarczyk & Valerio, LLP offers confidential mediation services for family law matters. Partner Cammila Valerio is a trained mediator available to provide impartial mediation services to parties. Call 925-464-2494 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.