Wednesday, September 28 , 2016, 2:20 am | Fair 64º

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Maureen Grattan: What is Divorce Mediation, Who Should Use It and When?

It takes two people to decide to marry, but it only takes one person to decide to divorce. Even if you are the person who wants a divorce, Divorce is Hard.

Divorce takes a toll on every affected person — emotionally, physically and financially.

When faced with an inevitable divorce, how can you minimize the negative effects on yourself, your children and your relationship with your soon-to-be former spouse? One way to minimize the negative aspects of divorce is to use an experienced and trained family law mediator.

What Does a Mediator Do?

The mediator is a neutral person, usually a family law attorney. The mediator will meet with the divorcing spouses to address one or more of the following issues:

» Identify the areas of agreement and disagreement

» Help orchestrate the actual separation process

» Facilitate communication between the parties

» Prepare the petition and response for the parties

» Aid the parties in completing their mandatory preliminary declarations of disclosure

» Assist the parties in brainstorming options

» Provide legal information regarding the divorcing couple’s issues

» Calculate guideline child support

» Calculate guideline temporary spousal support

» Help the parties reach interim agreements

» Assist the parties in arranging for neutral third-party professionals, as appropriate, e.g. pension valuations, property appraisals

» Provide the parties with the names of co-parenting counselors and/or therapists, if appropriate

» Write up the final settlement agreement of the parties

Mediation Is Confidential

By California law, mediation is completely confidential. Nothing that is said in mediation can later be used in court.

Without express permission of both parties, the mediator may not disclose any information received or any statements made during the mediation. The confidentiality of the mediation process encourages people to be open and creative in exploring possible solutions to the issues particular to their case.

People Who Mediate Are Happier with Their Results

Research has shown that people who settle their own cases, as opposed to having a judge resolve them, are much happier with the results. 

Mediation Is Usually Much Less Expensive Than Litigation

The cost of mediation varies with the complexities of each case and the attitudes of the parties.

So long as the parties are committed to the mediation process, however, mediation is almost always significantly less expensive than battling the issues out in court.

Can You Have Your Own Lawyer and Still Use Mediation?

Absolutely. The mediator can tell you what the law is on an issue, but the mediator cannot give you legal advice. Your own lawyer can do that for you, so that you have that information in your mediation sessions.

Sometimes — especially when there is a power imbalance between the parties — one or both parties may bring their attorney to a mediation session, so long as the attorney agrees to continue to support the mediation process that the parties have chosen.

Maureen Grattan is an attorney and mediator at Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell LLP of Santa Barbara. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own. This article is not intended to provide legal advice. For legal advice on any of the information in this post, click here for the form or phone number on the Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell Contact Us page.

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