Divorce Mediation in California: A Full Guide

Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Mediation in California

Introduction to Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where divorcing spouses work with a neutral third-party mediator to reach agreements on issues like property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. In California, mediation is mandatory for contested child custody and visitation issues before parties can proceed to a court hearing, per California Family Code Section 3170. However, spouses can also choose to mediate other divorce-related matters voluntarily. Here’s what happens in the divorce mediation process in California.

What happens in the Mediation Process?

Divorce mediation typically involves:

  • Mediator’s opening statement: The mediator introduces everyone, explains the rules and goals of a mediation session, and encourages cooperation.
  • Disputants’ opening statements: Each party describes the dispute and its consequences. The mediator may ask for ideas about resolution.
  • Joint discussion: The mediator may encourage the parties to respond directly to the opening statements to further define the issues.
  • Private caucuses: The mediator meets privately with each party to discuss strengths and weaknesses of their case, exchange offers, and negotiate. Most of the hard work of mediation happens in these private meetings.
  • Joint negotiation: The mediator may bring the parties back together to negotiate directly, although this is unusual.
  • Closure: If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator puts the main provisions in writing for the parties to sign. If no agreement is reached, the mediator helps determine next steps.

At Resolve Wannon, our experienced mediators are dedicated to helping couples navigate the complexities of divorce mediation.

A Mediation is confidential under California Evidence Code Section 1119. Communication during mediation cannot be used as evidence in court, allowing parties to negotiate freely.

What issues are addressed in Mediation?

Divorce mediation can address a wide range of issues, including:

Introduction to Mediated Agreements

If the parties reach an agreement in mediation, the mediator drafts a settlement agreement. Once signed by both parties, this becomes a legally binding contract. The agreement is submitted to the court for approval and incorporation into the final divorce judgment, as outlined in California Family Code Section 2550.

However, the mediator cannot compel the parties to reach an agreement. The mediation process is only successful if both spouses agree to a resolution. If mediation does not resolve the case, the parties may proceed to trial, work with a new mediator, or continue negotiations on their own.

What are the Benefits of Mediation?

Mediation offers several advantages over traditional divorce litigation:

  • Cost-effective: Mediation is typically less expensive than going to court.
  • Time-saving: Mediated divorces are usually quicker than litigated cases.
  • Confidential: Mediation is private, while court proceedings are public records.
  • Preserves relationships: Mediation encourages cooperation, which is beneficial for co-parenting.

How to effectively Prepare for Mediation?

To make the most of divorce mediation, parties should:

  • Gather financial documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, and property deeds
  • Be prepared to compromise and consider the other spouse’s perspective
  • Consult with an attorney to understand legal rights and review any agreements reached in mediation.

If you’re considering divorce mediation in California, contact an experienced family law attorney or mediator at Resolve Wannon to discuss your options and guide you through the process. Call us at 310-592-4359 to schedule your initial consultation with our skilled legal team.

Residency Requirements and Filing for Divorce

To file for divorce in California, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for six months and of the county where filing for three months, according to California Family Code Section 2320. The divorce process begins when one spouse files a petition and serves the other party with divorce papers.

Even if the parties agree on all issues, they must still meet residency requirements and file the necessary paperwork to end their marriage legally. The court will issue a final divorce judgment once all requirements are met.

Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce Mediation: Everything You Need to Know

How long does divorce mediation take?

The mediation length depends on the issues’ complexity and the spouses’ willingness to cooperate. On average, divorce mediation takes 2-3 months.

How much does divorce mediation cost in California?

The cost of mediation varies but is typically between $5,000 and $10,000, which is significantly less than litigation.

Is mediation confidential?

Yes, mediation is confidential under California Evidence Code Section 1119. Discussions during mediation cannot be used as evidence in court.

What happens if we can’t reach an agreement in mediation?

If the parties can’t reach a full agreement, they can still resolve some issues in mediation and litigate the remaining matters. The court will decide on any unresolved issues.

Do I need a lawyer for mediation?

While not required, consulting with a lawyer is recommended to understand legal rights and review any agreements before signing.

Divorce mediation offers a cost-effective, efficient, and private way to end a marriage. By working with a skilled mediator and being open to compromise, divorcing spouses can reach a fair settlement that meets their needs and those of their families.

With the right approach, mediation can help you move forward with your life after divorce. Contact Resolve Wannon at 310-592-4359 to explore if divorce mediation is right for you.