Mediation is an alternative to litigation. It is a way for both parties in a divorce case to work together voluntarily in settling their legal disputes without going to court. In a divorce mediation, the divorcing spouses meet with a neutral third person, the mediator, and together they develop an agreement, called a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) for the division of property, child custody and visitation, and financial support issues. Mediation is a “give and take” process where mutually acceptable compromises are made by both parties.
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A divorce mediator is an unbiased professional with special training in helping divorcing spouses come to an agreement on issues such as who gets to live with the children, how time with the children will be shared or apportioned, possession of the family home, division of property and debts, and scheduling of support payments. Once hired, the mediator will meet with both spouses to identify specific issues for resolution during the mediation process. The mediator will listen to what both spouses have to say and help them come to their own decisions about how they want to proceed in the settlement. The mediator’s role is to provide a neutral environment where the divorcing spouses can arrive at an agreement.
There are many benefits of mediation. It is less costly and less time-consuming than litigation. In California, a divorcing couple with a mediated MSA need not even have to appear in court. It is also more satisfying and empowering to get something based on an agreement you freely entered into than one imposed on you by order of the court. With mediation, the termination of a relationship becomes more cordial and amicable. Especially when there are children involved, it is important for the divorced couple to maintain civility in their future relationships with one another.
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In a litigation, it is often difficult for couples to part ways without harboring some resentment and bitterness towards each other. Divorce litigation is always adversarial and contentious, with the attorneys arguing for decisions that will favor their client and hurt the other side. What happens though is that in the majority of these cases, the couples end up settling anyway. In those instance where the divorcing spouses refuse to settle, a judge will make a decision that neither of them may like. Either way, the spouses will likely just be hurting themselves and their children. They will also be making themselves impoverished with their mounting bills for the cost of a prolonged litigation.
Admittedly, freely coming to an agreement with the person who you are divorcing is not easy. For this reason, it is important that you hire a divorce mediator who you can be sure will provide a safe and confidential environment for you and your spouse to talk things through, as well as bring to the table a sound knowledge of the law. If you want to learn more about divorce mediation and other alternatives to litigation, call me at (805)497-7474.