Divorce is seldom easy even when both parties agree that a breakup is best. Often a couple has bonds that involve their finances, their physical property and perhaps children as well as the difficult emotional bonds to break. Taking these and other issues through a litigated divorce may mean dredging up unnecessary hurts and creating wounds where none existed before.
This is why many California couples choose alternative dispute resolution methods instead of a traditional litigated divorce. Most often, this means going through a mediation process, which may result in a more positive and hopeful ending to your marriage.
Mediation is an informal meeting during which you and your partner discuss the issues related to your breakup. Generally, this includes:
- What to do with the house and other real estate
- How to divide your other assets, investments and valuables
- How to share parenting responsibilities for the children
- How much child support one spouse will pay
- Whether one partner will require spousal support
The process may be different from state to state and even among jurisdictions, but generally, you and your spouse will arrange to meet with a trained, neutral mediator for one or several meetings. Ideally, each of you will have your own legal counsel to ensure the protection of your rights and to assist you in avoiding mistakes that could negatively affect your future. You will discuss and negotiate the issues relevant to you, and the mediator will facilitate.
The role of the mediator
It is important to understand that the mediator is there to keep discussions on track. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, the mediator does not make decisions for you. He or she may offer suggestions, guide in you brainstorming solutions, and assist you and your spouse in communicating effectively. The mediator does not represent either of you but works to help both of you reach the fairest and most realistic agreement possible.
Negotiating is not always easy, but it is not necessary to see your spouse as an enemy. A skilled mediator can de-escalate tempers and keep discussions focused on a positive outcome. Mediation allows you to create a settlement in a more cooperative atmosphere, which often leads to a plan that endures longer and works better for both of you than a court order.
If you have decided to use mediation as your method of divorce, you will want an attorney who knows the mediation process. Your attorney should have experience with alternative dispute resolution that enables him or her to understand your goals and advocate for you in a positive manner.