Lisa R. Zonder, Ventura County divorce lawyer, explains the benefits of a mediated divorce
As an experienced divorce lawyer, I know that divorce is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. I pride myself on being a good listener and offering my clients personalized options for working through the divorce process. One alternative to a traditional court divorce is a mediated divorce (or “mediation”).
What is Lisa Zonder’s goal as a Mediator?
To help a divorcing client resolve conflict for the betterment of the client and his/her family. I do this by facilitating consensual and voluntary agreements by encouraging civil communications, eliciting underlying interests, listening carefully and lending my analytical, creative and intuitive self to help both clients reach an agreement that is in his or her interest.
Why choose mediation?
A mediated divorce might be a good option for you if:
- You seek privacy. Papers filed in a traditional court divorce are a matter of public record. Mediation keeps your case out of court.
- You want to keep costs down. Mediation tends to be less expensive than a traditional court divorce.
- You want to set the terms of your divorce, and not be subject to terms imposed by a judge.
- You want your divorce resolved expeditiously. Crowded court dockets often result in long waits. You won’t face that issue when scheduling mediation sessions.
- Your case involves complicated issues, such as an emotional custody dispute. Mediation gives you the flexibility to call in a child specialist to troubleshoot these issues and keep negotiations moving forward.
- The tone of your divorce is important to you. With a mediated divorce, you do not have to go to the courthouse; you won’t have to endure the stress of milling around a crowded hallway with other divorcing couples, waiting your turn to see the judge, while the clock ticks and your attorneys’ fees go up and up. For these and many other reasons, mediation is far less emotionally and mentally taxing than a traditional court divorce.
What happens at a mediation session?
At our first meeting, I will explain the mediation process to you and your spouse, and we will review the terms of the written mediation agreement. Next, we will discuss your particular case and the procedures for your mediation, including the length of each mediation session. Once these preliminary matters are taken care of, we will review the financial disclosures made by you and your spouse, and come up with a list of issues and points of contention to be addressed at the mediation.
Now the real work begins, as you and your spouse try to negotiate a settlement. As the mediator, I will offer advice and counsel on legal issues and try to help you reach an agreement on some or all of the issues we listed. I will put any agreements in writing. If necessary, we will schedule additional mediation sessions to deal with unresolved issues.
If your case is complicated, we can enlist the help of experts, including accountants, appraisers, retirement specialists, family counselors or therapists. These specialists can be available in “real” time, during a mediation session, to provide in-the-moment advice to keep negotiations from stalling. You also may have a consulting lawyer on the sidelines, to offer legal counsel as needed.
What is the cost of a mediated divorce?
The cost of mediation will depend on the number of sessions required to resolve the issues in your case. Some cases can be resolved in one session. Most cases, however, take two to four sessions, depending on the number of issues to be resolved and the complexity of the issues.
What is my style as mediator?
Depending on the family law mediation clients’ preference, I can work in a purely facilitative model to help the mediation clients become realistic about their litigation assessments, by asking thoughtful questions and using private caucus. However, my natural tendency is to use an Evaluative-Broad model wherein I help understand options by eliciting the clients’ interests and propose solutions. I also tend to offer assessments or enlighten clients as to court outcomes in my law practice so they can generate and assess proposals.
Many mediation clients want to hear how things might turn out if they went to court, at least to understand a range of possible outcomes and it’s hard for the trial lawyer in me to keep that information even from mediation clients though some mediators believe that a facilitative approach is a more pure approach.