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Is Divorce Mediation Right For You?

There are many benefits to choosing divorce mediation over litigation, including a likely reduction in cost, stress, and time. Mediation is far less emotionally and mentally taxing than a traditional court divorce. Yet, mediation may not be the best option in certain situations. Zonder Family Law explores four common issues that might impede successful mediation so you can decide what is best for you and your family.

Uncooperative Spouse
If you want to mediate but your spouse does not, you can educate him or her about the process and point out the advantages of mediation. For example, a mediated divorce might be a good option if any of the following issues are important to you and your spouse. First, you seek privacy. Papers filed in a traditional court divorce are a matter of public record. Mediation keeps your case out of court. Second, you want to keep costs down. Mediation tends to be less expensive than a traditional court divorce. Third, you want to set the terms of your divorce, and not be subject to terms imposed by a judge. Fourth, you want your divorce resolved expeditiously. Crowded court dockets often result in long waits. You won’t face that issue when scheduling mediation sessions.
Fifth, 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. And finally, sixth, if the tone of your divorce is important to you. With a mediated divorce, you don’t 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.

Emotional Divorce
Do you feel hurt, betrayed, or angry at your spouse? It’s normal to have strong feelings toward a soon-to-be ex. Yet, when these feelings interfere too much with communication—to the point where you cannot be in the same room together, for example—mediation may not be practical. In such volatile cases, a mediator can practice “shuttle diplomacy” or talk with each client alone in separate rooms instead of in a joint session. Remember that mediators are trained to facilitate communication; they are skilled at helping parties who disagree about many issues come to agreements despite their differences. However, a mediator cannot force people to work together. To successfully mediate, you and your spouse should be able to maintain a certain level of respect and share the goal of working toward a solution.

Legal Concerns
Are you concerned that by choosing mediation, you’ll miss out on the benefits of legal representation? In other words, would you like to have an attorney fighting for you and sticking up for your rights? Mediation may take on many forms. In its simplest form, you, your spouse, and the mediator work out an agreement without any outsiders. Many couples, however, opt to consult with outside attorneys in addition to the mediator. In this scenario, your attorney can come with you to each mediation session, or your attorney can serve as a resource outside of the mediation sessions – for example to answer your questions and look over agreements. You control how involved your attorney becomes in the mediation process. Remember: the mediator should educate you and your spouse about the legal issues in your case, but only your separate attorney can advise you on how to deal with these issues.

Financial Control
If your spouse controls your family’s finances, you may have little to no knowledge of your income, assets, and debts. Do you trust your spouse when it comes to financial matters? The key word here is trust. If you have reason to think your spouse may be hiding financial information that is relevant to the divorce, you may need to litigate. Why? In litigation, attorneys can use formal legal procedures called “discovery” to subpoena bank and credit card records, paychecks, and retirement statements, among other documents. The responding party must produce documents under penalty of perjury, and the court can impose sanctions on those who fail to comply. Discovery is a long, tedious, and usually expensive process, but sometimes it is necessary to represent and protect your best interests.

Learn More about the divorce mediation process in California.

When considering whether mediation is an option for your situation, Zonder Family Law in Ventura County has more than 20 plus years of experience in providing mediation, collaborative law, and traditional litigation services to thousands of couples.

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Hello, I'm Lisa Zonder

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Certified Family Law Specialist since 1999.

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