You know that divorce is a very likely if not a certain scenario for you in the coming weeks and months. You know that and you and your partner don’t want to go broke spending your assets on having attorneys fight out issues in court. You also know that “mediation” is supposed to be a positive method of doing the necessary legal and practical work to complete the divorce and move on fairly and efficiently with your respective lives. But you might not have any idea of how the process is supposed to work, and specifically what the steps are in getting a divorce mediation started.
Starting the mediation process is not difficult from a practical perspective, but you and your partner will have to take some basic actions to get the process moving.
Discuss Pursuing Mediation With Your Partner
There is a misconception that mediation is only for those divorcing couples who have no disagreements or ill will towards each other. While mediation can be helpful in obtaining great outcomes for those lucky couples, there are almost always disagreements and hurt feelings if not outright hostility in a divorce, and a good mediator has the skills and tools to help those couples achieve mutually beneficial results without the high cost, delay, and strife of litigation (and, no, you don’t have to like each other at the end of mediation, but a good mediator can help minimize ill will and promote working together in completing the divorce and in ongoing co-parenting if applicable).
But to mediate, you and the other party do need to both agree to do mediation, as it is ultimately a voluntary process. Thus, it is worthwhile to research articles on the benefits of mediation (including on this blog) and provide them to the other party and discuss how you can both benefit from mediation. Agreeing to both speak to a mediator does not at all mean you forfeit your rights in court, and it does not even mean you have to keep going back to the mediator. Simply getting an agreement to both speak to the mediator about working together should be your goal at this point.
Research a Mediator in Your Jurisdiction
California does not require that divorce mediators have a license or even a law degree. Meaning literally anyone can be a divorce mediator. But that does not mean that every mediator will have the knowledge of the law, the knowledge of the mediation process, or the interpersonal and legal skills to serve you well. Think about what issues and challenges are present in your divorce, and then seek out a mediator in your jurisdiction that will serve those needs. [Note that Zonder Family Law Group provides mediation services to divorcing couples throughout the state of California, and mediation can be done entirely virtually.]
Contact the Mediator to Discuss Working Together
The next step is to simply call or message the mediator to discuss working together. You may be concerned that you are not sure what to say to the mediator, but don’t worry about that: a good mediator will ask you the questions necessary to get things started. And you are not even expected to have all the answers to those questions at this point.
One important thing to remember is that your mediator is not your attorney. When you call a mediator, you should not start telling him or her all the terrible things about your partner and ask for legal advice on how to get the best possible outcome. You should definitely not tell the mediator confidential matters that you do not want your partner to know, at least not on this call. The purpose of this call is to give some basic facts about your situation and discuss working together.
Many mediators will then ask that the other party call him or her too, both to introduce themselves, establish a relationship, and confirm that both parties want to do mediation.
Schedule Initial Sessions
Once both parties have connected with the mediator, what will often happen is that the mediator will schedule initial sessions with the parties that serve to prepare everyone for the process. This often includes: 1) a session in which the mediator goes through the “ground rules” for how the mediation will work (e.g. issues such as whether other parties such as lawyers can participate, how confidentiality will work, how fees will be split between the parties, etc.) and 2) private sessions between the mediator and each individual in which the individual has the opportunity to present his or her full perspective on all the issues and goals. This all will help the mediator(s) and the parties more efficiently work together to reach a complete resolution of their family law matter in a positive manner.
Again, the mediator will take control of the process and instruct you on what you should do (and keep in mind mediators may have widely varying processes and procedures), but you should feel comfortable in taking the above first steps to get the mediation process started.
Guidance on Your California Mediation Questions From a Westlake Village Family Law Mediator
If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on mediation or any other California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740, or schedule your strategy session here.