Los Angeles Divorce Mediation Services
Divorce mediation is an opportunity for people who are in or planning to be in the process of dissolving their marriage to come to the realization that if they collaborate with each other and jointly work at resolving their personal and legal issues, they can save lots of money, avoid much grief and build a positive relationship following the dissolution process.
Whether or not the parties have engaged attorneys in the process, mediation with an experienced private mediator has significant advantages—and no known disadvantages.
At its simplest, divorce mediation is parties – whether represented by attorneys or not – working with a neutral third party to jointly problem solve and collaboratively seek agreement on the division of their assets, the extent of spouse and child support, and the terms of child custody and visitation if appropriate.
If successful, the parties may completely avoid having to deal with the courts, other than the filing of documents to validate their agreements, whether those agreements resolve all or only some of the issues that must be addressed. Time, money and emotional costs are saved in the process, and the parties fully participate in the decision-making process.
Divorce Mediation vs. Divorce Court vs. Collaborative Divorce
Traditional divorce proceedings are adversarial. Each side fights to maximize its own benefits, often at the expense of the other party. In doing so, it is possible to expend huge sums of money, to inflict great emotional harm on each other, as well as lasting pain and damages to children who are often used as pawns in the process. Litigation over family issues is traumatic, expensive, time consuming, and often destructive and irrational.
In addition to the alternative of divorce mediation, a new and growing area of marriage dissolution practice is developing which is called Collaborative Divorce. Attorneys join with parties to collaboratively share information and seek resolution of disputed issues in a non-adversarial environment, with agreement that they attorneys will not take the matter to court but will facilitate parties’ efforts to settlement the matter. As with mediation, if the effort is not fully successful, the parties retain their options to seek relief from the courts – a process that is time consuming, expensive and filled with uncertainty regarding the outcome.
The difference between divorcing through the court process and either the option of mediation or collaboration is that in both mediation and collaboration, the parties retain the power to decide the outcome of the process. Not so in the courts, where a judge will be the final decision maker.
Advantages of Divorce Mediation over Litigation:
- Confidential—Differences can be worked out in private, not in a public trial
- Less expensive—Significantly lower costs, often 90% less than divorce litigation
- Faster resolution—Can save literally years over slower, court-based dissolution
- Better communication—Couples learn to communicate in more constructive ways
- Children protected—Children are spared the trauma of being caught in a war zone
- Improved future—Collaboration sets a positive tone that continues after the divorce
Divorce Mediation and the California Courts
The budget for the California court system has been drastically reduced in recent years—by as much as 65%. Court employees have been laid off, courtrooms have been closed, and services have been dramatically curtailed. Getting a court date or even a simple signature can take months if not years, and attorney costs can be exorbitant.
In traditional lawsuits, justice is often subject to the “golden rule”—he who has the most gold (the most expensive lawyer) wins, and the winner takes all. This approach has never been optimal for the resolution of family issues in a divorce case.
Divorce mediation is a viable, essential alternative to divorce litigation in the courts at a time when the California courts are unable to provide the normal services expected (and the picture does not appear to be brighter in the foreseeable future).
When is Divorce Mediation NOT the best choice?
When domestic violence or issues of child neglect or abandonment dominate the family structure, mediation is not a viable option. There are two major principles that guide mediation: Confidentiality and voluntariness. Those principles do not prevail when both parties do not wish to reach a voluntary settlement. If a party seeks to dominate the other, perhaps using children as bargaining chips or desiring to inflict pain, whether physical or emotional, in such cases mediation is not a good choice for conflict resolution. Otherwise, however, it is often the best choice.
Divorce Mediation Attorney Michael H. White
San Fernando Valley-based divorce mediation lawyer Michael H. White has mediated scores of complex divorce cases and has taught family mediation and other ADR techniques at the university level. His objective, in addition to providing fairness and equity among the parties, is to recognize and fashion a result that may preserve the ongoing relationships of the parties as they resolve disputes.