Divorce Mediation – A creative and peaceful alternative to litigated divorce
Can divorce actually be accomplished with creativity, compassion and love?
Yes!! Divorce Mediation is an alternative to attorney litigated divorce and can create opportunities for couples to work through the process without permanent damage to a future relationship as parents. When people can negotiate productively and decide for themselves how they will divide property and allocate resources, how they will co-parent and how to make decisions cooperatively, the potential for emotional harm to everyone, especially children, is greatly reduced. Research shows that even though divorce is difficult for children, they adjust more quickly and with diminished negative effects when parents are able to co-parent with respect and good will toward one another. The cost of divorce mediation is far less than hiring an attorney to represent each party. Sierra Agape Center offers divorce mediation on a sliding fee basis depending on income. Mediation is available on a sliding fee basis beginning at $75.00 per hour.
Some Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce Mediation:
But what if my partner tries to intimidate me into getting what he/she wants?
The beauty of divorce mediation is that the couple comes to an agreement about what is equitable with the mediator’s guidance. Mediators are trained to stop negative communication and keep it focused on problem solving and finding resolution. Mediators are trained in understanding family law and providing clients with education about how it all works. Although mediators cannot practice law, they will help you work through difficult decisions one at a time by identifying the obstacles and helping clients to overcome fear. A mediator will always refer clients to attorneys when divorce mediation is either dangerous or ineffective.
What about after the divorce is final? Can we mediate changes in the parenting plan or child support?
Absolutely. Post-decree modifications to parenting and support plans can be accomplished in mediation. Mediators can guide parents through each step and develop a plan with you that fits for you and your children.
Will we still need a lawyer for all the paperwork?
Although we can obtain all necessary filing and completion documents for divorce and parenting through the California court’s website, we always advise clients to seek consult from an attorney to be certain about tax consequences and other implications related to property settlements and retirement plans, and to make sure all the documents are in accordance with legal requirements of the State of California.
How many sessions will it take to get everything done?
The time it takes to complete divorce mediation depends upon each couple’s motivation to reach agreements on property division, spousal support (if applicable) and parenting. It also depends upon how complicated your assets and liabilities are. If you own a lot of property and you also have a lot of debt, it takes time to work through the process of disposing of it (selling and dividing). I usually tell clients between three and six 90 minutes sessions.
Isn’t California a 50/50 state?
Yes, in regard to property division, California courts seek to allocate property equally unless circumstances exist to justify offsetting an equal division. Many people assume that the law in California around custody is that parents share custody equally, but this is not necessarily true. There are many factors to consider in developing a parenting plan that makes sense for children and parents. The benefit of mediation, is that parents have an opportunity to work through their challenges and come up with a plan that works for their families post-divorce or separation. For property division and allocation of debt, we look at separate property (what was yours before the marriage or gifted or willed to you during the marriage), and what is community property (what you accumulated and participated in maintaining during the marriage), and “quasi-community property” which is more complicated. Then we look at community and separate debt and see what you actually have left to divide once we have established your community net worth. Again, there are many factors to consider, however, the self-help website for information and court forms is easy to access, and all the preliminary forms for establishing financial information are available. I walk clients through each step of the process, and we go at a pace that feels right for you. When we work through all the issues related to property and debt, we can submit your Marital Settlement Agreement, or “MSA” if you’re married; or a Property Settlement Agreement for unmarried partners.
What if divorce mediation fails?
If people are unable to mediate successfully, we will refer you to an attorney who holds similar values as we do about resolving divorce peacefully and with as little damage to your children and your bank account as possible.