Mediation is one of the most common forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and is frequently used in family law cases in California. Mediation is a process in which parties to a dispute attempt to negotiate their own resolution of their issues with the assistance of a neutral, professional mediator.

What is a mediator and what is their role?

A mediator is a third-party neutral who is able to help the parties negotiate a settlement that they both can agree on. Often, the mediator will assist, at the direction of the parties, with drafting a settlement agreement that the parties may file in court. Mediators are not judges and cannot force either party to do anything. Also, it is important to remember that mediators are not an attorney representing either party and are prohibited from providing legal advice to the parties. A mediator must remain impartial and their role is to manage the dispute resolution process – the mediator cannot make decisions regarding the outcome of the negotiation.

What issues can be resolved through mediation?

Family law issues such as spousal support, child support, child custody, guardianship, division of property, and other matters can all be resolved through the mediation process. Because mediation is flexible and allows the parties to develop their own creative solutions to their issues, this process allows more options than if a judge were to decide how to resolve those same issues. If an agreement can be reached between the parties, a judge will often approve the agreement on all of the issues.

How long does mediation take?

Mediation is a process and the timeline can be quite variable for each case depending on the issues raised during negotiations and the parties’ willingness to seek flexible options for settling the issues. Mediations can take as little as a few hours or can span several weeks or even months. Mediation itself is very structured and professional mediators will use a number of techniques to improve the dialogue between the parties so that a prompt resolution can be reached.

I don’t want a Judge to decide my how my issue will be resolved! I want to be in control!

Mediation is the perfect vehicle for parties who feel like they want control over what is happening and who do not want a Judge to decide the issues for them. Because mediation is a process that occurs out of court, it is not only private, but also more flexible in terms of how the parties can resolve issues – the options are limitless. Ultimately, the parties are in the driver’s seat during the entire process and can work together to develop an agreement that works for everyone.

Is mediation private and confidential?

Mediation is both private and confidential. The parties can agree to keep all of the information shared during the mediation confidential. Many people prefer mediation because it keeps their personal information and history out of the court’s file and potentially out of the eyes of the public.

How much does mediation cost?

Mediation always will cost less than litigating your case. In most cases, spouses agree to equally share the costs related to the mediation. Where attorneys for each party may charge between $300 – $500 per hour (remember each side has their own attorney), private mediation can be just a fraction of the cost, often less than half. This can help alleviate the financial stress that divorce  or family law issues bring into the parties’ lives.

How many times can I attend mediation?

You can attend mediation as many times as you need to resolve your issues. There is no limit to how much you can attend mediation, and your mediator will use their experience to help guide you to a successful resolution.

Can I have an attorney at mediation?

It depends on the mediator. Most often, it is counterproductive to have attorneys present at mediation sessions because the parties rely on their attorney’s to maintain a less flexible position than they normally would have, thus preventing the negotiations from moving in a positive direction. The most successful mediations are concluded without the added expense that attorneys bring. Your mediator will let you know what their own policies are regarding attorney’s being present at the mediation.

How should I approach my spouse as we enter mediation?

The reason you are seeking mediation is because you and your spouse have not been able to agree on certain issues. It is important for everyone involved to approach their mediation with an open mind and with an eagerness to create a flexible agreement that will work for everyone. It is crucial to go into your mediation knowing that you will have to give a little to get a little. Failing to have this mindset will delay the process and can ultimately lead you right out of mediation and into a court of law where you will lose your right to decide how your case ends.

My spouse and I just fight and don’t communicate, can we still mediate?

In cases where the parties do not communicate well, mediation can still be successful. Both parties will usually agree to make an effort to “play nice” with a mediator present so that they can try to work things out. It is important to discuss this openly with the mediator prior to your mediation as it will help the mediator approach certain key issues you are trying to work through.

I do not want to see my spouse or have anything to do with them, is mediation still an option?

If you are someone who wants nothing to do with your spouse, in any manner, mediation may not be for you. Simply put, mediation requires that both parties at least be willing to try to resolve these issues. However, if you and your spouse still want to maintain a good relationship following the divorce, mediation is a great non-confrontational method for each party to work through their issues and walk away with a sense of dignity.

What is the next step?

Your next step will be to find a professional family law mediator who will work with you. The law offices of Mendlovitz Foster have trained, professional mediators and attorneys available in Southern California who have the experience you need to help guide you through this difficult time. Feel free to call our offices at 562-420-1351 and we will be happy to discuss your case with you and provide you with additional information on how our mediators can help you resolve your family law issues.