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Understanding the basics of divorce mediation in California

Most California residents who are considering a divorce believe that the process will be unavoidably expensive and emotionally painful. While many divorces fit this description, California provides an alternative that can often reduce both the emotional pain and financial expense of ending a marriage. The process is called divorce mediation.

Mediation is a process in which the divorcing spouses meet with a person trained to assist people in reaching mutually acceptable solutions to the issues in their divorce. Mediators are trained to listen to each party's concerns without passing judgment. A mediator, unlike a judge or arbitrator, does not make any decisions. Instead, the mediator asks questions intended to encourage each party to reflect on the reasonableness of their positions on issues such as child custody, child support, possession of the family residence, property division and spousal support.

The mediator is trained to assist the parties in understanding the concerns of the other spouse and in leading them to a jointly acceptable resolution. Mediators use a variety of techniques to help the parties. A mediator may suggest that one spouse's proposal on child support has advantages for both, or that a demand for spousal maintenance is unreasonable because the other spouse cannot possibly afford the demanded payments.

Perhaps the most important aspect of divorce mediation is that both parties must agree on a point before it can be included in a marital termination agreement. The mediator has no power to force one spouse to accept the demand of the other spouse. Most parties attend mediation with their attorneys, who can offer advice on the wisdom of a proposed solution. In the end, divorce mediation can be an effective, economical and safe way to resolve the issues in the termination of a marriage.

Source: California Judicial Branch, "Resolve Your Divorce or Separation Out of Court," accessed on Mar. 6, 2017

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