How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation in California
Ending a marriage can be incredibly challenging, even when both spouses know that divorce is best for both of them. The actual proceedings involved in the divorce process are more difficult than many people realize. If you are preparing for divorce in the San Diego area, it’s vital to know all your options for handling the situation as effectively as possible. Many people think of heated court battles when they imagine divorce. However, the reality is that litigation isn’t the only option for resolving a divorce in California.
Many people are choosing divorce mediation to have more control over the determinations in their divorces. The major decisions regarding your divorce don’t have to be left in the hands of a judge. Instead, you can potentially reach more agreeable divorce terms if you and your spouse are willing to negotiate. Private divorce mediation can potentially save both of you tremendous amounts of time and money, but it’s vital to understand this process and know how to prepare for it effectively.
Prerequisites for Divorce Mediation in California
There are two main requirements for divorce mediation in California. First, both spouses must be willing to try the process. If either spouse is completely unwilling to try alternative dispute resolution, litigation is the only option. Second, the couple must mutually agree upon a mediator. This individual will be responsible for guiding their negotiations and helping the couple draft their divorce order. The mediator should be a knowledgeable local family law attorney without any conflicts of interest favoring either spouse.
You and your spouse’s respective divorce attorneys can be helpful when it comes to finding the right mediator for your divorce. Your mediation sessions will likely be conducted in the mediator’s office, which is a much more comfortable atmosphere than the courtroom. One of the best advantages of divorce mediation is that the process can unfold on your terms. You and your spouse agree to collaborative session times, and the mediator will likely schedule one-on-one sessions with each of you as well.
It’s important to remember that the absolute soonest you can be divorced in California is six months from the date that your divorce petition is filed. Many divorces will take longer than six months to resolve. However, it is possible to complete mediation before the mandatory waiting period is over. If you and your spouse complete mediation within six months, you would simply wait for your divorce to be approved and finalized at the end of the waiting period.
Tips for Preparing for Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation can save you significant amounts of time and money on your divorce. Preparing for mediation as much as possible will help further streamline your mediation sessions. One of the best things any divorcing couple can do is to have private one-on-one discussions about their expectations prior to filing for divorce. While you and your spouse may not find much common ground when it comes to your marriage or your divorce, it’s still worth having these preliminary discussions. They give you the opportunity to understand one another’s intentions and positions.
Once you and your spouse are ready to start working on your divorce, one of you will need to file a divorce petition with the local family court. It does not matter which of you files the divorce petition. Some people mistakenly assume that being the one to file a divorce petition offers some advantage in dissolution proceedings, but this is not the case. Once a divorce petition has been filed, the other spouse must submit their response to the court, and divorce mediation can begin.
After the divorce petition is filed, you and your spouse will choose your mediator. You will then need to agree on mediation session times and work through each of your issues one by one. Property division is likely to be one of the most contentious aspects of your divorce, even though California enforces a very strict community property law. To prepare for this aspect of your divorce proceedings, you should start gathering your financial records. This includes bank statements, investment portfolio details, and certificates of ownership such as deeds and titles to real property.
If you and your spouse have children, the most important part of your divorce will be determining child custody. However, this is not an issue the two of you can resolve through divorce mediation. The California family court system has a legal obligation to preserve the best interests of children affected by the court’s rulings. Your child custody determination must come down to the decision of a San Diego family court judge. However, you and your spouse can draft a proposal for your preferred custody and support terms in mediation. You should consult with your divorce attorney on the best way to develop a compelling case for custody. The mediator can help you draft your proposal before submitting it to the court for final review and approval.
Do I Really Need a Divorce Lawyer for Mediation?
You and your spouse may be relatively amicable toward one another, or your divorce may seem very straightforward. You may wonder why you can’t simply resolve divorce mediation on your own and save money on legal fees. It is technically possible to complete your divorce without legal counsel. However, doing so is much more challenging than you likely expect. You could overlook critical details and face significant delays in resolving your divorce. If your spouse has legal counsel and you do not, this puts you at a substantial disadvantage in negotiations.
While you may worry about the potential cost of legal fees, it’s essential to understand the value of legal representation in a complex divorce case. Mediation is inherently swifter and less expensive than litigation, but you can still maximize the outcome of your divorce by hiring an experienced divorce attorney to represent you. If you are unsure of the best approach to divorce mediation in your unique situation, Bickford, Blado & Botros can help. Contact us today to learn more about the legal services we provide and how we can assist you with your divorce mediation proceedings.
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