Mediation, in a Family Law matter, involves a neutral third party who attempts to “facilitate” settlement negotiations between the divorcing parties. Mediation is a process where a neutral person assists in the communication between the parties to help them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.
Couples that seek a separation or divorce often seek this avenue to resolve issues with regard to child custody and visitation timeshare plans, child support, spousal support, and property division. Mediation can be completed by a single attorney, costs can be split by the parties, and if an agreement is reached the parties can avoid costly court battles.
Advantages of mediation include the probability of reduced conflict between spouses; which benefit the children. Compliance is typically higher with mutually agreed upon terms, as opposed to court ordered mandates. Very important to many, the costs associated with mediation are substantially less than the adversarial process; and support agreements may provide for additional “perks” such as agreements regarding college tuition, private school, and extra-curricular activities, that the parties may not obtain from the courts.
Mediation is not always the answer. The disadvantages include the lack of discovery, if one party fears the other is not being honest and forthcoming with disclosures. Mediation may not include the use of experts to valuate assets, such as land, incorporated businesses, and retirements. Joint custody agreement of children is the “norm” with mediation; if “joint custody” is not in the best interest of your child, mediation may be difficult to complete.
California law mandates that parents attend a publicly funded court mediation program, to determine whether a custody/visitation agreement might be reached. If an agreement is not attainable, the mediator is obligated to assess the child’s needs and best interest when making recommendations to the Court for further orders.
Mediation, or collaborative divorce, is an option to keep in mind if the parties are able to communicate and are willing to place the best interest needs of the children before their own.