If you are considering divorce or have recently filed for it, you may have heard about divorce mediation or your court order may have mandated it. In this article, we’ll understand how to prepare for divorce mediation in Riverside, California, and everything you need to know about it.

Divorce mediation in California is becoming more popular as an alternative or addition to litigation. There are various reasons for this, including lower costs, simpler processes, and more efficient, peaceful dispute resolution. Divorce mediation is also mandated by courts sometimes, especially if children and custody matters are involved.

Let’s begin with understanding what it is, its importance, and how you can prepare yourself for it.

What is divorce mediation?

Mediation is not the same as divorce, though it is frequently used as part of the divorce process. It is a procedure in which both partners discuss the conditions of their divorce with a neutral arbitrator, usually a psychologist or an attorney. The arbitrator does not represent either partner and only assists you in reaching a mutually acceptable outcome. 

Mediation aims at promoting conflict resolution between partners and allows for a more peaceful divorce settlement. Mediators cannot make legal decisions for you because they are not attorneys for either party. They can, however, direct both partners toward mutually beneficial outcomes. They can assist you in making important divorce decisions such as the division of funds, real estate, investments, and even the custody of children.

Mediation sessions are confidential and private spaces for both you and your partner to work toward your goals. Unlike court proceedings, mediation focuses on resolving disagreements amicably in order to reach mutual agreements rather than having to fight each other. It takes a collaborative, open approach in which you can both discuss your expectations. However, keep in mind that it will only work if both partners are truthful and forthcoming with their financial and other disclosures.

Why is divorce mediation important?

Divorce mediation can help resolve the most pressing concerns such as financial and custodial matters amicably with both partners reaching a mutually agreeable decision. It can help divide assets is a way that is fair to both parties and put together a custody schedule that’s best for your kid(s).

Mediators are qualified, experienced people who can focus on both partners and their expectations in order to help them reach and agree on divorce terms without a fight. Unlike litigators fighting in court, mediators focus on both spouses as individuals rather than just protecting one of them. 

It’s wise to consult an attorney to determine what you can give up and what you should not give up in mediation to ensure everything is in your best interest. Some mediators may also allow both partners’ attorneys to be present in one or more mediation sessions. 

Both partners can openly share their concerns and reach mutual decisions without having to compromise their desires unnecessarily in mediation. Unlike attorneys, a mediator is not required to speak on behalf of only one of the partners. It enables them to come up with solutions that either you or your partner may not have considered or that your attorneys were unable to consider.

Divorce mediation is also usually far less expensive and taxing on both partners than going to court. It may also help you reduce the cost and duration of your divorce since you can file for an “uncontested” or “no fault” divorce by agreeing on the terms beforehand.

Now that you know what is divorce mediation and why it’s important, let’s understand how you can best prepare yourself for it.

How to prepare for divorce mediation in Riverside, California

Divorce is unsettling and painful for both partners even if it’s amicable, and mediation can help take the edge off a little. So, the first step to prepare for divorce mediation is to find a qualified divorce mediator in Riverside, California. It’s best if your mediator is local because divorce laws differ by state and local jurisdictions. Commuting to your mediator’s office is also easier if they’re local.

Once you’ve found a mediator that you’re comfortable working with, you should start preparing for your first mediation session. Here are the 10 most important things to consider:

1. Approach it with an open mind

The whole point of divorce mediation is to come to a mutually acceptable division of assets and terms of divorce amicably. So, you must take your partner’s feelings into consideration while going into your mediation session. It doesn’t mean you should ignore how you feel, but you should keep in mind that every decision affects your partner’s life, too. 

It’s also important to remember that neither of you is going to get everything you ask for. You will have to make tough choices and settle for creative solutions you may not have thought of. Don’t let your notions about what is “fair” affect the mediation. These feelings are usually based on how you feel about the divorce and bringing these feelings into the session will only result in unnecessary fights with your partner.

2. Decide a few things beforehand

It helps if you and your partner are on the same page about some things even before you go for mediation. For example, it’s important to decide how you are going to pay for the mediation sessions. Divorce mediation can typically cost upwards of $4000 and the amount is usually split between both parties. If you don’t have access to that kind of money, you may want to talk to your partner about it. You should also check if your mediator provides payment plans. 

It may also help if you put together a custody schedule before going into mediation so that the mediator can help you finalize one easily. 

The more things you and your partner agree on before a mediation session, the lesser time you will spend on mediation. However, do keep in mind that the point of mediation is to help you reach a fair agreement about your finances, assets, investments, and child custody. So, it’s okay if you and your partner don’t agree on everything before the session.

3. Consider your emotions

Divorce can be painful and you may become frustrated, angry, resentful, or sad at some point. However, bringing these emotions into the mediation session is not helpful. It will only result in ugly fights when that is exactly what you are trying to avoid.

You may consider going to therapy before, during, or after mediation to express these feelings and deal with them the right way. You can also go to therapy after your divorce is final to help you cope with the change and associated emotions healthily. 

4. Focus on your future goals

People seem to assume that divorce is about seeking justice for events that occurred during their marriage, such as an affair, excessive spending, or laziness. However, what you may have observed on television is not true. Divorce is never about any of that. 

It is about splitting your debts and assets so that both partners can move on. As a result, you should prioritize your personal and financial goals for the future. Ignore the past and don’t bring it up during the session.

what is divorce mediation

5. Organize all your information

Put together a list of all your assets, debts, and investments prior to your first mediation session. Gather all your financial data in one place and bring it to the session, too.

Having all the information together can help you and your partner determine how to divide everything and make the process a lot easier and quicker. It may help to seek professional help for valuating all your assets so you can get a fair price in case you need to liquidate anything. It will also help divide the assets fairly. 

6. Don’t assume that mediation will gain you advantages

Mediation is supposed to help you divide everything fairly and in a way that takes care of both partners. So, never assume that you will get benefits or advantages over your spouse just because you chose to go for divorce mediation. 

The division of assets, finances, and custody is based on several factors. They include both partners’ ability to earn, provide child-care while earning, each partner’s ability to afford housing, and much more.

Asking your mediator what qualifies as “fair” in your jurisdiction will help you understand what to expect from the divorce.

7. Be ready to face unexpected disagreements

Even spouses who initiate mediation in perfect agreement about custody of children and asset distribution can end up disagreeing on unexpected issues. Sometimes it’s not even a conflict between the partners that causes a problem with the agreement, but a third party, like a bank or an academic institution. For example, one or both spouses’ desired child custody or childcare arrangement may be incompatible with standard practice or not likely to be accepted by a judge. 

In many cases, partners will agree on broad principles of law – such as an “equal division of assets” – only to disagree on related sub-issues. For example, who will keep the marital home after the divorce.

The mediator’s role is to assist spouses in creating specific divorce agreements that will be accepted by a judge while also reducing the risk of subsequent proceedings. As a result, expect the mediator to bring up issues that you or your partner may not have thought of. 

Many spouses discover that they surprisingly disagree on earning calculations, the value of assets, and child-related issues such as their holiday or vacation schedule. This is commonplace during the divorce mediation and being prepared for it will help both partners approach the situation amicably.

8. Be ready to hear something that triggers you

Take time prior to your mediation session to consider things your partner might say that will really set you off. Most divorcing couples are dealing with difficult problems that can be emotionally draining. When the subject is brought up, you might close down or explode in rage. Preparing for these reactions will make your mediation sessions work more comfortably. 

If you are worried that a particular subject will be hard to discuss, inform your mediator. They can work with you individually to prepare, establish ground rules that help you feel safe, or simply be aware of your feelings on the matter.

9. Know that asking for private sessions is okay

Most divorce mediators in Riverside, California use both joint (you, the partner, and the mediator) and private sessions (only you and the mediator). You have the authority to request that space if you are uncomfortable, could use a break, or want to discuss something with the mediator privately. 

The mediator will decide if a separate meeting is appropriate, but you can at least suggest that it is something that would be helpful for you.

10. Consider if your future needs

The financial situation of each spouse typically changes both during and after the divorce process. Most partners will have to maintain separate homes (often big enough to accommodate children) while regaining financial freedom. Ex-spouses most commonly petition courts to adjust spousal or child support responsibilities or to litigate the divorce itself due to unexpected financial stress.

Consider collaborating with a financial adviser to assist you all through the mediation process if needed. This can help both partners in avoiding possible tax repercussions, and making sure that your decision is overall the most beneficial. Before initiating mediation, consider working with an independent financial adviser to help calculate your post-divorce budget. This can protect you from agreeing to waive transitional alimony or giving up some marital property rights. 

Wrapping it up

Finding common ground is a significant step in the process of divorce, and also something to be proud of as you move forward. Take the time and effort to start preparing for the divorce mediation so that you can receive the favorable settlement you deserve. 

Consider the list above as a starting point for your divorce mediation preparation. It’s also a good idea to ask your mediator for advice on how to prepare. Most mediators would be able to provide some advice that is unique to their approach or to your unique problem.Contact us now to get personalized advice on how to prepare for divorce mediation in Riverside, California, and meet with our experts to help you with the divorce!