In the past, a divorce typically meant that divorcing spouses had to endure a long and costly courtroom trial. But today, many divorcing couples in California are choosing a “mediated” divorce rather than a “litigated” divorce.

If you are divorcing or considering divorce in the state of California – or if your spouse is divorcing you – you can both save time and money, and avoid a great deal of aggravation, by choosing the mediation option.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF A MEDIATED DIVORCE?

The advantages of a mediated divorce – particularly when compared against an acrimonious, litigated courtroom trial – are substantial. Nothing positive can emerge from an emotionally-charged, contentious courtroom divorce.

For most couples who are divorcing in California, the disputed issues in a divorce can be handled more appropriately through the mediation process and away from the courtroom.

A mediated divorce costs considerably less than a litigated divorce.

You and the spouse you are divorcing – and not a judge or some other complete stranger – remain in control of your futures throughout the mediation procedure.

Particularly in high-conflict and high-asset divorce cases, mediation is better because it is non-adversarial.

IS DIVORCE MEDIATION CONFIDENTIAL?

Another benefit is that divorce mediation in California is confidential, so there’s no public record. That can be important if you and your spouse are disputing the division of your marital property and assets.

Every detail of a courtroom trial, however, is on the public record.

And by settling your divorce through the mediation process and outside of the courtroom, you’ll ensure that the final divorce agreement meets your needs and your ex-spouse’s – rather than the arbitrary needs and requirements of California law.

WHAT IF MEDIATION ISN’T THE RIGHT OPTION?

Of course, mediation is not necessarily the right option for every couple that is seeking to divorce.

If the divorcing partners simply cannot come to agreements on matters like spousal support, the division of assets and properties, or child custody, the couple will probably have to endure a conventional courtroom divorce trial.

But when a divorcing couple can cooperate, whether it’s for the children or some other reason, then mediation is probably the right option.

Especially when you consider the financial and emotional cost of an adversarial divorce trial, mediation makes genuinely good sense. Divorcing spouses who are not comfortable with the idea of mediation probably just need to learn more about the process.

HOW DOES DIVORCE MEDIATION WORK IN THIS STATE?

You and your partner, with the advice of your divorce lawyers, will hire a certified, neutral, third-party mediator. A mediator’s role is to point and guide the divorcing spouses toward a divorce settlement that is just, fair, and acceptable to both spouses.

You should meet with a prospective mediator personally before the mediation sessions begin. Your mediator must be someone you can trust and someone who can put you at ease.

Do not begin the process until you’ve found that individual.

Divorce mediators have no capacity to order or compel anyone in any way, so mediation depends almost entirely on the sincere and forthright participation of the spouses. Nevertheless, it’s important to have a skilled and experienced mediator.

When a mediator has been selected, the process generally begins with an initial meeting between spouses and the mediator to outline the goals of the mediation and to define the issues and disputes in the divorce.

WHAT IS THE MEDIATOR’S ROLE IN A DIVORCE MEDIATION?

Typically, both spouses discuss their positions on the matters in dispute. The mediator may meet with the divorcing spouses together and separately several times, seeking common ground that might provide the basis for agreement.

A mediator can help with specifics such as payment and visitation schedules. Mediation seeks to resolve all matters disputed in the divorce and create a final, written divorce agreement.

If the mediation is successful, the mediator will draft a settlement agreement for approval by the court. Courts almost always sign off on these agreements provided that they are fair and provided that – if there are children – the interests of the children have been placed first.

But if one partner is not honest and forthright during mediation, you may not be able to arrive at a final agreement. Cooperation – from both partners – is imperative for a successful divorce mediation.

When mediation fails, your divorce case moves to the courtroom, where it will take more time and cost more money.

If that happens in southern California, you’ll need to be represented by an experienced and aggressive Long Beach divorce attorney.

WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL DIVORCE MEDIATION?

Mediation probably will not succeed when divorcing spouses blame and accuse each other, when marital assets and properties are disputed, and when drug, alcohol, or abuse issues are involved. These divorces are usually resolved in courtroom divorce trials.

Mediation works best when divorcing spouses are honest with one another, want to remain on good terms, don’t blame one another, and are able to disagree without anger or acrimony.

Unfortunately, in too many divorces, agreements cannot be reached, and one spouse is left with no choice except to take the other spouse to court – and ask the court to order a fair divorce settlement.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IN A DIVORCE TRIAL?

In contrast to a mediated divorce, a litigated divorce can be lengthy, frustrating, and complicated. A divorce trial in California can include multiple court appearances, witnesses, subpoenas, motions, and delays.

If a voluntary mutual agreement is simply not possible, and your divorce goes to trial in southern California, you’ll need an attorney who will present the strongest possible case on your behalf – and if you have children, on their behalf as well.

Only judges hear and decide on California divorce trials, so if your divorce must go to court, there won’t be a jury.

But whether you choose mediation or litigation, and whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, in southern California, you must have the advice and representation that an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney will provide.

Courtroom divorce trials are still conducted every day that the courts are open in California, and when the issues are dispute, a courtroom trial remains the final alternative. But for many divorcing couples in California, mediation will be better.