Preparing for Divorce Mediation in California

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Preparing for Divorce Mediation in California

Mediation is one of the most effective ways to draft your divorce settlement without going to court. With the right mediator and mindset, you and your spouse can negotiate your settlement and walk away satisfied without the hassle of scheduling hearings. 

Of course, mediating conflict works best when you know what to expect. A little research and advanced preparation can go a long way. Here’s how mediation works and tips to make the most of the process. 

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is the process of resolving a dispute through negotiations overseen by a trained, unbiased third party known as a mediator. The mediator is not there to make judgments or draft settlements. Instead, they are present to keep the conversation on track, help both sides communicate, and ensure all parties remain respectful and professional. 

Divorce mediation specifically applies this concept to the process of negotiating divorce settlements. Instead of taking the dispute to the courtroom, couples can choose to work with a mediator. Both spouses will attend meetings with their attorneys and a mediator to decide matters such as:

  • How to divide marital assets
  • Whether one partner will receive spousal support
  • How to split the parenting time of any children in the relationship

Throughout multiple meetings, the couple will negotiate these issues in detail. Once they have reached a compromise that satisfies both parties, their attorneys will draft a settlement reflecting their decisions and submit it to the court. The court then reviews the settlement and uses it to produce the official divorce decree. 

Why Consider Mediation for Your Divorce?

Mediation is significantly less stressful for most amicable couples than going to court. It offers a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Efficiency: Scheduling hearings for a divorce can add months or years to the process in California’s crowded courts. In contrast, mediation meetings can be scheduled just days in advance as long as all parties are available. This makes the process significantly faster than waiting for a judge to be available to hear your case.
  • Efficacy: Compared to court hearings, where a judge issues a binding ruling, mediation is significantly more likely to result in settlements satisfying everyone. This is because mediating disputes allows both parties to have a say in the final outcome. If either party is unsatisfied, they can continue negotiating until they reach a compromise they can accept.
  • Cordiality: Going to court automatically encourages a sense of conflict. This can encourage divorcing couples to make more demands and treat each other worse than they otherwise would. Meanwhile, mediation encourages collaboration and compromise, which makes for a significantly less stressful divorce.

Preparing for Healthy Divorce Mediation 

To make the most of the benefits of mediation, it is important to prepare for the process. A lack of preparation can cause negotiations to drag on or even fail. The following tactics for mediating divorce can make you more confident and ensure your mediation meetings go smoothly. 

Collect Your Financial Documents

Before beginning mediation, both parties will sign an agreement promising to provide each other with full financial disclosures. California requires divorcing spouses to have access to these disclosures before agreeing to any division of properties. If you don’t provide a complete and accurate financial disclosure, your divorce settlement may be overturned. 

You can work with your attorney to collect all the information you need for your disclosure. Important documents to provide include:

  • Proof of income, such as pay stubs, W-2 forms, or 1099s.
  • Bank statements for the past year.
  • Investment account statements.
  • Credit card statements. 
  • Tax returns for the past two years.
  • Loan documents.
  • Insurance policies. 
  • Copies of all deeds to real property.

Outline Your Preferred Outcomes

You should determine your preferred outcomes for every matter involved in your settlement. In fact, it is worthwhile to identify three levels of preferences:

  • Your absolute best-case scenario, no matter how unlikely
  • Your interpretation of a fair settlement
  • The bare minimum you will accept

These set the foundation for your negotiations. 

In many cases, your attorney may suggest presenting your opening offer somewhere between your best-case scenario and your idea of a fair settlement. This gives you room to potentially get a better settlement than you expected. Meanwhile, your bare minimum informs you about when to put your foot down during negotiations.

Prepare to Compromise

The most important part of preparing for healthy divorce mediation is getting ready to compromise. Many spouses find it difficult to compromise with each other during a divorce because of how disputes and hurt feelings have built up over time. However, mediating a divorce settlement requires compromises and collaboration. 

It is unlikely that you will get everything you want out of a settlement, but it is still possible to be satisfied. You and your spouse likely have different preferences regarding handling the family home or dividing parenting time. Those differences may allow you to get what you want with a little compromise. 

Suppose you are negotiating the division of properties. In your ideal situation, you would keep the family house and the retirement accounts, but you don’t like the family cars very much. You could present an offer to your spouse that grants them the cars in exchange for both the house and the retirement accounts. They may make a counteroffer that allows them to keep the cars, you to keep the house, and the retirement accounts get split down the middle. You don’t get everything you want, but compromising on the accounts allows you to keep your beloved home.

Prepare for Mediation With CC LawGroup

Following the tips above can help make mediation go more smoothly, but nothing replaces the assistance of skilled California divorce mediation attorneys. At CC LawGroup, we specialize in assisting families in resolving complex disputes effectively, whether through negotiations or in the courtroom. 

Our knowledgeable attorneys are available to discuss your case and help you prepare for mediation. Learn more about how we can help negotiate a divorce settlement by scheduling your consultation with our Newark, California, divorce law firm today.