Family Law Mediation – Effective, Alternative Dispute Resolution

Many couples find that although they want to resolve their family law matter without going to court, they are either unable to reach agreement or are having difficulty knowing what to do next. If this describes your situation, then you might want to consider mediation.

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, and is a process by which parties attempt to resolve their disputes through settlement and compromise using the help of a neutral third party. In our office, the neutral third party is an experienced family law attorney with specific training in family law mediation. The attorney mediator represents neither party; instead, the mediator is there as a facilitator to assist and counsel the parties as they work together towards a settlement.

Mediation is a non-binding process and is completely confidential. Until all of the details are worked out and the documents are signed, neither party is obligated to comply with the agreements in progress, unless they decide to make those agreements binding by executing a stipulated order. Even more importantly, parties to mediation are protected by a settlement privilege that keeps the mediation proceedings completely confidential and inadmissible in court. This allows parties to be forthright and honest about their concerns and desires, and helps them to work together cooperatively without worrying about the consequences of having said one thing or another. Compare this to the traditional litigation model where each party hires his or her own attorney and then frequently postures and blusters in an effort to look good to the court.

Benefits Of Mediation

Through mediation, you and your spouse are much more in control of your lives, your agreement about how the marriage should end, and the divorce process in general than when cases head to court. You and your spouse are much better qualified to determine your plan for moving forward than some randomly assigned judge who would otherwise make orders in your case.

This is particularly true when it comes to the family home, retirement plans and how to raise your children. As a parent, one of your primary jobs is to protect and shield your child or children from the adult conflicts in your case. Keep in mind that there will be weddings, grandchildren and holidays for the rest of your life and that your job as a parent doesn’t end after high school. Mediation allows parents to work together for the benefit of their children even though their marital relationship isn’t working.

Mediation offers the parties the opportunity to step back and exercise rational thought instead of playing victim to their own feelings. The more you focus on anger, the more angry you will feel. Instead, mediation is a process designed to give each spouse a forum for what he or she believes is fair and equitable, and provides the tools and assistance the parties need to work towards bridging the gap with each other.

The breakup of a marriage is a tragedy, but the process does not have to be tragic. Divorce is a time of loss, transition and new beginnings, and an experienced mediator can help you through the process in a way that is sane and respectful to both of you. And significantly more affordable than traditional litigation. In California, the average cost of a traditional divorce when both parties have an attorney is close to $20,000 per spouse, but the cost can exceed that average by leaps and bounds. Mediation, on the other hand, generally costs less than the typical initial retainer charged by most family law attorneys.

Our Mediation Style

We believe that spouses should determine for themselves what they believe is fair and equitable for their particular situation and family, and that the mediator’s role is that of guide and facilitator.

At the same time, we also believe that each party must enter into any agreement knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. This means that although we do not give legal advice to either party, we do feel it is important that the parties are informed of the law so that they fully comprehend the implications of their decisions. But ultimately, the decisions are theirs to make.

We believe that when possible, mediation should occur with the parties together in the same room. However, in some cases, one or both party(ies) is simply not comfortable sitting in the same room with his or her spouse discussing difficult and emotional issues. When that is the case, we conduct mediation by caucusing and have the parties work in different rooms. This is sometimes referred to as “shuttle diplomacy” when the mediator moves from location to location. And in rare occasions, we will even conduct separate mediation sessions entirely.

What We Do

We provide all-inclusive mediation services that will handle all aspects of your divorce or legal separation. The end result will be a marital settlement agreement that is then incorporated into a Judgment of Dissolution or Judgment of Legal Separation.

We will treat both of you fairly, and help you reach a divorce settlement that each of you believes is just and equitable, and that you each fully understand. Mediation is generally also much faster than litigating the case. Our services include the preparation and submission of all documents necessary to obtain your Judgment and to ensure that the family court judge approves the agreement.

Contact us or call (925) 465-2500 or (707) 398-6008 for more information or to schedule an initial consultation at Sparks Family Law, Inc. with attorney Gary D. Sparks. For mediation clients, we strongly recommend that the initial consultation be with both parties present so that there is no appearance of favoritism or impropriety towards one party or the other.