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  • Writer's pictureVictoria D'Cotledge

Divorce Mediation or Litigation?

Separations are rarely simple. Even when both partners agree that separation is the best solution, it can still take an emotional toll on both parties. And with a complicated process ahead that may involve court appearances, custody battles, arguments over dividing assets and debts, significant financial costs, and more, you may want to consider whether you and your soon-to-be-ex can work together to mediate your case.

What is Divorce Mediation?

In traditional divorce litigation, each spouse hires a divorce lawyer to represent him or her and negotiate on his or her behalf. If you cannot reach an agreement, you will have to go through the family court system and present your case. Your lawyer will present various documents and arguments to support your position. Witnesses or experts can also be brought to the court to testify. After each case has been presented, a family law judge will decide the best outcome regarding child custody and support, parental rights, spousal support, and the division of marital assets and debts.

On the other hand, when it comes to mediation the couple meets with a divorce mediator and tries to find the best solutions to some of the most common divorce issues. A divorce mediator is an independent, neutral third-party whose purpose is to help spouses, parents, couples who have decided to break up their union do so as amicably as possible.

One of the main benefits of divorce or family law mediation is that it is less stressful than attempting to go it alone, hire attorneys, or make court appearances. It also gives spouses more control over the process as you and your partner will decide the outcome instead of asking a judge to arrange it for you. Another benefit of mediation is that you aren’t rushed, and can take a bit more time to work through the process, adjust to the emotional and physical changes taking place in your life.

A common misconception is that mediation only works if you and your spouse are on good terms and eager to find a fair and successful resolution to your divorce problems. However, with the help of a skilled divorce mediator, even couples with big communication problems can benefit from and succeed in mediation. The key is finding a personable, experienced, and creative divorce mediator who can help you both navigate this challenge.

How Does Mediation Work?

According to California family law, mediation is mandatory when there is a dispute over the custody of a child. Child custody battles can be complicated and emotionally charged. For these reasons, California requires those seeking custody who have not reached an agreement with their partners to go through mandatory mediation first. You can also go through the standard divorce process, but the idea is to find the best possible outcome and solution for everyone – including the children.

If there are no children involved, you can still benefit from mediation to help you and your spouse communicate about your finances, dividing the assets and debts, putting your agreement in proper format for filing with the court, and completing the necessary court paperwork.

If you both decide to work with a divorce mediator, the first step is the initial meeting with the mediator and both spouses. During this meeting, the mediator will ask questions to understand your specific family situation and what you both wish to accomplish before the divorce is finalized. Once all parties know and understand the objectives, the approach can be prepared to ensure a successful outcome.

How to Find a Great Divorce Mediator

As mentioned earlier, the success of your divorce mediation depends on the skills and expertise of your mediator. A divorce mediator is not required to be an attorney, though some are attorneys and retired judges. Divorce mediators come from a variety of professional backgrounds such as financial, mental health, family counselors, and more. Divorce mediators with law backgrounds will generally have a good grasp of the legal process and may collaborate with other auxiliary professionals to ensure the more complicated items in the community are appropriately handled. Here are some factors to keep in mind when seeking a divorce mediator:

  • A Mediator Will Empower You to Make Your Best Decisions

In traditional divorce litigation, a family law judge decides what’s best for you and your family after hearing your case. A divorce mediator will first educate the spouses, providing relevant information to help you make the best decisions for you and your family.

  • A Mediator is a Neutral Party

A skilled divorce mediator is unbiased and helpful to both spouses equally and interested in the best interests of the family as a whole.

  • A Mediator Will Help You Both Reach a Fair and Equitable Resolution

A great divorce mediator listens, is personable, helpful, and will help each spouse reach an agreement that works for all involved. A great divorce mediator will facilitate communication between the spouses and work with them equally understanding what’s at-issue, suggest solutions, and ensure the outcome is one that works for both spouses.

  • A Mediator is Trained in Dispute Resolution, a Problem-Solver

A great divorce mediator is able to look at the issue causing contention or controversy from various perspectives and help the couple take a step back to find a calm and amicable solution or recommend a different course of action.

  • A Mediator Genuinely Cares About the Client and the Outcome

In addition to being problem-solvers, analytical, and having a great breath/depth of family law knowledge; all great mediators are compassionate and genuinely care about their clients’ well-being and choices. Mediators are not biased, prejudiced, or discriminatory.

Are You Looking for a Great Divorce Mediator?

No one gets married thinking that their happily ever after story will one day in either divorce or separation. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned and break-ups happen.

At D’Cotledge Mediation my goal is to uncomplicate the process, lower the stress, give you the chance to adjust to the emotional and physical changes, while facing the usual and customary daily events in your life such as work, parenthood, being a friend/sibling/relation to your extended family, family events/outings, etc. I am Victoria D’Cotledge, a certified mediator with over two decades of California family law experience, a law school education, and hands-on experience in family law in the law firm. I have successfully mediated hundreds of family law cases with varying levels of complexity involving children, grandparents, financial assets and debts, and more. I am experienced, compassionate, and passionate about helping couples and families.

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