Mediation is a safe forum for both parties to express their concerns, fears, and requests without judgment or ridicule. The mediator is a neutral third party. This means no matter what is said in mediation, the mediator is expected to maintain a neutral state of mind and neutral point of view when handling the delicate issues in a family law matter. Also, because California is a "no fault" state, the reasons a couple is divorcing or the complaint that the other party did a lot of terrible things during the marriage is irrelevant.
The first and likely most important reason to consider mediation if you have children is to maintain the respect and relationship of and with your children. No matter the age, divorce is difficult for children when they watch their parents verbally abuse each other. Children are often times forced to take sides whether the parents intend this result or not. The fact parents often miss in this dynamic is the children will eventually resent you both for your "immaturity" and inability to handle adversity. The parent's inability to communicate will affect the children in their relationships and a cycle will develop.
The top reason to consider mediation if you do not have children or your children are grown is enforcement of the terms in the judgment. Most times, attorneys are able to obtain hefty orders in the judgment for their client. For example, a large spousal support order. However, just because the court charges one party with the responsibility of this large order doesn't mean the payor spouse will obey the order. So recourse for the receiving spouse becomes a huge issue that is extremely costly. If you have any money left after the divorce, you will spend it taking your spouse back to court to try to enforce the terms of the judgment. This usually means hiring more attorneys. So, the court says, "do this, it's ordered, or else" and then the payor spouse still doesn't comply, the cycle continues forever. As a result, your money, energy and healthy attitude are lost.
To the contrary, in mediation, both parties come to the "terms of the judgment" on their own, in a joint fashion with the mediator's help. This is very important for many reasons. First, human nature dictates that no one wants to feel "forced" to do anything and no one likes to "lose control." If attorneys are obtaining huge orders against the other person's will, the person who feels violated and helpless is less likely to follow through. Moreover, the person who is feeling violated becomes vindictive. This emotion, if acted on, becomes extremely detrimental to all parties. Examples include harassing phone calls, stalking at home, work and anywhere else the person can reach you, in addition to not fulfilling the terms of the judgment. If both people agree to the terms of the judgment, there is a much higher probability of follow through which in turn saves both parties time, money, and health.
Second, mediation costs 1/3 of what litigation costs. 90-95% of litigated cases end in a settlement, which is what mediation obtains. This means, after people spend significant amounts of money, they end in the same place as they would have had they considered mediation first, except they would have saved unconscionable amounts of money. The same outcome is possible if you go to court or do mediation: Lack of follow through with the terms of the judgment. However, if one party decides not to follow the terms of the judgment, at least you have money left to take them to court to try to enforce the order. Another alternative is building a good relationship with the mediator so that if follow through is lacking the mediator may be able to assist with the problem instead of the parties going to court.
Third, mediation helps restore integrity in the parties. The couple is generally at their wits end with each other. They "hate" the other party and act like children. However, if you watch the incredible revelation of people in compromising situations becoming amicable, it is truly amazing. Both parties, even if they want to continue on with the divorce, see a new side of their spouse. They develop a new appreciation for their spouse that also improves the chances of enforcing the terms of the judgment.
For any other questions or concerns regarding mediation, contact Zina B. Gleason, Esq., founder and owner of Redefining Divorce at (562) 230-1528 and (714) 365-4822 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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