Mediation can help couples going through divorce settle their legal issues outside of court. In divorce mediation, a neutral mediator leads the parties in negotiations to settle property division, custody, child support, and spousal support. By negotiating these issues outside of court the parties may save thousands in attorney fees. To learn more about divorce mediation and mediator Michael Benavides call Sacramento Law Group LLP at (916) 596-1018.
During the initial meeting, the parties evaluate whether or not they want to go through the process of mediation together. The parties are given a background on the basics of mediation, and they explore how well they will be able to work together. During the initial meeting, the mediator also emphasizes several aspects of mediation, such as:
- That mediation is voluntary and may be ended by any party at any time
- Decisions must be made by the parties themselves
- That the parties must have an understanding of the law as it applies to the case
- Parties must be able to work together
- There will be conflict, and that parties are expected to work through them.
- The mediator is not a judge, but rather a neutral participant in the process.
If a party doesn’t have a consulting attorney at this point, the feasibility of hiring one is also discussed. It is highly recommended that you hire a consulting attorney for the mediation process or collaborative divorce. A consulting attorney can help guide you through the process and law.
No Premediation Contact
Premediation contact refers to any contact made by a party or their attorney with the mediator before the first mediation session. There are many reasons why a party may want to meet before the first session. Some may want to evaluate the mediator. Others may want to present their case before the mediator first.
As a general rule, premediation contact is not really encouraged as it can compromise the neutrality of the mediator. A mediator cannot be effective if they are not perceived to be neutral.
A better practice is an initial consultation between the parties and the mediator. During the consultation, both parties are present and can learn together about the mediator’s background and process.
The parties and the divorce mediator agree on ground rules that will be in effect for the duration of mediation. Common ground rules are:
- Parties, and not their divorce attorneys, will be the ones to make the decisions.
- All necessary information and documentation will be disclosed and provided.
- The mediator only assists the parties, they will not decide on their behalf.
- The payment of the mediator’s fees.
The parties will be asked by the mediator to gather the following information:
- A list of assets and debts
- Income (past, present, and projected), and budgets
- Documentation regarding their assets, liabilities, incomes, and budgets.
- Schedule for time with the children that work best for all.
At this point in the mediation process, parties are encouraged to work separately, in order to get used to the idea of handling their finances independently.
A list of needs will give the other party and the mediator a clearer picture regarding the party’s negotiating position.
Valuation of Property
There are several ways to decide on property valuation during mediation proceedings. Parties can agree to refer the matter to an expert. The mediator also explains the valuation process to the parties themselves. The parties can also consult with their attorney regarding property valuation.
After all the information has been gathered, the next step is to identify the issues and understand them. At this point, the mediator will explain the applicable laws – and it’s recommended to consult with your consulting lawyer regarding the applicable law and its implications on the issues.
Parties can reach an agreement by choosing from several options and selecting the one that best suits them. The mediator will also advise the parties regarding the workability of their chosen agreement.
When the parties have reached a settlement, the mediator will draft a marital settlement agreement.