As many Californians have discovered, divorce can become an emotionally searing and excruciatingly painful experience. One of the chief causes of divorce pain can be the sensation that the central part of a person’s identity – the family – will be torn apart by a third person over whom the divorcing parties have no control. One method of easing this pain is the use of a mediator, a third party trained to help couples resolve their divorce disputes.
How does mediation work?
Mediation depends on the presence and active participation of a neutral third party. These neutral third parties, called mediators in California, are trained to listen carefully to the claims and assertions of both parties without taking sides. Contrary to the expectation of many divorce participants, mediators cannot make decisions. Only the parties can decide how to resolve an issue. For example, the disposition of the family home is a common source of intense dispute.
The mediator cannot decide which party gets to have possession of the house; only the divorcing spouses can make that decision. The mediator often suggests possible outcomes, such as the sale to a third party, or letting one party retain possession of the home with the value offset by other assets.
How does mediation work?
After being retained, the mediator will meet with both parties (and their attorneys) and explain the basics of the mediation process. The basic requirement is that both parties must listen to the statements and concerns of the other party. The mediator will repeat those statements, if necessary, to ensure that both parties are “hearing” each other.
As noted, the mediator cannot make a decision on any issue without the agreement of both parties. If the parties reach a decision on an issue, the mediator will draft an agreement reflecting that agreement. The mediator and the parties will meet as often as necessary to discuss their issues; usually, the more frequently the parties meet with the mediator, the higher the probability of resolving all issues without an expensive trial.
Consulting a divorce lawyer may be helpful
Any person facing the possibility of a divorce in California may wish to consult an experienced divorce lawyer to learn more about the mediation process. A knowledgeable attorney can provide insight into whether mediation is a good choice and assist in choosing a mediator if the client chooses to follow that path.