Divorce Mediation FAQ's
- What is divorce mediation?
Divorce mediation is a voluntary, non-adversarial process in which specially trained mediators guide you through your entire divorce. Agreements are reached which meet the needs of all family members. When there are children involved, the primary focus is on their best interests. The end result is a complete legal divorce which never requires going to court.
- How does "team" divorce mediation work?
Working together as co-mediators, Howard Levitt (a Marriage and Family Therapist) and Yardenna Hurvitz (an Attorney), guide couples to help them resolve all issues and obtain a full legal divorce. The four major issues to be resolved in any divorce are:
- Co-parenting (custody)
- Support (child and/or spousal)
- Division of assets
- Division of debt
The team mediation process supports resolution of psychological and legal issues simultaneously. With the assistance of the mediators, people work together in the safe and neutral environment of the mediation office to create a contract called the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), which sets out all of the agreements reached on the four major issues. Once the MSA has been approved and signed by all parties, it is filed with the court along with other required legal forms, and becomes an order of the court, resulting in a full legal divorce.
- What are the costs of mediation?
Costs are based on the number of hours required to reach resolution. Mediation is far less expensive than going to court with attorneys. Additionally, mediation is often therapeutic, resulting in considerable benefits to both parties.
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
In California, the minimum time period for a divorce to be finalized is six months from receipt by both parties of the first papers filed with the court. The actual mediation process takes an average of between seven to ten two-hour meetings when children are involved and five to seven two-hour meetings when there are no children. After all meetings have concluded, the Marital Settlement Agreement and other legal papers are prepared for signature and filing with the court. Our office prepares, files and tracks the necessary paperwork required to obtain a full legal divorce.
- Do we have to go to court?
As long as you are in mediation, you never need to go to court. Working together in a safe and neutral environment, the parties arrive at agreements that are then written into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). The MSA and all required court documents are prepared by the attorney mediator and filed with the court, resulting in a full legal divorce.
- Can we use mediation even if we have attorneys?
Yes. Mediation is available to you at any time before, during or after you have hired an attorney. Attorneys work for you and you always have the right to direct your attorney to discontinue all adversarial activity.
- Do we both have to be involved to mediate?
Yes. Mediation is voluntary and requires the involvement and agreement of both parties. Even in those rare cases where the parties cannot be in the same room, we can mediate in separate rooms or have each person come in on different days. Mediation will proceed more quickly, however, if both parties are present.
- Is mediation legal and binding?
Yes. Agreements made in mediation are legal and binding as long as they are properly drafted and signed by the parties. Once all issues are resolved within the mediation process, the attorney mediator prepares a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). When the MSA has been approved and signed by all parties, it is filed with the Court, along with other required legal forms. Once the Judge signs the MSA, it becomes an Order of the Court/Judgment and is binding just as if you had appeared in Court, resulting in a full, legal divorce.
- In divorce, who protects the children?
At Divorce and Family Mediation Services, we always hold the best interests of the children paramount. The needs of the children are addressed and agreements are reached with input from the mediators. All topics are addressed, such as: move-away issues, co-parenting issues, holiday scheduling and all other child-related issues. Mediation can also address details not traditionally handled within the adversarial arena, such as higher education, private schools, car insurance, etc. In mediation our focus is on the best interests of the children. In the adversarial process, an attorney is obligated to protect the best interests of their client. Sometimes, unfortunately, this is not always in the best interests of the children.
- Will team mediation work if one or both parties are angry?
Generally, the answer is "yes". In over 25 years of working with high conflict situations, the vast majority of our cases have been resolved within mediation. Underlying issues that can interfere with resolution, such as anger, fear and defensiveness, are effectively managed and controlled.
- Do I need to have my own attorney?
In mediation, both parties hire the mediators together to facilitate their reaching consensus agreements which they can both honor. Once a couple has reached resolution, a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is prepared and each person is encouraged to hire a consulting attorney to review the MSA on his/her behalf. In an adversarial divorce, each person traditionally hires his/her own attorney from the onset of the process.
- What are the benefits of mediation?
- No court appearance
- Provides a full legal divorce
- Significantly reduces legal costs
- Protects child/parent relationships
- Maintains privacy
- Creates safety for all parties
- Allows for control over all decisions and agreements
- Reduces stress for all family members
- Fosters consensus building and conflict resolution
- Promotes effective communication
- Supports and acknowledges the difficult transitions of life events
- What issues can be mediated?
- Full legal divorce
- Legal Separation Agreements
- Temporary Separation Agreements
- Marital Agreements (Premarital and Post Marital)
- Cohabitation Agreements
- Domestic Partnership Agreements
- Parenting Agreements (Child Custody)
- Temporary Agreements
- Support Issues (Child and/or Spousal)
- Move-away issues
- Modification of court orders
- Tax considerations
- Division of assets and debts
- Family Business Disputes
- Why is team mediation more cost effective than adversarial law?
Our mediation team guides both parties through all of the legal and emotional areas of their divorce/family conflicts. This allows them to work more effectively and efficiently to resolve all the necessary issues, reducing both the financial and emotional strain and costs involved. Our fees are based on hourly rates and a refundable retainer is required.
- Will mediation work if we have a very complex divorce?
Yes! There is no simple divorce; they are all complex to the parties involved. We bring a clear step-by-step approach to the resolution of all issues. In some cases, it is necessary to bring in outside experts such as accountants, evaluators, appraisers, etc. to assist as is necessary.
For more information, please contact us.