What to Expect in a California Divorce Mediation

Mar 17, 2020 Divorce

Divorce can be a stressful, emotional, and costly endeavor. Divorce mediation is generally recommended for couples who wish to manage their divorce discreetly, efficiently, and amicably. Irvine family mediation lawyers can counsel clients through the end of their marriage in a manner that benefits everyone involved.

Making the decision to divorce is not one that is easily made. Though some divorces can be difficult and hotly contested, others are more focused on maintaining cordiality between spouses, who are often intent on completing the process as quickly and effortlessly as possible. However, it is not always easy to agree on how property, assets, and debt should be divided, and who should bear the primary responsibility for children, medical care, and more. In those cases, mediation is often the approach taken by both parties.

Divorce mediation in California generally involves a neutral third party attorney who has extensive experience in helping couples navigate a divorce through mediation. The attorney advises the couple on their options regarding the division of their assets and debt, child custody and support, and any other issues that remain to be settled through their divorce. If you’re considering a divorce in California, there are a variety of excellent Irvine family mediation lawyers that can guide your decision making.

Understanding the Benefits of Mediation

Mediation creates an environment in which couples can safely communicate their issues and explore the options available to them once they settle on the terms of their divorce. Mediation allows couples to express their ultimate ‘wishes’ from a divorce with a competent third party present, who can advise on whether their requests are reasonable or entirely unwarranted. Most couples are able to resolve the terms of their divorce through few mediation meetings, which significantly reduces the cost and time involved in a typical divorce proceeding.

Another tremendous benefit to mediation is that the entire process is private and remains confidential. When a divorce is initiated in a California court, the paperwork becomes a matter of public record, and anyone will be able to access your divorce file and gain insight into the reasons for your divorce. In addition, courtroom divorce proceedings can be attended and or heard by anyone who has to be in court that day or chooses to attend your divorce proceeding – a common occurrence in California, where high-profile celebrities, executives, and more are often embroiled in these types of proceedings.

Understanding How Property, Assets, and Debt Will be Divided

California law has specific guidelines on how marital property, assets, and debt should be divided in a dissolution of marriage. The law provides that any property, assets or debt accumulated during the marriage be considered ‘community’ property, and therefore owned equally and to be divided equitably among the parties. Any property, assets, or debt acquired separately, however – either before the marriage, after a formal separation, or acquired via an inheritance or gift – would be considered separate from the marriage, and therefore would remain with whichever spouse holds ownership over it. What constitutes community marital property, however, is not always so clear. Your Irvine family mediation lawyers will play a critical role in helping you determine what should be considered community property, and which property should fall outside the marriage. 

Unless a prenuptial agreement defining ownership over property and assets exists, California law will consider all marriage acquired and shared by marriage as community property, to be equally divided among the spouses. Generally, things like the marital home, joint bank accounts, and even retirement accounts will be considered part of the marriage, even if one spouse was the primary owner or contributed on a greater scale. In fact, sometimes property or assets one spouse acquired before the marriage can be considered community property, if a ‘co-mingling’ of assets existed that caused an absorption of that property into the marriage. 

For example, let’s say one spouse owned a home before a marriage, and once the couple married they moved into that house as their marital home. That home would now be considered communal marital property, because it is the primary residence that the couple shared together. The same can be true of bank accounts, debt, or even businesses owned by a spouse. If it can be shown that both spouses relied on or obtained use from any of these assets, then California law might recognize these assets as communal and each spouse can law their claim to it.

During the mediation process, couples will likely be asked to list each individual property, debt and asset to their name. These can include homes, bank accounts, cars, businesses, art, antiquities, jewelry, and any other valuable goods that would be considered of worth or value. Once a comprehensive list has been created, you will want to have these items appraised or otherwise assessed for their monetary value. Once you have a clear picture of the marriage’s net worth, you can make strategic decisions about how it can be divided equitably. A third-party mediator will play a crucial role in determining what’s fair and reasonable, and will likely be an asset when trying to sway or convince a difficult spouse’s viewpoint in order to reach a resolution.

How Your Irvine Family Mediation Lawyers Will Approach Your Divorce

Mediation can save most couples an immense amount of stress and emotional discord, and in almost all cases saves couples up to 90 percent of the cost of a courtroom divorce. A good mediator focuses on educating the divorcing couple on their options, and gives them a clear picture about the process as a whole. Mediation often involves strategic guidance, and successful mediators have a knack for managing expectations and recognizing what each party considers to be the most important asset or decision that must be made within their divorce. 

Mediators should also provide long-term insight into how your decisions today might impact your future. For example, a mediator should be able to explain how a sale of a home later on down the line could impact each spouse’s tax obligations, even if they decide to allow one spouse to keep the marital home for the time being. This type of information will be critical to a couple’s decision-making process, and most Irvine family mediation lawyers understand that their guidance is sought specifically for this purpose.

Mediation often ensures that the terms of a deal are honored in their entirety. Oftentimes, a court order by a judge isn’t enough to ensure that a spouse will comply with its terms, and attorneys will often charge an additional retainer to ensure that the opposing spouse gets what was promised to them. In mediation, attorneys are careful to obtain a resolution that both parties feel comfortable with, thereby minimizing the likelihood that one party won’t comply.

If you’re considering divorce in California, it’s clear that mediation is the safest route to take. The emotional and financial benefits to a typically harrowing experience are substantial.