The decision to proceed with a divorce is never an easy one. When children are involved, the stakes are that much higher. An experienced Orange County divorce mediation attorney, will understand the challenges and the important decisions that ultimately affect you and your family.
The first step is determining if you and your spouse are a good fit for divorce mediation or if litigation is the better choice. Let’s take a look at what divorce mediation is and both the benefits and the challenges.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation involves a specially trained individual known as a mediator. This neutral third party works with the couple to come up with agreed upon solutions that include asset and debt allocation, child custody and visitation rights, and alimony or child support payments.
They explore options and work out differences of opinions, with the ultimate goal of reaching a negotiated settlement.
Are all mediations successful? No. But starting out with an Orange County divorce mediation attorney, who knows both mediation, litigation, and family law, offers you the opportunity to attempt a reasonable settlement and keep the courts out of the decision making process.
Once the terms are agreed upon, a finalized settlement is submitted to the court for approval.
Some states require that couples speak to a mediator prior to setting a court date, and others require some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Courts may also, at their discretion, order that a couple attend mediation.
In California, mediation is mandated only if there is a dispute involving custody of the children.
When Is Divorce Mediation Right for You?
Some attorneys suggest that a couple must have strong communication skills in order to succeed at mediation. The truth is that many couples seeking a dissolution of marriage have experienced months, if not years, of conflict.
This is where a skilled, neutral mediator comes in. By offering a space where resolution is possible and facilitating conversations between both parties, an amicable agreement can be reached.
In order to determine if mediation is right for you, consider the following:
- Both spouses are willing to negotiate.
Despite your differences, and even if the relationship has turned adversarial and contentious, you both understand and are willing to undergo the mediation process. An Orange County divorce mediation attorney is skilled at communication and conflict resolution, and can often find an agreeable path if both parties are willing to negotiate.
- The couple, and not the courts, knows what’s in the best interest of their family.
Going through mediation keeps the divorce proceedings out of the courts. Should the need for litigation arise, a judge will mandate what is in the best interests of the children, and what is fair to both adult parties. Most couples prefer to maintain control over these types of decisions.
- Privacy is seen as a priority.
While court proceedings are public record, mediated agreements are not. In fact, should the divorce end up going to trial, none of the notes or records obtained during the mediation are permissible in court. All documents and communications are considered confidential and privileged information.
- Cost is a consideration.
Obtaining a divorce through an Orange County divorce mediation attorney can save you thousands of dollars. If the divorce goes to trial, that number increases to tens of thousands of dollars.
- A couple’s first concern is reducing the impact of a divorce on their children.
When parents can come together to develop a parenting plan that both are satisfied with, children experience far less stress and conflict. Mediation involves working out grievances together and can lead to a better long-term, co-parenting relationship.
Should the divorce go to litigation, a court-appointed attorney or guardian-ad-litem may be the one to represent your children and determine what is in their best interest.
When Is Litigation the Better Choice?
There are some circumstances that are better suited to a litigated divorce. Here are the main considerations when deciding if litigation is a better option over divorce mediation:
- One spouse has been abusive.
If domestic violence or uncontrollable anger issues have existed within the relationship, it is unlikely that mediation will result in a positive, fair outcome, nor is it recommended in most cases.
Emotionally or physically abusive relationships can lead to diminished self-worth and a voice that has been silenced. Speaking up, even in the presence of a mediator, can be challenging, at best.
- Some assets may be hidden.
In mediation, there is no subpoena of records and all financial information is voluntarily disclosed. If there are trust or integrity issues, and you believe your spouse may have hidden or moved assets, litigation will be necessary in order to conduct a formal discovery.
- One party has no interest in conflict resolution.
For some, the bitter discontent of a relationship gone wrong has left them unable or unwilling to resolve the situation peacefully. In these instances, no amount of mediation will break through the barrier of anger and resentment. Litigation then becomes the only viable route to a final dissolution of marriage.
- One or both spouses are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
When a substance abuse problem exists within the relationship, the ability to be present and think clearly can be marred. In this instance, courts often play a greater role.
A judge may determine that the spouse with substance abuse has dissipated assets, leading to increased compensation for the other spouse. The courts may also order the affected spouse to receive treatment as a condition of visitation rights.
For these reasons, and in most cases, our Orange County divorce mediation attorney recommends litigation or a collaborative divorce. In the latter case, both parties have their own attorney. If a settlement is not reached, litigation is pursued.
Choose the Right Orange County Divorce Mediation Attorney
Whether you’ve decided on mediation or litigation, it’s important that you choose an Orange County divorce mediation attorney that is a certified mediator, has experience in family law, and understands the many intricacies of court proceedings.
At the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin, we have both certified mediators and board-certified family law specialists. This puts our team in a unique position of offering the best representation in both mediation and litigation.
We are committed to finding the best resolution for you and your family. Call us for a complimentary consultation.