Going through a divorce doesn't mean you have to fight it out in court. In fact, choosing to do so could cost both parties a lot of money and a great big headache. Fortunately there are other options for an out of court divorce.
By now you've probably heard the terms litigation and mediation, but what do they mean?
To summarize, litigation is when a couple takes their divorce to court. The judge will hear both sides and make a decision regarding the issues presented. Mediation, on the other hand, is when a neutral 3rd party mediator helps the couple come to an agreement outside of court.
Litigation is the process by which both parties must appear in court, either represented by an attorney or self represented (in pro per) and the judge will hear both sides of the case on any issue that is not agreed upon by both parties and make a decision, or judgment, as to how the issue(s) will be settled. This option can be expensive, especially if two attorneys are involved and can take a good length of time - usually a year and sometimes several years.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where a third party mediator moderates a meeting, or if necessary meetings, between both parties to help them come to an agreement on their issues and avoid the time and expense of court. It is important to remember that the mediator does not represent either party but instead is a unbiased third party whose goal is to facilitate a resolution between both parties.
One or both parties may choose to be represented by an attorney who will make sure their clients best interests are met during mediation. While both the mediator and attorney(s) will need to be paid for the time it takes to complete the mediation, this option could still end up costing considerably less than litigation in court.
Alternatively, both parties may choose to be represented by attorneys but not have the attorneys physically present during the mediation process. The attorneys can meet with their respective clients prior to the mediation meeting, inform them of their rights, and make suggestions as to the goals the client should try to attain during the mediation.
White it's not required that a family law mediator be an attorney, it's strongly suggested. This way you have the best change of insuring that your mediator is experienced in California law and knows what type of mediation agreement will hold up in court.
Richard Ross, founder and managing partner of Richard Ross Associates, is a certified mediator and is well qualified to handle the role of a family law mediator. For any questions, please contact us today.