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How Does Mediation Work in California Divorce?

Dec 18, 2023 | Divorce Mediation

When considering separating from your spouse or partner, it is important to remember that you have options. Mediation is an alternative to litigation and may save you time and money in your divorce. Many assume that they must turn to the courts for the dissolution of their marriage, the division of assets, and child support.  However, mediation is an out-of-court process where a neutral third party helps you and your spouse negotiate on key issues. During mediation, you may also want the guidance of a California divorce lawyer.

What Does a Mediator Do?

A mediator in California helps both parties arrive at decisions that each can accept. They enable individuals to discuss the issues, compromise, and come to mutually satisfactory decisions. The mediator does not make recommendations. Rather, they help both parties discuss and come to terms. They only serve as a facilitator. Some of the issues that a mediator assists with are:

  • Outlining the needs of both parties and children
  • Identifying all the financial assets of each party
  • Determining the objectives of each party so that agreements can be reached
  • Assisting both parties in coming to a resolution

How Does Mediation Work?

When they begin, the mediator can work to discover the objectives of both parties. When these positions are determined, the mediator can then oversee the parties’ discussions to help them achieve an agreement. The mediator only facilitates the process, and both parties would own the outcome. When the mediation is settled, the agreement is given to the court for approval in the final divorce decree. This process can take several months.

How does mediation work in a California divorce?

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation comes with multiple benefits. It empowers both individuals to determine their futures. As an out-of-court process, it reduces the negative impacts that are sometimes felt in a court proceeding, like frustration, anger, and intimidation. Mediation provides each spouse with a voice and control in the proceedings.

  • Cooperation – Both parties can negotiate to reach an agreement. Maintaining a positive relationship going forward can also benefit the children involved.
  • Lower Cost – Mediation costs much less than going to court.
  • Less Time Intensive – Resolutions come in less time than a trial would take.
  • Ownership of the Results – The parties reach their own conclusions rather than allowing a judge to determine the results.

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

The cost of mediators will depend on several factors:

  • Professional background of the mediator
  • Complexity of assets involved
  • Parties’ willingness to compromise

Mediator fees are usually shared by the two parties. The cost will usually be significantly lower than going to court.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Mediation?

Your family law attorney can represent your interests during mediation. Your lawyer has your interests in mind and can protect you from various negative legal and financial consequences. Although a lawyer is not required for mediation, you may want an attorney to evaluate any of the proposals that are under consideration. A lawyer can advise you on your rights and the long-term effects of any plans put forward. Consider hiring an attorney during mediation as an investment in your future.

Mediation and Property Division

The question of property division is a main feature of divorce. Before a mediator can determine the allocation of assets, ownership must first be established. A lawyer can be instrumental in determining the valuation and ownership of assets. Property is divided into two categories: separate property and community property. In California, community property is divided equally, while separate property remains with the spouse who owns it.


Q: Is Everything Split 50/50 in a Divorce in California?

A:  California is a 50/50 state, so community assets are split in a fair and equal division. Community property applies to those assets that were acquired during the marriage. Separate property applies to those assets that were acquired before marriage or as a gift during marriage. Separate property is not split in a divorce. The judge uses their discretion to determine the property division.

Q: What Should You Not Do During a Separation?

A: When you are getting a separation from your spouse, there are several actions that you should avoid:

  • Sign a separation agreement without the representation of your lawyer. You are putting yourself in legal jeopardy by potentially agreeing to terms that are not in your interest.
  • Think only of the present. Consider the future implications of the separation agreement.
  • Fail to consider the effect on your children. This transition impacts your children in many ways, even where they live and how they grow up.
  • Assume that you will get a certain amount of spousal support and child support. Live within your current means to avoid financial consequences.
  • Fail to file the legal separation with the court. This reduces your future options, should the agreements not be kept.

Q: What Are the Rules of Divorce in California?

A: California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that you do not have to prove that someone did something wrong. You can file for divorce for any reason, but the grounds for this are usually given as “irreconcilable differences.” Even if the other person does not want it, you can still file.

The person filing for divorce must have lived in California for six months. They must have also lived three months in the county where the divorce is filed. When you file for divorce, you must wait six months for the judge to settle it.

Q: Can a Spouse Refuse a Divorce in California?

A: No, a spouse cannot refuse a divorce in California. You must, however, file for the divorce and wait six months for the judge to finalize it. A spouse may refuse to sign the paperwork, but the divorce will continue. The court gives the spouse thirty days to sign the paperwork. If they do not sign it, this is seen as a default response, and the divorce would be finalized as an uncontested divorce.

Contact Drury Pullen, A Professional Law Corporation

Divorce is a major transition in your life, and the legal processes involved can be overwhelming. The results of your divorce will last a lifetime and impact your children. You need to know your rights and how to proceed. A skilled attorney can provide invaluable guidance for these matters and others.

Whether you choose mediation or litigation, plan for your future with an experienced family law attorney. Contact Drury Pullen, A Professional Law Corporation, today for help with your divorce needs.

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