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The Role of Mediation in Divorce Proceedings: Finding Common Ground

Posted by Jason Wagner | Feb 15, 2024 | 0 Comments

When it comes to divorce, there are two ways to dissolve a marriage. The first is through mediation. The second is through the adversarial process known as litigation. Litigation is what you see dramatized on television and in the movies. It's a conflict-intense process in which the couple disputes specific aspects of their divorce, argues in front of a judge, and the judge renders any final decisions. For numerous reasons, the process of litigation is considered a last resort. Mediation is generally much more effective at reducing costs, speeding up the process of divorce, and resolving issues amicably. In this article, the Sacramento, CA divorce mediation attorneys at Wagner Family Law will discuss the role of mediation in a divorce and how the mediator helps the couple find common ground while dissolving their marriage. 

Understanding Mediation in a California Divorce

Instead of being an adversarial process, mediation is a collaborative process in which the couple comes together to address key aspects of their divorce and reaches an agreement outside of court. The final agreement is then submitted to the court for approval, and the couple can move on with their lives without a judge having to decide key matters for the couple. With the guidance of a skilled mediator, the couple can navigate the emotional complexities of their divorce without having to battle them out in court. 

During the mediation process, both spouses will engage in discussions facilitated by the mediator. The mediator will address key issues such as asset division, child custody, spousal support or alimony, and child support. The mediator fosters open communication and compromise in an effort to help both parties reach an agreement that represents their best interests. 

Mediation Keeps Key Decisions in the Hands of the Couple

When you litigate a divorce, both sides present arguments to the judge, and the judge renders any final decisions after weighing those arguments. Mediation empowers the couple by keeping key decisions firmly in their own hands. By reaching decisions in mediation, the couple explores a collaborative framework that improves their relationship post-divorce. This is especially important when there are children involved. 

Finding Common Ground in Child Custody Matters

The issue of child custody is often the most contentious. Parents become embroiled in accusations and recriminations and demand that a judge intervene on their behalf. The role of the mediator is to prevent this from happening. Ultimately, the parents will need to come up with a comprehensive parenting plan that reflects the best interests of the children. The mediator's job is to remind the parents that the best interests of the children are the paramount concern when detailing a parenting plan.

Among the first orders of business in your divorce mediation will be to come up with a parenting plan that addresses key aspects such as visitation, where the children will stay, who has legal decision-making power over the children, and issues related to child support. 

It is important to understand that children are not assets or bargaining chips. Parents should not use the children during negotiation to leverage a favorable economic circumstance. For example, a parent should never say that they'll allow the other parent one more night a week if they take on more of the marital debt. This incorporates them as components in the division of property. Issues related to the children must be segregated by the mediator. The Sacramento, CA child custody attorneys at Wagner Family Law will help divorcing couples come to a reasonable arrangement regarding their children and avoid many of pitfalls that families face when arranging custody and visitation. 

Finding common ground in asset division

The next matter to be addressed in a mediation is the division of the marital estate. The marital estate is any property or assets that were acquired during the marriage. These assets will need to be divided and each party may have their own ideas about what they want. A successful mediator will begin the process by laying the foundation for agreement. In other words, we will begin by finding common ground between the couple. 

What items can both parties agree on? Using this as a starting point, the divorce mediator can reduce animosity between the couple and pave the way for future agreements. For example, the parties may begin by agreeing on the value of their joint checking account. The divorce mediator would then would move the parties through the rest of the valuation of their estate. By this point, the parties should have adopted an attitude of problem solving as opposed to battling. 

The marital estate and asset division attorneys at Wagner Family Law will ensure that you and your spouse find common ground when dividing your estate and assist you in negotiating a settlement that works for the both of you. 

Most Divorces Settle in Mediation

According to the American Bar Association, between 80% and 90% of divorce cases that go into mediation are settled. The remaining 10% to 20% enter into litigation where they are decided by a judge during a trial. The Sacramento divorce mediation attorneys at Wagner Family Law have assisted couples even in high-conflict mediations in which there was not much common ground to start with.

In fact, in some cases, the court will require the couple to enter into mediation to produce a negotiated settlement. There are certain scenarios that require a judge to force the couple to try mediation. These include:

  • When the couple is unable to reach an agreement on their parenting plan prior to filing for divorce

  • When a grandparent or stepparent has requested child visitation rights

  • When either parent requests a court order related to child custody

In California, parents who refuse to participate in court-ordered mediation may forfeit their right to challenge custody orders issued by the court. The court is required to allow parents sufficient time to prepare for the mediation process.

Talk to a Sacramento, California Divorce Mediation Attorney Today

Wagner Family Law represents the interests of divorcing couples in divorce mediation. Call our office today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin assisting you with your divorce negotiations right away. 

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Wagner Family Law is committed to answering your questions about Family Law Mediation, Collaborative Divorce, Private Settlement Conference, Mediated Settlement Agreements, Consulting and Second Opinions, Modification of Spousal/Child Support, Mediated Custody Agreements and Mediated Pre & Post Marital Agreements Law issues in Northeastern California including Sacramento and surrounding areas.

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