3 things you should know when hiring a divorce mediator

by - February 14, 2014

If you and your spouse are getting divorced in California, divorce mediation gives you the power to control the outcome of your divorce on your terms.*

Even if the issues in your divorce are complex, California family law empowers you and your spouse to negotiate a settlement that is tailored by you and your spouse to suit your needs, abilities, budgets, lifestyles, values and wishes.

This is important. Extremely important because it means, among other things, that:

  • You don’t need to be at the mercy of a judge who barely knows you and for one reason or another, may exercise poor judgment in your case.
  • You don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts of money paying lawyers and experts.
  • You don’t need to spend years embroiled in a legal battle with your future hanging in the balance.
  • You can quickly and economically negotiate your best settlement agreement.

What’s the catch?

There really is only one major catch and it is that you and your spouse must work together to reach a mutually agreeable settlement agreement, which often sounds far easier than it is when anger, resentment and pain are present.

But, given what’s at stake– losing control over the outcome of your divorce and in many ways, parts of your lives, both now and in the years ahead, I want you to know that participating in mediation with a good mediator, even if tempers are flaring and tears shed, can still lead to a far more satisfactory outcome and less painful process than the alternative (litigation).

I am speaking from my experience as a complex family law trial attorney practicing in San Francisco, California, where I spent thousands of hours immersed in every aspect of divorce litigation.

I have seen firsthand how treacherous divorces can be. I also have seen how really bad divorces can be resolved more quickly and easily through divorce mediation with a skilled mediator – even when the spouses are preparing for litigation, represented by trial attorneys and surrounded by a team of experts. In fact, most divorces settle before going to trial.

In my opinion, one of the determinative factors that makes mediation a successful choice in any divorce aside from the spouse’s commitment to the process, is the skill of the mediator who is facilitating the mediation.

A skilled mediator can truly mean the difference between a long painful divorce and a reasonable divorce, which is why I urge you to a.) seriously consider using divorce mediation as the method to resolve your divorce issues, and b.) select a skilled mediator who is best suited to your needs.

How do you find a skilled divorce mediator?

If you are in Marin County or the greater San Francisco, California area, you may contact me to determine if I can mediate your divorce or recommend another skilled mediator in the area.

If you don’t live in Marin or the San Francisco bay area, I suggest searching for some of the best divorce attorneys in your city or town and asking for their recommendations. You will probably have to pay for a consultation. If you do, consider it an investment in your future and seize the opportunity. Top notch trial attorneys are usually very familiar with mediators and can provide insight about the mediator’s style and core competencies. You also may ask your friends and family for mediator recommendations and do online research – but keep in mind that online reviews can be misleading and not always accurate measures of a mediator’s abilities.

I believe the best way to find a skilled mediator is through referrals and in-person meetings where you should be able to get a sense of how the mediator operates.

I also believe there is very little information available to help you select a skilled mediator, which is why I would like to share with you, these three practical facts to keep in mind during your search for a mediator.

1. It isn’t always easy to find a skilled divorced mediator and often, it can be very difficult. For a variety of reasons there always seems to be a shortage of highly skilled divorce mediators or they are well kept secrets. I can only speculate as to why this is the case, so I won’t. Instead I simply want to make you aware of this fact and urge you to be persistent and diligent in your search even if it feels arduous.

2. Not all mediators are created equal. Divorce mediation is not a regulated profession, which means that anyone who decides he or she wants to be a divorce mediator can set up shop without training, knowledge of divorce laws and procedures or regulation. The lack of regulation and legal knowledge can prove detrimental in a number of ways. Therefore I suggest working with a divorce mediator who also is a family law attorney.

3. A skilled mediator is usually worth his/her weight in gold, but doesn’t have to cost as much. There are divorce mediators charging upwards of $750 hourly for their services. I have represented many divorcing multimillionaires in the San Francisco bay area who successfully mediated divorce settlements without paying more than $600 hourly for the mediators’ services. That said, if you have extremely unique issues in your divorce that require very specialized knowledge and a qualified divorce mediator comes highly recommended, his/her fees may be justified even if they are $750 hourly or more.

So, to sum this all up, I highly recommend using divorce mediation to resolve all of the issues in your complex California divorce. I also suggest selecting a skilled divorce mediator who also is a family law attorney with reasonable rates and if necessary, specialized knowledge pertaining to the unique and/or rare circumstances in your case. If you are located in the San Francisco bay area and surrounding counties, I am happy so speak with you and your spouse to determine if my structured fixed fee mediation is for you. To inquire about my services, please complete the confidential form on this page.

*If your California divorce involves minor and/or special needs children and you negotiate a divorce settlement in mediation, regardless of your agreements, the family court will maintain jurisdiction (the authority) over child custody and child support until your minor children or child reaches the age of majority and has graduated high school or reaches age 19 and/or for so long as your special needs children or child requires support pursuant to applicable law.

This article is not legal advice. You should consult an attorney if you have legal questions that relate to your specific divorce.

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