In our opinion, Mediation is the fastest and most cost-effective way for two people to resolve their legal problems, including divorce, child custody, visitation, support and property division. If the parties are not adversarial, then mediation is the way to go. Our principal attorney, Don Werno is a Certified Family Law Specialist, who has been formally trained as a Mediator under the provisions of the Dispute Resolution Programs Act.
Mediation can be conducted in a number of different ways, depending on the parties, their legal problem(s) and what they hope to accomplish through mediation. In its purest form, mediation allow you to take charge of your own decision-making process to make the decisions that make sense in your life.
In a three person mediation, where no attorneys are present, the two parties will meet with the Mediator; the Mediator will not legally represent either party, but will instead provide the legal structure, education and guidance necessary, so that the parties can collaborate together and make mutual decisions about how to best resolve their own legal problem(s). If an agreement is reached on some or all of the disputed issues, the Mediator will typically draft a legally binding written settlement document that sets forth the entire agreement, which the parties will sign in the presence of a Notary Public. Think of this document like a contract. The settlement agreement (called a Stipulated Judgment) is later submitted to the Court (along with other forms that the Mediator will draft or help you complete) to be made a valid and binding Court Order. The job of the Mediator is to guide the parties through the process, providing explanations and education as needed, to help them negotiate through the rough spots, so that the parties can more efficiently make decisions to resolve their legal dispute and get back to the things that are truly important, their lives.
In some mediations, the parties, along with their attorneys meet with the Mediator, who works back and forth between the two sides to explore the legal issues and find some way to reach a legally enforceable settlement agreement. In these types of cases, it’s not uncommon for the attorneys to sign a written agreement that they will resign from representing their client should mediation be unsuccessful, so as to provide an incentive for both parties to speak freely and fully explore ways to settle their disputes. This ensures that the attorneys will use their best efforts to help their clients obtain a successful result through mediation and also ensures that no “secrets” that might have been divulged in mediation are used in future Court proceedings.
A basic tenant of mediation is that almost everything that is discussed in connection with the mediation process remains confidential, other than the actual written mediation agreement itself, should one be reached. As the Courts have repeatedly made crystal clear, the entire purpose of mediation is to assist the parties in resolving their legal problems and to fully encourage all parties to speak freely and to use their best efforts at reaching a settlement. To protect those candid discussions, the legislature created the “mediation privilege” found in Evidence Code § 1115-1119, which ensures that the parties can speak candidly without worrying that something they say in mediation might later be used against them in a Court of law – simply put, it can’t and the Courts won’t allow it. Each mediation is similar and yet different, requiring the Mediator to use their negotiating skills, some psychology, their experience, education and honesty in helping both sides remain focused on the ultimate goal, which is putting an end to their legal dispute and reducing a significant source of stress in their lives, all while saving potentially significant amounts of money that would otherwise be paid to attorneys, expert witnesses and to the Court itself.
Attorney Don Werno is not only a Certified Family Law Specialist, he has also received the formal training needed to become a Certified Mediator under the provisions of the Dispute Resolution Programs Act. Since passing the bar examination, Don has successfully represented hundreds and hundreds of clients in civil, criminal, family law and aviation cases, involving thousands of Court appearances and the drafting of tens of thousands of pages of legal briefs. During his more than 20 years in practice as an attorney, Don has handled a substantial number of cases that were resolved through Mediation. In the process, Don has learned how to navigate the often complex, highly emotional and critically important legal problems of his clients and he is ready to help you resolve your family law problems, too.