Should I use mediation to resolve my divorce or other family law problems?
A question that is almost never asked is whether mediation is a good way of resolving your family law problems? It is. Simply put, mediation is the fastest, most efficient and least expensive way of getting divorced or resolving your family law problems.
One of the distinct advantages of mediation is that everything either side says during mediation must remain confidential and according to the statutory provisions of Evidence Code §§ 1115-1119, what is discussed in mediation cannot later be used against you in a family court proceeding. That protection is known as the “mediation privilege”. The whole point of the mediation privilege is to allow you to speak freely, to discuss options to resolve your disputes and to not fear that what you say in confidence will later be used against you.
In mediation, the mediator does not represent either side, but rather works for and with both sides to help educate you on what decisions must be made and what your options are for each of those decisions. Put another way, the mediator is like a tour guide who helps you successfully reach your final destination. An experienced mediator will also offer suggestions and help you think outside the box to come up with creative solutions that best suit your specific circumstances. Ultimately, however, all the decisions are yours to make as the mediator is only offering suggestions based upon their own experiences with the family court system.
With that said, mediation is not for everyone. First, for mediation to work, both sides must be civil and realistic that a compromise will likely be necessary to reach an agreement. Mediators sometimes joke that if both sides are unhappy, then the mediation was successful. What they’re really saying is that you may not get everything you want, and neither will the other side. Ergo, a compromise. What you need to focus on is reaching an agreement that you can live with, rather than getting the deal of your dreams. If you can do that, then you can save yourself and your family significant time, stress and money by staying out of the court system, which is crowded, inefficient and sometimes heartless in its decisions. Judges frequently make court orders based on a limited amount of information and you have to live with those orders, no matter how unfortunate. In mediation, you can carefully tailor the terms of the court orders you will live by, taking into consideration what is truly best for your family, versus having an overworked judge order what they think is best for you, without fully understanding the true dynamics of your life.
In California, there is no training or experience required to act as a mediator, which is truly a shame because uneducated and untrained mediators can do a lot of damage to your family. Often once a court order is made, it can be expensive, difficult and sometime impossible to change. As such, it’s important to hire an experienced family law professional to help you make the right decisions for your life.
Don Werno is a Certified Family Law Specialist and a certified mediator, having received his formal training under the provisions of the Dispute Resolution Programs Act. During the more than 20 years that Don has been a family law attorney, he has successfully mediated countless family law and civil disputes and he is available to help you, too. Don is also a Certified Family Law Specialist, the highest level of qualification that a family law attorney can obtain, and holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees in psychology, which provide him with tools and other insights that most other attorneys simply don’t have.