Whether you’ve been divorced, are going through a divorce, or even just know someone who has, you probably already know just how miserable the litigation process can be. However, most people don’t know as much about mediation. As an alternative to litigation, mediation offers what we sometimes like to call a bespoke divorce remedy, one designed specifically to work for your unique situation. Divorce litigation is based on codes and laws meant to apply to every single citizen in the state, so the process can be very broad and inflexible. At times, it can even feel like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Mediation, on the other hand, is meant to lead to a personalized solution unique to your family. If you’re ready to split from your partner but you’re less than thrilled about stepping into the byzantine halls of the Sacramento Family Court, mediation might just be the ideal solution.
The Basics of Divorce Mediation
Around this point, you might be wondering what exactly divorce mediation is and how it works. In some ways, mediation is like couples therapy in reverse. The end results are pretty different, to say the least, but the general process is very much the same. Mediation involves sitting down with a qualified third party – a mediator – and hashing out a divorce solution that works for everyone without getting lawyers involved (although mediators can also work with represented parties and their attorneys, too). Rather than trying to fit complex family dynamics into the strict codes of the legal system, mediation encourages families to communicate, work out priorities, and find opportunities to compromise. The result is a solution tailored to your needs, and hopefully, one that leaves both parties satisfied.
As you might imagine, finding the right mediator is key to the whole process. In a sense, a mediator is a little like a private judge, since they’re the ones in charge of the mediation itself. In fact, many mediators are former litigators with years of experience in California family law. However, while judges make rulings based on strict adherence to the law, mediators are really there to help divorcing couples make decisions for themselves. A good mediator has a strong knowledge of family law, but they should also be highly skilled in empathy, communication, and conflict resolution. Over the course of their sessions, a good mediator will encourage both spouses to share their thoughts, identify their priorities and sources of contention, and, eventually, find compromises that leave them both as satisfied as possible.
The specifics of the mediation process can vary depending on the divorce mediation service and the couple in question. As a general rule, you can expect the first session to involve identifying the key issues that need to be resolved by the process. Those key issues can involve money, property, child custody, and anything else that divorcing couples need to come to an agreement on. Unlike litigation, which often drags on for months or years before any progress is made, mediation can resolve problems very quickly if both parties are willing to communicate openly and respectfully. Even the most bitter separations can lead to smooth and amicable divorces – just ask any mediator! You might be surprised by how fast and painless the dispute resolution process can be.
Benefits of Divorce Mediation
We already talked up some of the benefits of mediation in the previous sections of this article, especially when compared to litigation. Mediation offers complex and personalized solutions to complex interpersonal problems, and it can allow you to reach those solutions more quickly and less painfully than litigation can. It can also be significantly less expensive than hiring lawyers and litigating your divorce, which is certainly a plus. However, beyond the cost savings and the speed of the process is a much more important benefit: a post-divorce relationship.
Divorce is, to put it mildly, an emotionally difficult process. The formal end of a relationship typically follows a long period of unhappiness, usually for both parties, and those feelings of regret, loss, frustration, or anger can linger for a long time after the separation becomes official. Litigation tends to make that problem worse by pitting spouses against one another, creating an adversarial relationship. Almost every decision the judge makes has a winner and a loser, and it’s very common for resentment to grow exponentially during drawn-out court cases.
That adversarial relationship is exactly what the mediation process is meant to avoid. A successful mediation casts you and your soon-to-be-former spouse not as opponents but as partners working together towards the same outcome. It’s a cooperative process that requires a willingness to communicate respectfully and compromise, and while that might feel like a tall order at times, the results are based on empathy and mutual understanding rather than legal conflict. This is especially important for couples who plan on sharing custody of their children after the divorce. The truth is, while divorce is (almost) always difficult, it doesn’t have to be bitter. Many couples come out of the divorce mediation process having maintained a healthy friendship.
Keys to a Successful Mediation Process
The divorce mediation success rate stands somewhere between 70 and 85%, depending on the study. Even 70% is an extremely high number, especially when you consider just how bitter and difficult some divorces can be. Your chances of a successful mediation will depend partially on who your mediator is and how complex the disputes between you and your partner are. However, the most significant factor affecting your chances is, well, you. If you and your spouse are both willing to engage genuinely with the mediation process, the chances of a successful outcome are very very high.
The truth is you don’t have to be an expert communicator to successfully navigate the mediation process. All you really need is the ability to listen and a willingness to compromise. Compromise can be more difficult than it seems, especially when it comes to divorce, but it’s invaluable when finding a solution that leaves everyone happy. You can’t always get what you want, as the Rolling Stones so eloquently put it, but if you try sometimes, well, you might just find you get what you need.
You’ll also need to find the right mediator, which is where we come in. Formed during the COVID-19 pandemic by Sacramento family law attorney Neil Forester, Forester Family Law is a primarily virtual family law firm that blends creative ADR methods with discrete advisory counseling to help clients resolve a divorce, parenting dispute, or other family law conflict – outside the courtroom confines. Neil, a self-described “recovering litigator,” spent 18 years working in the family court system before discovering a passion for mediation, and he brings the full weight of that experience to every case. If you’re interested in scheduling a consultation with Neil, you can contact us through our website here or give us a call at (916) 234-6060.