The environment in a litigation courtroom encourages conflict and animosity and can fire up an already heated divorce. This makes Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) necessary in some instances. For example, the court can order mediation, or the parties can consider it by themselves.
Whether mediation was your idea or not, you can get the most out of it if you get proper legal guidance. Dedicated Orange County family law attorneys can walk the journey with you and tell you if it is a suitable alternative for you, and educate you about the California laws on mediation.
Under What Circumstances Can the Court Order Divorce Mediation?
If you and your spouse haven’t agreed on a parenting plan for your minor children by the time you are filing for a divorce, the law requires the judge to order mediation to discuss and agree on those issues. Other instances where mediation might be ordered include:
- When a step-parent requests visitation
- When a parent requests a court order for anything related to child custody
Remember that parents must attend court-ordered mediation sessions. You will not have the right to challenge the court’s custody orders if you fail to participate in the sessions. Parents also have a right to participate in mediations for step-parents or grandparents seeking visitation rights. Similarly, you cannot object to the settlement reached if you, as a parent, do not participate in the sessions.
What Happens When There’s a History of Domestic Violence?
In California, you and your spouse won’t be exempted from court-ordered mediation based on a history of domestic violence. However, there are special rules to govern the process for such couples. The parents are allowed to request the mediator to meet them separately. You can also bring in a support person to the sessions, as long as they do not disrupt the process.
Family Court Services staff always screen through cases to see if there is a history of domestic violence. And when there is, they usually develop a safety plan with the victim. Mediation will only be done on child-related issues because of its urgency. But general divorce mediation is discouraged when there has been a restraining or protective order against any of the spouses.
If your spouse had been abusive to you or the children, consider discussing it with your Orange County mediation attorney. They will ensure that the mediators work on an arrangement that is comfortable for you and the kids. You can count on them for support throughout the process as well.
What Happens When Parties Fail to Agree During Mediation?
While there is a requirement in California law for you and your soon-to-be-ex to participate in mediation regarding child custody and visitation, it is not mandatory that you reach an agreement. If the mediator’s efforts to help you agree aren’t successful, you may have to take certain additional steps depending on your county. Here is what can happen:
- In some counties, you may have to schedule an appointment with a court-connected mediator if private mediation failed.
- In counties where court-connected mediators report to the court after unsuccessful sessions, they can make certain recommendations. For instance, they can ask the judge to hire custody evaluators to give their expert opinions before the hearing.
- In counties where court-connected mediation is confidential, the court might appoint another mediator to try again. If the second mediator fails to reach an agreement again, they will need to make a recommendation to the court.
How Much Can a Divorce Mediation Cost?
The cost varies depending on several factors. But the type of mediation you choose to use is a significant determinant of the price you pay.
- Private Mediation. You can use an individual mediator or a mediation agency to get private mediation services. The rates can range between $3,000 and $8,000 depending on the spouses’ willingness to compromise and engage, the complexity and number of issues that need to be dealt with, and the mediator’s professional background and rate. If you end up with a settlement agreement, this cost is way cheaper than what you would spend going into trial.
- Court-Sponsored Mediation. The family court sometimes asks divorcing couples to go into mediation and discuss issues such as visitation and custody. In California, you may not be required to pay any money.
- Community Mediation. Non-profit community mediation organizations usually offer low-cost or free mediation services to help divorcing couples discuss remaining issues in their divorce. You can find out whether such organizations are available where you live.
If you aren’t sure whether mediation is worth it for you, Orange County mediation attorneys can help you figure it out. Simply discuss your situation with us on the initial consultation, which is free, and we will clear your doubts.
Should I Retain a Santa Ana Attorney in Divorce Mediation?
Every divorcing spouse going through mediation needs the services of an experienced Santa Ana, CA, mediation attorney. Remember, the mediator is supposed to be neutral and cannot give you any legal advice. Still, several issues that are legally critical will need to be well-handled.
Retaining an experienced divorce lawyer ensures that your primary goals are achieved, your finances are considered, and your rights are safeguarded. Don’t throw these privileges away for any reason. You and the other spouse make the final decision at the end of the mediation session, but you will be better off deciding with full knowledge of the legal implications of your decisions.
Dedicated Orange County Family Law Attorneys Providing the Best Legal Representation
At the end of a marriage, you need aggressive and honest representation that can help you move forward with your life. Whether the court orders mediation or you decide to try it yourself, having a lawyer from Sarieh Law Offices will be a positive experience for you.
At our law firm, we have top-rated mediators in Santa Ana, Orange County. Get in touch with us to learn how mediation in Orange County can benefit your divorce process. Call the Sarieh Law Offices at 949-828-2267 (Newport Beach) or 714-694-7723 (Santa Ana).