Common Questions on Divorce Mediation 2017-03-31T18:02:41+00:00

Common Mediation Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about mediation and about my practice of mediation. We can assist couples from all across the country in the divorce mediation process.

General

Are we restricted to the type of agreement we mediate?

Not at all, so long as it is generally legal and ethical. I mediate some situations where the law is unclear and the parties want to create their own standards. In addition, we can craft any settlement that works, as opposed to a Court mandated settlement which is often a harsh money judgment.

Are you available for weekend or evening mediation appointments?

I am available for weekend and evening follow up appointments as well as for email correspondence. I schedule my initial mediation session for normal business hours.

How does the cost compare to that of using lawyers to bargain for us?

The transaction costs for lawyers is very high compared to mediation. Face-to-face mediation eliminates about half of the time, and 3/4 of the cost in resolving a typical dispute.

How fast can we get a divorce?

In California, the divorce process lasts at a minimum of one day longer than six months. In many cases, I am able to help the couple resolve all matters in one mediation session. Then they never need to deal with one another again. But, they must cooperate to get the correct legal papers filed on time and in the correct fashion.

How flexible is your mediation practice?

Timewise, I schedule at your convenience; I have even done mediations on Christmas Day for clients who needed immediate help. In terms of pacing, we move at the pace agreed upon by the parties. Some cases are on a strict time line, others progress according to the emotional bandwidth of the parties.

How long do we have to wait for an appointment?

Not long, usually within a few days to a week, depending on how booked my schedule is.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

To an extent the parties control how long a divorce proceeding will last. Some couples want to separate their personal and financial lives, but not finalize their divorce for some reason or another and so take their time finalizing their divorce.

I have worked with some couples with major debt and tax problems who need to resolve complex bankruptcy or tax issues while still married but living apart and so the case remains open for several years until these other matters are concluded.

In one case, the couple had started a major remodel and then decided to divorce, but they could not sell their house until the remodel was concluded and they had to mediate major decisions in the remodel in addition to the typical divorce matters.

How much does your mediation cost in comparison to negotiating between lawyers or counselors?

My fee is about half the cost of a lawyer (though I am a lawyer) and is comparable to the cost of a good therapist/counselor. There are no large upfront fees.

Is your mediation confidential, and can the agreement be kept confidential?

My mediations are strictly confidential. Even if someone later tries to use the Court to force me to disclose what was said, I can assert confidentiality in almost every situation. As to the agreement, yes it can be kept confidential too, which is why some people prefer mediation to resolve some sensitive disputes.

What are the advantages of retaining a mediator in a divorce proceeding?

See my extended blog posts for an in depth answer on the advantages and disadvantages of mediation, hiring lawyers and doing it yourself.

Mediation is less costly, more flexible, more efficient, more empowering, easier and more straightforward that any other method of conflict resolution.  A good mediator can help actually improve communication and relations between the parties.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a conversation between two or more parties with differing interests which is facilitated by a neutral professional with the aim of reaching an agreement.

As I practice the Art of Mediation, it is about empowering the parties to create their own solutions. As a mediator, I help parties clarify their vision for their lives, identify the needs and resources at play and maximizing the good for all concerned.

Why do you believe that mediation is so effective?

It empowers the parties to make their own decisions based on their sense of the dispute, and the equities contained therein. It gives rein to win-win solutions crafted to suit the situation and the needs of the parties, and helps the parties to see their common ground.

Financial Questions

How do we divide up a 401k or other pension/retirement plan without incurring horrible tax consequences?

The short answer is that in mediation the parties can come to resolution about the division of the specific retirement account and then submit their agreement in writing to the Court for approval via a QDRO (pronounced “Quadro”) , a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.  The QDRO allows a division of certain assets such that they can be rolled over into separate retirement accounts without tax consequence.

We have securities in our joint brokerage account…bonds and stocks which we will be dividing up in our divorce.  However, we purchased them by dollar amount rather than by numbers of shares and so we have an odd number of shares and we cannot divide them equally. How can mediation help us deal with who takes those losses and gains?

When you have an odd number of shares in a joint brokerage account they cannot be split equally. The normal practice is to let one party choose if they want the over or the under on the first item, and then the other party choose on the next item.

We track the current values and perform a True Up accounting as of a date certain, usually close of business on the day of the mediation dividing up the shares so we eliminate the risk of stock movements up and down.

We have securities in our joint brokerage account…bonds and stocks which we will be dividing up.  When we sell them, it will generate capital gains and losses in a year we will be unmarried filing separate tax returns.  How can mediation help us deal with who takes those losses and gains?

In a mediated settlement where capital gains are an issue, the parties can agree to a transfer of title in their portfolio as part of their divorce decree and so no sales are involved until after their marital property is split. Normally, what happens is that the marital property division results in the securities simply being split 50/50 rather than the securities being sold and the net cash being divided equally.

In this example Wife receives half of stock “x” purchased on “y” date at “z” price and Husband get the other half of the same acquisition.

Occasionally the ratio is other than 50/50, depending on personal circumstances such as when one party owned shares prior to the marriage and then the couple buys more shares in the same company while married.

Children's Issues

Are you experienced at child visitation questions involving grandparents and grandparent’s rights?

As a mediator, I have helped couples going through their divorce with minor children address the role of grandparents and godparents in their children’s lives as part of a comprehensive visitation plan. I have also helped grandparents with legal custody of their grandchildren deal with visitation issues through mediation.

Can un-married couples with children from a prior relationship who want to move in together use your mediation services?

Yes, and the sooner the better. I have a lot of front line experience helping couples who seek to blend their families address visitation matters. My mediation services are confidential. We can organize the mediation process to include just the couple moving in together or when appropriate we can include other concerned parties.

Can we resolve child custody and visitation issues with you?

Yes. No matter how complex or contested your personal situation might feel to you, I have probably help couples resolve a number of cases with similar difficulties. For example, with my help couples have resolved exceptionally difficult “move away cases”, “parental work travel schedule cases”, “step parenting conflicts” and other challenging child custody and visitation situations.

Can you help us set up a co parenting plan when one or both of us have to travel for work?

Yes. This is a more common problem than most people realize and I have helped numerous couples work out the difficult logistics of work related travel.

Can you help us with child custody issues around holiday scheduling or summer visitation problems?

Yes. I have a lot of experience as a mediator in this area. I have helped couples work through what seemed to them to be insurmountable holiday scheduling difficulties, summer vacation visitation issues, and time share conflicts with extended families/step families.

Can you mediate with us on child custody issues related to very young children or children with special needs?

These are often among the most emotionally difficult cases in family law. I think all parties want an experienced and sensitive mediator to facilitate a process as they sort through the details and arrive at the best outcome.

None of these cases are easy. I believe that parents and grandparents in these cases often do better with a skilled mediator helping them making the decisions for their children rather than bringing in dueling “expert” child psychologists to tell them what to do.

On the other hand, I have been appointed by the Courts to advocate for young children and have worked closely with expert family counselors and child psychologists to help divorcing parents work together to come up with a supportive parenting plan.

Do you provide mediation services for couples who are recently engaged or newly married with children from a prior marriage who need to blend families?

I do work with parents seeking to blend families. As a neutral mediator, I believe that my services are more accessible than trying to use a lawyer to negotiate this-especially if you are considering using the lawyer who represented you in an adversarial custody matter against your ex-spouse.

More importantly, my mediation fees are dramatically less than most lawyers charge for their services.

 

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