Frequently Asked Questions
Some clients may initially worry that because a mediator is a man or a woman, he or she may exhibit biased towards a particular sex. In my experience, this is almost never the case. Mediators are fanatical about maintaining impartiality, which is a critical part of the mediation process. Remember, a mediator's job is to help you reach a fair settlement, not to pass judgment.
Is co-mediation better than using a single mediator?
In my opinion, no. Some co-mediators work very well together, and using two professionals to help you frame issues and resolve conflict can be very effective. However, a skilled solo mediator can help you reach a fair settlement just as effectively, often at a much lower cost.
How much will my mediation cost?
The cost of mediation depends mostly on the complexity of the issue being considered, as well as the willingness of both parties to work toward a fair settlement. A typical divorce mediation (from initial meeting to filing of the marital separation agreement) in the San Francisco Bay Area might cost between $4,000 and $8,000.
Can I handle my own divorce?
Absolutely. If you and your spouse have already resolved the issues surrounding your divorce and you feel comfortable navigating the court process with a self-help book or two, you can certainly do it yourself. However, if (1) you'd like the help of a professional in reaching settlement on certain issues, (2) you want the security of knowing that an experienced party has helped shape your agreement, and (3) you'd like someone to guide you through the divorce process, mediation might be a good choice.
What if we can't reach an agreement?
In rare instances, no amount of mediation will result in a successful settlement. When this happens, each party typically retains separate counsel and initiates litigation. A judge may ultimately pass judgment on the case, and the parties will have no control over the proceedings.
What is one of us isn't ready for the divorce?
In some cases, one spouse is "ahead" of the other spouse emotionally. He or she may have been thinking about separation long before initiating the divorce process. In this case, the spouse who just "got the news" may be need some time to adjust. Quite often, the reality of divorce doesn't sink in until several mediation sessions have passed. Mediation can still work well, but the mediator needs to ensure that both spouses fully understand the nature of the discussions. In some instances, the mediator may suggest that the spouse who is struggling to cope with the reality of divorce visit a therapist.
Can I refuse to get divorced?
No. California is a no-fault divorce state, and as a result, either spouse can initiate the divorce process. The court is not concerned with the reasons for getting divorced, whatever they might be. If one spouse is determined to get a divorce, the other spouse can do nothing to stop the process.
How many mediation sessions does it take to reach final agreement?
This is a difficult question, simply because it depends entirely on the severity of the conflict and the complexity of the issues being discussed. In many instances, five two-hour sessions is enough, while in others, six, eight, or even ten sessions may be necessary to reach an acceptable settlement.
Am I likely to obtain a better settlement by hiring an aggressive attorney?
In almost all instances, the answer is an emphatic "no." If you hire an aggressive divorce attorney, your spouse will be compelled to do the same. Your legal bill will grow astronomically as your attorneys battle their way through discovery, take depositions, and hire an army of experts. The financial pie that you and your spouse are fighting over will dwindle, and you will likely end up feeling that you never exerted any control over the process. If you have children, you may subject them to extreme stress as you fight it out with your spouse. Divorce is hard enough. Don't make it harder by trying to "crush" your spouse. You'll end up battering yourself to pieces in the process.
What if my spouse is hiding assets?
Successful mediation requires complete disclosure of all financial assets. Although most mediators can tell when one spouse is hiding information and will refuse to proceed until all pertinent information is disclosed, occasionally a spouse may bluff his or her way to settlement by skillfully obscuring financial data. This is a terrible tactic, and it will come back to haunt the spouse who hides the asset. A court is required to award 100% of any hidden asset to the innocent spouse.
A classic case of how hiding assets can come back to haunt the perpetrator involves a lottery ticket. A woman won a sizeable jackpot and never told her husband. Instead, she hid the winnings and later filed for divorce. Long after the divorce, the husband discovered that the wife had hidden the lottery winnings from him during the divorce process. He went back to court and was awarded 100% of the lottery jackpot. The woman later filed for bankruptcy.