California wrote the book on mediation.
Forms of alternative dispute resolution have been practiced in the Golden State since 1961. That’s at least 25 years longer than any other state, as far as we know.
And it’s that long history and community-wide commitment to keeping people out of court that makes us enjoy practicing in California so much.
Unlike other states where mediation may be an afterthought, in California, it’s not only the first thought, but often the only thought.Allowing California divorce mediators like us to focus on the issues that matter most to couples. Instead of trying to explain how mediation works or getting them to realize just how much time, money and heartache they could save if only they'd mediate.
If you live anywhere in the state of California, you can mediate your no-fault divorce with Joe using our innovative and convenient Mediation-On-The-Go™ online divorce mediation option.
Or if you prefer, you can mediate with Joe face-to-face in the following locations by appointment:
San Francisco County:
Santa Clara County:
Los Angeles County:
San Bernardino County:
San Diego County:
Divorce is stressful enough and from the day we started our mediation practice, our philosophy has always been to meet our clients where they are to make their divorce mediation as convenient as possible.
We have access to local, professional private meeting spaces which allow us to serve a broader community of divorcing couples who want and need our services, instead of only being limited to a single office location.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we limit the number of client couples we take on at any one time to ensure that all of our clients get the most responsive and best service possible.
Believe it or not, the issues that need to be resolved in a divorce are the same no matter where you live!
You’ve got to develop a plan to raise your kids (parenting), figure out how you’re going to share in the cost to raise them (child support), determine if one of you needs financial support post-divorce (a.k.a. alimony, spousal support, maintenance or spousal maintenance, depending on the state), and divide up your property and debts (equitable distribution or community property).
And while there are subtle nuances in how the issues are resolved from state-to-state, the majority of what needs to be accomplished is the same.
Naturally, we’ve taken the time to research the issues in the 5 states we practice in. And we continue to stay abreast of updates and changes to these issues in a variety of ways that range from professional membership organizations, conferences on mediation for divorce in California, seminars, divorce mediation training, and state-related publications.
The answer is: Yes!
If you don't live in Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Orange County, San Diego County, San Francisco County or Santa Clara County, you can use our online mediation format (we call it Mediation-On-The-Go or virtual mediation) and still get the same great results.
In fact, our clients love the convenience so much that 75% of them choose to mediate with us in this format, even when we have an office near them.
While there are a few limited options for California couples wishing to involve the courts in their divorce without a full-blown trial, in the areas where we practice, traditional divorce mediation is conducted privately.
If you chose to mediate privately, you would hire a mediator for divorce in California (like Joe) typically before you file with the court.
With Joe's help and guidance, in your mediation session or sessions, all of the issues surrounding your divorce (parenting plan, child support, spousal support, property division) would be identified, discussed, negotiated and resolved privately, confidentially and without attorneys or litigation.
Joe would then draft up your agreement, gather the required forms, worksheets and discovery documents, and then send you to the filing phase where you’d complete your divorce process through the courts.
On the other hand, if you wanted to mediate your divorce through the California courts, you would be limited to mediating matters of child custody only.
If you and your spouse disagreed on any financial matters, you'd be on your own to resolve them, or would need to hire a private neutral third party mediator or family law attorney. Therefore, mediating through the courts in California is an incomplete mediation solution.
In California, issues of parenting responsibilities and timesharing must be agreed upon and drafted into the parenting plan.
The parenting plan covers all aspects of how you will co-parent your children once you’re divorced including where the children will spend nights, weekends, and holidays, (sometimes referred to as physical custody or child custody) as well as how you and your ex will engage in decision making and come to agreement on matters such as education, religion, and medical issues to name but a few.
Because there is very little guidance for couples on how to create a balanced and effective parenting plan, the help of an experienced and professional mediator to help you through the decision-making process is critical in this very gray area.
To learn more about how parenting plans work and why they’re the most important issue you’ll face in your divorce, please read: Divorce with Kids: The Importance of a Good Parenting Plan.
Here in the United States, all 50 states are required to have some sort of repeatable method for determining child support - known as a child support guideline.
How child support is determined varies greatly state-by-state, and each state's model produces a significantly different result. That's why you must follow the California Child Support Guidelines and not one from another state.
California uses something called the “income-shares” model which uses a number of factors to determine a basic child support amount, and allocates a portion of that amount to each party (parent). It is non-taxable, and the basic child support amount in CA typically excludes a number of other “extraordinary expenses” such as college, and extracurricular activities, which must be negotiated separately.
Determining child support in California is not as simple as running a calculator and coming up with an amount, as there is a lot left out of the child support guidelines in CA.
That’s why it’s important couples like you and your spouse work with a neutral third party mediator with a financial background - to ensure your children get the financial support they need and don’t become the economic victims of your divorce.
To learn more about how child support works in California, please read: California Child Support: More Complex Than You Think.
In California, the payment of money from one ex-spouse to another is called alimony. Some states refer to this as maintenance, spousal maintenance or spousal support.
Alimony in California is different from child support in that it is to be used by the recipient party (spouse) to assist with their expenses and not the children's. It is a taxable event and there is no California alimony guideline by which to determine it.
Although oddly enough, there is a guideline to determine “spousal support” which is defined as monies paid from one spouse to the other while the divorce process is unfolding.
But just because there isn’t a guideline or other repeatable way to determine alimony in California, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. We have a number of ways to help couples resolve this difficult and emotional issue and come to agreement, and have had great success in doing so for many years.
To learn more about how alimony works in California, please read: Determining Alimony in California.
The division of marital assets and liabilities is typically the last issue mediating couples will need to discuss, make decisions on, and resolve, in their California divorce.
In the United States, there are two methods used to divide marital assets and liabilities in divorce: equitable distribution and the concept used in California known as community property.
California is a “community property state” meaning marital assets and liabilities are split 50-50 unless the parties come to agreement otherwise on their property division.
At first you may think that dividing all marital assets and liabilities should be easy if they are to be split equally. But as we also stated above, the parties can agree otherwise, so equal is not always the case. It’s really up to you and your spouse to decide if the split of your marital assets and liabilities is going to be 50-50.
You also have to determine what marital property is, what the difference between marital and separate property is, and what happens when separate property is converted (transmuted) into community property or vice versa. None of which is very easy to do.
As you can imagine, if couples aren’t working with an experienced mediator with a financial background, this part of the divorce process can not only prove difficult, but costly, as there are a significant number of mistakes that can be made during this part of the process.
To learn more about how community property works in California, please read: California Community Property and Divorce: Not Always 50-50.
Whether you work inside the home or outside of it, have minor children, grown children or are child-free, have been married a short time or have been together for many years, a California divorce through mediation is the best way to peacefully and cost-effectively end your marriage.
Take the next step and book an initial meeting for you and your spouse.
Or if you’re early in the process, learn how you benefit by mediating your divorce.
While the terms “family law mediation California” and California divorce mediation” can sometimes be used interchangeably, “family law mediation California” is the broader of the two.
For example, family law mediation may be used to help non-married California parents make decisions on, and resolve, issues of child custody. In this case, since they were never married, there would be no “divorce” in the mediation process.
While any topic involving the family may be brought to resolution using a mediator, could fall under its umbrella, California divorce mediation refers to a specific alternative dispute resolution process focused on ending the parties’ marriage.
How is mediation different from collaborative divorce?
While both the mediation and collaborative divorce process choose to focus on keeping couples out of court, there are a significant number of ways in which they are different.
That's why we wrote this helpful article about mediation versus collaborative divorce to help you understand better the significant differences between the two, and the advantages that we feel mediation provides.
No. There is no requirement that the parties go to family court in California order to get a divorce provided the proper information is exchanged between the parties, all issues and disputes are resolved and agreed upon, and the proper paperwork such as your Marital Settlement Agreement and divorce petition is drafted and filed with the California family court system.
In order to file for divorce in California, you must be a resident of the state for six (6) months, and the county you wish to file in for three (3).
If you’ve recently moved, and don’t yet meet the California residency requirements, you can always begin the California divorce mediation process, work through the issues with the guidance of your mediator, and then file your divorce. In our experience, parties can come to resolution on all issues, and have a settlement agreement in hand, within four to six months. Thus allowing time to pass, and moving the parties closer to meeting the residency requirements.
At a very high level, the mediation process in a California divorce case is as follows:
If you and your spouse are not permitted to be in the same room with each other, but are permitted telephone contact with each other, then our Mediation-On-The-Go program may be an option if domestic violence, or a power imbalance in your relationship, is an issue for you.
Divorce mediators come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some divorce mediators are attorneys, so they may refer to themselves as a "divorce mediation attorney." Other mediators are mental health professionals. While others, like our mediator Joe, are financial professionals.
No. Under no circumstances can a divorce mediator give you legal advice. Even if they are a divorce mediation attorney. In their role as a neutral third party mediator, they must only provide you with legal information, not legal advice.