California Divorce Mediation Guide

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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 courts 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.

California Office Locations & Online Divorce Mediation

SoCal Divorce Mediation Locations.pngIn California, we focus our practice in the southern part of the state, meeting with couples in the following Los Angeles metro, San Diego and North County locations:

Los Angeles:
555 W 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013 | (213) 986-8581

3281 E Guasti Rd, Ontario, CA 91761 | (213) 986-8581

117 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105 | (213) 986-8581

Sherman Oaks:
15233 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 | (213) 986-8581

701 Palomar Airport Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92011 | (858) 401-6498

San Diego:
10620 Treena St, San Diego, CA 92131 | (858) 401-6498

Solana Beach:
440 Stevens Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075 | (858) 401-6498

If meeting with us face-to-face is challenging due to personal or professional demands, you or your spouse lives out of state, or you’re simply not located near one of our local locations, you can still work with us using our innovative online divorce mediation program.

If you and your spouse have agreed to divorce and you both want to mediate, book an initial meeting for the two of you.

book a mediation appointment

In this guide, you'll find information on:

  • How divorce mediation is conducted in California;
  • The issues that need to be resolved in a California divorce;
  • CA divorce mediation resources;
  • And how to get started mediating your divorce with us.

How is Divorce Mediation in California Conducted?

Divorce Mediation Southern California.jpgWhile there are a few limited options for California couples wishing to involve the courts in their divorce without a full-blown trial, in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas where we practice, traditional divorce mediation is conducted privately.

If you chose to mediate privately, you would hire a divorce mediation service like ours, typically before you file with the courts.

Together we would identify, discuss, negotiate and resolve all of the issues surrounding your divorce privately, confidentially and without the use of attorneys, if you so choose.

We’d draft up all of your agreements, gather the required forms, worksheets and discovery documents, and then send you to the filing phase where you’d complete your divorce 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 mediator or lawyer. Therefore, mediating through the courts in California is an incomplete mediation solution.

What are The Issues That Need to be Resolved in a California Divorce?

For couples with no children or grown children, there are two main issues that need to be resolved in a California divorce. For couples with minor children, there are four:

The Parenting Plan

California Parenting Plans.pngIn 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, as well as how you and your ex will engage in decision making on matters such as education, religion, and medical issues to name but a few.

Because there is very little guidance on how to create a balanced and effective parenting plan, the help of an experienced and professional mediator 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.

Child Support

California Child Support.pngHere 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 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 to work with a 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.


California Spousal Support.pngIn 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 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 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.

Community Property

California Community Property.png

The division of marital assets and liabilities is typically the last issue a mediating couple will need to discuss 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 agree otherwise.

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.

Mediate Your California Divorce!

California Divorce Mediation Best Way to Divorce.jpgWhether 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, mediation is the smartest way to divorce in Southern California.

To get started, take the next step and book an initial meeting for you and your spouse.

book a mediation appointment


Or if you’re early in the process, learn how you benefit by mediating your SoCal divorce.

book a mediation appointment