Divorce mediation is an out-of-court, confidential process through which a couple can agree to a settlement in a marital dissolution or legal separation. A trained, neutral professional (typically a family law attorney) will meet with the spouses to help them negotiate an outcome that is agreeable to both parties. Mediation can be done either in-person or online.
Many couples find that mediation helps them resolve their issues in a time- and cost-effective manner. While financially complex divorces may require an enhanced team approach to mediation (by including forensic accounts and/or other financial professionals, for example), high-asset couples should not automatically dismiss mediation as an option. The main ingredient necessary for a successful divorce mediation is the willingness of the couple to work together to achieve a satisfactory settlement.
How do you reach a settlement in divorce mediation?
While each case varies, most couples meet with their mediator together or, if they feel more comfortable, separately. The mediator does not represent either party in negotiations and cannot offer legal advice. The mediator can, however, brainstorm options for resolutions and give insights as to how cases would be handled in court. In divorce mediation, the parties have control over the outcome as opposed to leaving the ultimate decision of how it will be resolved in the hands of a judge.
What happens after the settlement?
Once you reach a divorce mediation settlement, your mediator may help you prepare a written settlement agreement. This paperwork is then filed with the court, along with other forms. The judge will review your agreement and, in most cases, approve and incorporated it with the final judgment of dissolution.
In many divorce mediations, the couple’s ties are not automatically severed after a settlement is reached. Just because your divorce has been successfully mediated, it doesn’t mean the process is entirely over. Here are a few additional post-divorce issues to consider:
The divorce decree – A certified copy of your divorce decree will be available in the Superior Court of the county in which you filed. Order several and keep them in a safe place along with your other important documents. You may need a copy for future loans, such as a new mortgage, and, certainly, if you decide to remarry…at some point.
Name and password changes – If you took your ex’s last name and want to change it back, you will need to contact the Social Security administration, the DMV, and all your financial institutions. It can be a bit overwhelming, so it can help to make a list to start. Also make sure you remove your former spouse’s name from joint credit cards and bank accounts you retained after the marriage, consistent with your judgment and/or court orders. And while you’re at it, it is a good idea to change any passwords your ex has access to.
Estate plan – If you and your former spouse had a trust, you will need to consult with an estate planning attorney. If you did not have an estate plan when you were married, consider getting one post-divorce. This is especially important if you own a home and/or have children. Similarly, after a divorce mediation settlement, review the beneficiaries of your life insurance and your retirement accounts. Depending on your situation and court orders, you may want to ask your attorney about removing your former spouse.
Health Insurance – If your health insurance is provided by your ex-spouse’s employer, you will no longer be covered once your divorce is finalized. If you are the employee covered under your employer’s health insurance plan, there are time limitations after the final divorce order to notify the plan’s administrator of the change. It is best if health insurance is taken into consideration during the divorce mediation process and alternative sources for health care insurance for the non-employee spouse are explored.
Co-parenting after the settlement – One of the biggest challenges couples face after a divorce mediation settlement is how to effectively co-parent. If you and your former spouse are amicable and open to working together with your children, a shared calendar and open lines of communication may be sufficient. If the situation is more tense, an app such as Our Family Wizard (hyperlink) may be helpful. In extreme cases, a co-parenting coach can also be a useful tool.
Guidance on Divorce Mediation from a Southern California Family Law Firm
If you are considering divorce mediation to settle your family law case, working with a highly trained, experienced mediator is crucial. If you would like to learn how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at 805-777-7740. Don’t wait to start the next chapter of your life.