Orange County sits just a few miles southeast of Hollywood, where divorces in movies can involve taut and poignant courtroom scenes, as in the Dustin Hoffman-Meryl Streep classic “Kramer vs. Kramer.” In real life, that kind of courtroom battle can be costly and time-consuming.
Many people find that resolving divorce disputes in mediation is typically much less expensive and often involves just a few sessions lasting several hours each. The adversarial court process, on the other hand, can heighten tensions and leave people feeling as if they had too little input on the court’s decisions on the terms of their divorce.
Shaping your divorce
Mediation enables people to be directly involved in shaping those terms. The mediation process features an impartial mediator who facilitates the negotiated resolution of disputes in a voluntary divorce agreement that’s reached by the spouses.
In mediation, people can negotiate resolutions of an array of difficult divorce disputes involving:
- Child custody
- Property division
- Spousal support (alimony)
Child custody mediation
In California, child custody mediation is mandatory whenever parents cannot agree on a parenting plan. The Superior Court of Orange County says on its website that the required mediation “provides parents an opportunity to discuss and resolve issues relating to the best interest of their children.”
The goal in child custody mediation is for the parents – with the assistance of the court mediator – to create a mutually acceptable parenting plan that is in the best interests of the child.
The mediators listen to the concerns of both parents while also encouraging them to listen to each other’s ideas with open minds. The mediator then helps them craft a parenting plan that can resolve a wide array of issues that can be contentious, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Visitation arrangements
- Holiday schedules
- Schooling and extracurricular activities plans
Note: family law attorneys and other third parties cannot attend mediation sessions. However, the divorcing parties can consult with attorneys before and after the sessions.
Although mediation sessions are facilitated by a specially trained mediator, the effort is not always successful. This is especially true in situations in which a party is reluctant to express opinions fully and when the parties are unable to compromise. When mediation fails to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon settlement, the court will make decisions on unresolved matters, including child custody, property division and spousal support.