Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is divorce mediation?
  2. How is mediation different from other forms of divorce resolution?
  3. What are advantages of mediation over other forms of resolution?
  4. Why does mediation work?
  5. What is unique about Divorce Mediation Group’s services?
  6. What if one partner wants the divorce and the other does not?
  7. Do couples ever get back together as a result of mediation?
  8. How long does it take to mediate a divorce?
  9. What if for religious or other reasons a couple does not have the option of ending the marriage but still wants a divorce?
  10. What percentage of your clients successfully completes the divorce process through mediation?
  11. May I have an attorney and still participate in mediation?
  12. Why does DMG require each party to consult with a separate attorney before they sign the final papers?
  13. Is mediation recommended when the two parties have radically differing views on what an equitable settlement looks like?
  14. Is mediation recommended when the two parties have radically differing views on why the marriage is ending: complications like adultery & claims of abuse?
  15. But we are so bitter with each other that I can’t imagine sitting down together to work out even a parenting plan let alone decide who gets what. How can you help?
  16. Won’t allegations of abuse or adultery sway the sympathies of the mediators?
  17. What if my spouse and I have already started with separate attorneys but are unhappy about the high cost and how long it is taking? Is it too late to start mediation?

ANSWERS

  1. What is divorce mediation? Divorce mediation is a process in which unbiased third parties (mediators) help disputing couples achieve agreement on issues pertinent to divorce: division of community property and community debt, spousal support, and if the couple has child(ren), child support and parenting plans.


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  3. How is mediation different from other forms of divorce resolution? Other options in resolving disputes include the following:


    1. Litigation: When couples are in dispute about how to resolve their divorce issues, each hires an attorney who argues their respective positions in court. If the couple is unable to settle out of court, the judge makes all the decisions.

    2. Arbitration: A neutral third party, often a retired judge, makes decisions for the divorcing couple.

    3. Collaborative law: Similar to mediation except that each party, with his/her own lawyer, meet together to discuss and resolve the divorce issues.

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  4. What are advantages of mediation over other forms of resolution? Mediation has multiple advantages. In comparison to a litigated divorce, the advantages of a mediated divorce follow:
    1. More cost effective
    2. Emotionally less stressful
    3. Usually faster and more efficient
    4. Private and confidential

    5. (1) The couple does not have to appear in court
      (2) Assets and debts are not placed in public record
    6. Less traumatic for children who see their parents model successful conflict resolution skills
    7. Conducive for creating an effective, cooperative co-parenting relationship after the divorce
    8. Ideal for parents who wish to remain in control of decisions affecting their children rather than by judges or lawyers
    9. More likely to result in compliance by both parties since both created the agreement

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  5. Why does mediation work? Mediation works because it takes into account the deep-seated need to be heard. Utilizing the resources of communication, mediators enable couples to get behind their positions, threats or demands and communicate their needs and concerns. Divorcing couples might not want to hear it, but they still have a great deal in common: the need to maximize their community resources to be able to provide the best for themselves and any children. Mediators build on this mutual interest by helping couples clarify, negotiate, problem-solve, and make all the necessary decisions that result in a fair divorce settlement. Mediators manage the process so that couples can make informed decisions with minimal conflicts.


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  7. What is unique about Divorce Mediation Group’s services? Divorce Mediation Group offers gender-balanced team mediation services that enable both parties to feel at ease in the intimate and sometimes contentious culminating stages of their marital relationship. We create a positive communication climate and help couples manage the inherent conflicts that are part of the territory of divorce so that they can avoid arguing and continually move forward. We provide legal and financial information that empowers couples to make informed decisions on all divorce issues. By ensuring that both parties’ voices are heard, by reframing and restating, we neutralize the “baggage” that inevitably accompanies each party. Our clients never have to appear in court and their financial affairs remain private, unlike a litigated divorce.

    Unbiased and professionally trained
    (see Who We Are) and licensed with experience in the fields of accounting, law, communication, psychology and mediation, we help couples through all the stages of divorce from the initial filing of the petition, the disclosures of assets and debts, income and expenses, to the final signing of the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).


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  9. What if one partner wants the divorce and the other does not? California law permits divorce even if only one of the parties wants the divorce. Thus, even if one party wants to remain in the marriage, the divorce can still take place. Early in the mediation process, DMG ensures that the couple meets this criterion, that there is no hope of reconciliation by at least one of the parties. Occasionally, we have had couples who return to counseling or try some other means to see if they can rescue their marriage.

    If, however, one party is adamant about pursuing the divorce while the other clings to hopes of saving the marriage, the two parties will find themselves at different stages in working through their anger and grief about their loss toward acceptance. This difference in timing can often escalate conflict as the recalcitrant spouse engages in delaying tactics while the spouse driving the divorce chafes at any delays. Usually, when this difference in their time orientation is clarified, couples can develop patience with each other and not escalate tensions, recognizing that each is in a different stage of accepting the divorce.


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  11. Do couples ever get back together as a result of mediation? By the time most couples find us, at least one of the parties is adamant about pursuing divorce. If both parties express doubt about the divorce, we refer couples to counseling. DMG does not act as marriage counselors to help couples save their marriage. Occasionally, the calm of the mediation room assists couples to begin listening to each other, enabling them to try one more time to save their marriage.


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  13. How long does it take to mediate a divorce? The time required to mediate a divorce varies according to the couple. DMG works in two-hour time blocks. In our experience, the most important variables are how quickly couples can make decisions and how much they can work together outside of mediation sessions. For most families, DMG has been able to complete the process from 5 to 7 sessions. For couples without children, the number of sessions is often shorter.


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  15. What if for religious or other reasons a couple does not have the option of ending the marriage but still wants a divorce? Couples can choose legal separation as a solution to remain legally married and at the same time achieve a formal end to their financial and emotional intimacy. Agreement must be reached on the same issues as in a divorce. These issues include division of property and debt, spousal support, and if there are children, child support and a parenting plan. DMG can help couples who choose a legal separation achieve agreement on all these issues.


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  17. What percentage of your clients successfully completes the divorce process through mediation? We have been successful in over 80% of our cases with some of the others merely involving attorneys finalizing the agreements based on the work accomplished in mediation.


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  19. May I have an attorney and still participate in mediation? Yes. As part of the divorce resolution process, DMG requires clients to consult with separate attorneys prior to signing the Marital Settlement Agreement. In this way, you will have been advised as to any legal obligations you have taken on or rights that you have waived. Generally, this consulting session can be accomplished in one or two hours. You may consult an attorney at any time in the process and do not have to wait until the end of mediation.


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  21. Why does DMG require each party to consult with a separate attorney before they sign the final papers? DMG requires that each party consult with a separate attorney at least one time. Although Richard is an attorney as well as a CPA, he cannot give advice to either client since that would put him in a conflict of interest between the clients. His role is to clarify your legal rights and obligations to each other and to your children (if applicable). We require that prior to signing the agreement, at the latest, you each consult with an attorney to ensure that you understand your legal rights from your perspective in regards to any tradeoffs you might have made in mediation. Usually, this consultation takes about an hour. Of course, you are welcome to consult with an attorney at any time during the process—some of our clients do that; most tend not to do it. DMG provides a list of consulting attorneys supportive of the mediation process, but clients are under no obligation to select someone from the list.


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  23. Is mediation recommended when the two parties have radically differing views on what an equitable settlement looks like? Generally, mediation is recommended especially when the parties have radically different views on what an equitable settlement looks like. The alternative of litigation would practically guarantee extraordinary expense—both emotional and financial—to resolve such conflicts. Miriam is both a professor of communication and retired chair of a communication department at a local university and has a doctorate in counseling psychology. Together, we have been able to bring to agreement some of the most contentious couples. If one of the parties were wildly unrealistic about what his/her rights or obligations are, we would encourage earlier consultation with an advising attorney. Managing conflict is a skill that we have successfully facilitated in even the most contentious couples. Couples benefit from the realization that they still share common needs and concerns: to maximize resources so they can provide the best for themselves and any children.

    In addition, anxiety over unclear numbers often generates further conflict. We have found that when couples take the time to listen to each other’s needs and concerns, clarify their respective incomes and expenses, and understand their legal rights and obligations to each other, they can then decide what is fairest for both of them. Too often in litigated divorces, anxiety and the failure to listen to each other contribute to misunderstanding and skewed notions of what is fair, often exacerbated by legal counsel encouraging them to try to get more so that they end up with what they would have accomplished in a mediated divorce.


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  25. Is mediation recommended when the two parties have radically differing views on why the marriage is ending: complications like adultery and claims of abuse? California is a “no-fault divorce” state. Consequently, no one involved in the system cares why the divorce is ending. Either party has the right to obtain the divorce, even over the objections of the other party. The law does not require a “guilty party” and neither do we. Abuse might affect one party's rights with respect to the children.


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  27. But we are so bitter with each other that I can’t imagine sitting down together to work out even a parenting plan let alone decide who gets what. How can you help? For high conflict couples, with respect to the children, we have been successful building on the fact that you will forever be tied together as co-parents and you thus have the need to work out a parenting plan in advance to avoid future conflicts. We also can use the “caucus” approach, which is like shuttle diplomacy. Couples remain in separate rooms while the mediators go back and forth to reconcile differences. Even the bitterest of couples can be motivated to work together to save time and money in the interests of their children.


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  29. Won’t allegations of abuse or adultery sway the sympathies of the mediators? As trained professionals, Divorce Mediation Group pledges to remain unbiased throughout mediation. We see physical abuse as a skill deficit, that the alleged abuser learned maladaptive ways of dealing with frustration and anger and might have been the subject of abuse as a child. Understanding the behavior does not condone it. In the case of demonstrated abuse, our goal would be to ensure that abuse is not an ongoing factor during mediation. We would help the couple dissolve the marriage as efficiently as possible so that each is free to start an independent life, free of the abuse.

    Adultery can be seen as a symptom rather than as a cause of a marriage in peril. As neutral mediators, we do not take sides. Our role is to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making. Our combined expertise helps couples make decisions that can work best for all.


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  31. What if my spouse and I have already started with separate attorneys but are unhappy about the high cost and how long it is taking? Is it too late to start mediation? It is never too late to start mediation. DMG can start building on whatever agreements you and your spouse have already made by working only on the unresolved issues. Both of you need to tell your respective attorneys to stop their work on your case while you explore mediation as a method for completing the process.


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Divorce Mediation Group
P.O. Box 1145 San Mateo, CA 94403-0745
650.350.2000
888.590.3898
Offices in San Mateo and Sunnyvale