When California couples decide to end their marriage, many experience a fair amount of trepidation over what is yet to come. Media portrayals of long, drawn-out divorce cases may have spouses worrying that they are going to have a battle on their hands. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to going to court to settle a divorce case, and most couples are able to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of their respective attorneys or a professional mediator.
Despite the rising popularity of mediation as a way of avoiding contentious litigation, many people labor under misunderstandings of the process. One such misunderstanding is that it is unsuitable for high net worth couples.
While couples with significant assets may require more assistance in reaching a settlement, issues such as parental visitation and division of personal property are considerations that exist regardless of a couple's wealth. Accountants and attorneys may be best suited to negotiating the division of retirement accounts and investments, while a mediator can be very useful when determining a parenting plan or deciding who gets the antique dining room table.
Another misunderstanding is that mediators regularly side with one spouse and tilt the balance of the case in that spouse's favor. However, mediators are not allowed to provide legal advice and they do not provide binding decisions in disagreements. If a party disagrees with a mediator's suggestions, he or she is under no obligation to continue with mediation or agree to any sort of settlement.
While there is no requirement that divorce mediation sessions be led by an attorney, familiarity with the intricacies of family law can be helpful in moving things along. Couples who are considering this process should know that they remain entitled to have their own legal representation at all stages.