What Is Mediation?
Mediation is an increasingly popular way for couples to settle family law disputes without the emotional and energetic drain of the courtroom. As a mediator, I do not take sides; rather, I work with both parties as a neutral educator and facilitator, informing them about common court practices and rulings and helping them to determine the most wise and fair means of settling every aspect of their divorce and/or child custody disputes. As a mediator, I do not make decisions. I will, however, guide a couple as they make their own decisions. My firm will also complete the family law documents on the parties’ behalf and will draft the terms of the divorce and child custody agreements as needed.
The idea of mediation is to provide a safe and comfortable space for both parties to review the facts and where legal disputes can be discussed – and hopefully resolved – to both parties’ satisfaction. Mediation is also much more affordable than the fees associated with courtroom proceedings. While divorce and family law issues are often heated and tragic, it is my goal to keep both parties calm and rational so they can come to an agreement based on facts and reason, rather than emotion.
Mediators can be used to settle every aspect of a divorce, from child visitation and custody to spousal support, retirement distribution, real and personal property division and so on.
How Does Mediation Work?
Mediation works much differently than litigation. If your divorce case is settled in court, you will participate in a single trial – or a series of hearings – and your case will be resolved by the rulings made by a judge – which means you have no control of the outcome. This is a very expensive undertaking, often requiring the retention of two separate lawyers, and the process is extremely draining and emotional for both parties, as well as any children that are involved. Mediation forms a healthy contrast to the adversarial nature of the courtroom.
Successful mediations are much more affordable than contested litigation procedures, and should allow both parties to feel heard, supported and more in control of the final outcome. In addition to being less stressful and more affordable, mediation has proven to be a more emotionally healthy process for both parties, and especially for the children involved. When handled successfully, mediation can provide a sense of closure that may never be possible in a contentious courtroom battle, where a third-party determines the course of your future.
I have worked as a family law mediator for more than 25 years and it is always my goal to work with both parties equally and fairly, in the hopes that they can find common ground. Together, we can come up with creative solutions to virtually every problem and road block that appears along the way. I always remain objective and will treat both parties with the utmost respect.
Issues that can be resolved using family law mediation include:
- Child Custody and Visitation
- Developing Parenting Plans
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
- Pension and Retirement Account Division
- Identification of Separate Property and Debts
- Division of Community Property Assets
- Division of Community Property Debts
The goal of any mediation process is to ensure that both parties are able to air their concerns and feelings in a supportive and neutral environment so they feel heard and considered. Then, we work to resolve the issues in a manner that promotes integrity, well-being and trust between all parties. Mediation is often the best means of facilitating an amicable divorce and to promote everyone’s best interest – especially the children’s. In many cases, mediation sessions facilitate communication that is not possible without the objective and third-party presence that a legal mediator provides.
Is Mediation For Me?
Good question. Unfortunately, mediation is not for everyone. It is imperative that both parties are willing to work through the mediation process for it to be effective. This means individuals must be willing to plan their future privately, proactively and cooperatively, and they must be open to potential compromises or solutions that may require thinking “outside the box.”
People who choose litigation, rather than mediation, often feel the court will decide in their favor. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the costs of a highly litigated divorce case can run upwards of $50,000. This is money that could be spent on more productive and healthy expenditures such as your children’s college fund, your retirement, or future living expenses. Mediation is usually significantly cheaper than even the most “affordable” of litigation scenarios and leaves both parties’ dignity intact.
What Comes Next?
If you feel mediation is the best step for you and your family, contact the law offices of Gerard A. Falzone for a free consultation. Your mediation process may require as little as one to three meetings, or it may require more depending on your situation. My hourly rate is very reasonable and my billing processes are completely transparent – you will always be apprised of your current charges. We will work as efficiently as possible to minimize the time required to come to a resolution you are both satisfied with.
To begin, the three of us will meet in person to:
- Discuss your mutual goals and concerns.
- Review the documents and pleadings that must be filed with the courts.
- Share information with full disclosure between both parties.
- Negotiate the terms of your divorce agreement, child custody and visitation, child support and spousal support payments and other settlement items.
- Review the finalized agreement and prepare the final documents so they can be filed with the courts.
Does mediation sound like the best choice for you? Please call me at 510-521-9500 or 415-482-7800 to set up a consultation. Our offices are conveniently located for those in Alameda County and Marin County. You can also contact me online.