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Using mediation to negotiate a divorce settlement

California residents who are negotiating a divorce settlement might want to explore options beyond litigation, since litigation can be financially costly, emotionally exhaustive and drawn out. One of the options available to couples is mediation.

During mediation, an impartial mediator assists with the resolution of the negotiations between the ex-spouses, promoting open dialogue and guiding the parties to find solutions that lead to fair, balanced settlements. Mediation normally has three guiding goals: to decrease the hostility that might exist after the divorce is finalized and the settlement is accepted, avoiding the high financial and emotional costs of the litigation process and producing a mediation agreement that is fair and legally sound.

Couples can choose mediation voluntarily or they might be ordered by the court to undergo the process. The mediation process can be used for divorce settlements as well as child support and custody settlements. In fact, most custody settlements are now being done through mediation, unless there are extenuating circumstances that might prevent it, such as a history of child abuse. While not the best option for all cases, most cases do end up in the mediation process. After a mediator is hired, the ex-spouses meet with the mediator together, and in some cases alone, and talk about their options as they work towards a resolution. While mediation doesn't always work, if it is successful, there is no record of the very confidential meeting sessions except for a legally drafted mediation settlement document that can be enforced like any other legally binding contract.

When mediation is not successful, the ex-spouses might pursue other options, including litigation. In either case, a person might choose to seek the advice of a family law lawyer who can provide more information about local legislation. The lawyer might also provide guidance about the options available to the couple as they navigate the sensitive issues related to divorce.

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