NCRC: National Conflict Resolution Center


Divorce Mediation FAQs

What happens during divorce mediation?
Mediation sessions are informal but structured discussions guided by the mediator. Both parties are given the opportunity to speak without interruption, describing their view of the marriage and the issues arising out of its dissolution. The mediator structures the discussions to help clarify the issues and move toward an agreement, called a Marital Settlement Agreement. The National Conflict Resolution Center recommends that the parties separately consult with attorneys of their choice for legal advice regarding any issues addressed at the mediation.

Can this service be used for unmarried couples or domestic partners?
Yes. Unmarried couples without children use NCRC’s services to resolve asset and debt division. Couples with children are able to resolve parenting, time-sharing, and child support issues, as well. Domestic partners may have additional legal considerations. The mediator can prepare all legal documents in these cases.

What are the advantages of divorce mediation?
Mediation provides a unique opportunity to develop mutually acceptable outcomes tailored to the individual clients

It is convenient, cost effective, less stressful, informal, confidential, and non-adversarial.

Mediation sessions are arranged at mutually convenient times at sites throughout the County.

What types of issues can be addressed in divorce mediation?
Issues that are important to the parties can be addressed, including: scheduling time with the children, spousal support, child support, property division, and financial issues.

What should I bring to divorce mediation?
It is not necessary to bring anything to the first meeting. During the first informational meeting the mediator will work with the parties to determine what information will be needed for further sessions, such as personal assets and debt information, property descriptions, etc.

Must the divorce be filed in court before the mediation?
No. The mediation of issues related to a divorce may take place before or after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed in court. Since divorce is a formal legal process which affects legal, financial and parenting rights, only a judge may order the final terms of a divorce. However, California law allows divorcing parties to negotiate most of these terms themselves, subject to the final approval of the court.

Will the mediators prepare legal documents?
Yes. If the parties agree, the mediators will prepare or assist in the preparation and filing of documents required by the court. The mediators will not provide legal advice, but will provide legal information. The agreement reached in the mediation is called a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) and can be filed by the mediator.

Who are the mediators?
All NCRC divorce mediators are experienced family law attorneys with more than 30 hours of mediation training. NCRC staff provides supervision and continuing education. Clients may request a specific mediator from the panel listing or ask NCRC to make a selection for them.

How much does a mediated divorce cost?
NCRC charges a one-time administrative fee of $175 per person payable at the first session.

NCRC charges $300 per hour for the time spent in the mediation session. A mediation session usually takes approximately two hours. Most divorce mediations are completed in 2 to 5 sessions. Payment is due at the end of each session. Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

The fee for preparing the Summons, Petition, Response, Stipulation re Participation in Mediation, and other forms necessary to initiate the divorce is $350.

The fee for the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is generally between $1500 and $3500, depending on the complexity of the document, as determined by the Mediator. When you have reached an agreement and the mediator is ready to draft the MSA, he or she will determine and quote the "MSA fee." This fee is due before the mediator begins to draft the MSA. The MSA fee also includes preparation of the final required forms called "the Judgment Package."

Court fees are paid directly to the court as follows:
$395.00 when the Petition for Dissolution is filed.
$395.00 when the Response is filed.
$20.00 when the Stipulation and Order re: Mediation is filed
We require a credit card guarantee of the mediation time. Nothing is charged on the card unless an appointment is missed or not cancelled with at least 48 business hours notice.

How long does it take to schedule divorce mediation?
After both parties agree to participate in mediation, the first session can be scheduled within two weeks.

Do both spouses have to agree to mediate before calling the National Conflict Resolution Center?
No. If either party is interested in mediation, our staff will contact the other party to discuss our services. However, both parties do not have to agree to the divorce to benefit from the mediation process. If one partner is reluctant to proceed with the divorce at this time, the initial agenda may be to establish interim agreements for a trial separation and a time frame to reconvene to further evaluate the proposed dissolution.

Do both spouses have to agree to divorce in order to benefit from mediation?
No. NCRC’s divorce mediators also work with couples that have not yet decided whether they will separate or divorce. They provide the parties with current, relevant legal information applicable to their individual circumstances including division of property, spousal and child support, and issues about children. They discuss a broad range of options and alternatives that help the parties make a decision. Interim agreements or trial separations can also be discussed.

Do parties need to hire their own attorneys?
Parties may choose to obtain legal, financial and other advice at any time in the mediation process. All parties are strongly encouraged to obtain a review of the MSA or the stipulated order by independent legal counsel prior to signing the MSA or the order. Attorneys are welcome to attend the mediation sessions to advise and counsel their clients with prior agreement of both spouses.

What is the role of the divorce mediator?
The role of the divorce mediator is to conduct a process which assists the parties in reaching mutually acceptable solutions, provide relevant legal information, help parties communicate productively on difficult issues, assist in generating options for resolving problems between parties, assist in crafting terms of an agreement which is consistent with the principles of justice and fairness, and draft the MSA and file necessary documents.

It should be noted that the NCRC Divorce Mediator will provide both parties with current, relevant legal information outlining the law applicable to their individual circumstances. The mediator will not advise the clients or make judgments on their behalf as to appropriate choices among those discussed during mediation. The mediator cannot provide legal advice to either party, because the mediator does not represent either one. The divorcing couple has control over any agreement made in the mediation process.

What is the best time to begin divorce mediation?
Parties considering using divorce mediation may elect to initiate mediation before, or after filing a Petition for Dissolution.

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