Mediation is a conflict resolution process in which two or more parties involved in a dispute meet with a neutral third-party mediator to discuss the issues and attempt to reach a voluntary agreement. The process is nonadversarial and informal but structured.
Any dispute in the civil arena has issues that can be mediated. Typical mediations deal with issues about business, real estate, the workplace, neighborhoods, landlords, homeowner associations, families, personal injury or public policy. There may or may not be legal action pending in the case.
The mediator facilitates dialogue between the parties to help them develop their own resolution to their issues and concerns. Agreements are reached by mutual consent of all parties. Mediators do not take sides, impose decisions or give legal advice.
Cases reach mediation in a variety of ways. Cases may be self-referred by anyone who is involved in the dispute or by the counsel of any party. Cases also are referred by courts, law enforcement, elected officials and public agencies.
The cost of mediation depends upon the type of case and how it is referred to the National Conflict Resolution Center. Parties usually split the fees unless other arrangements have been made. VISA and MasterCard are accepted.
The participants in mediation are the actual parties involved in the dispute. There may be only two parties, or there may be a large group of 20 or more. It is not necessary to bring witnesses. If attorneys have been retained, they are encouraged to attend the mediation to advise their clients.
Participants should have full authority to settle the case at the mediation session.
NCRC must be advised, before the mediation, of all parties who will attend.
Mediators work directly with the disputing parties who should be prepared to explain in their own words the nature of the dispute. Attorneys are encouraged to attend to advise their clients, clarify legal issues and help with crafting any agreements.
Parties should bring any documents or materials that would be helpful in communicating issues and concerns to each other and to the mediator. Mediation is not a formal legal proceeding, so there is no need to establish official evidence for the record.
Yes. Everyone present at the mediation signs a confidentiality statement before the mediation begins, acknowledging that the mediation is governed by California Evidence Code sections 1115-1128. This statute provides that statements made during a mediation are confidential and inadmissible against another party in any subsequent noncriminal proceeding. Also, mediators are not available to testify as to what was said during mediation.
The parties can include a written statement that the agreement is binding and/or admissible in any subsequent civil proceeding. The National Conflict Resolution Center has no enforcement powers and does not participate in overseeing the performance of any agreement.
Mediations can be scheduled in as little as one week following the initial contact with the National Conflict Resolution Center, depending upon the availability of parties and mediators. A mediation session can last anywhere from two hours to a full day, depending on the case. All participants attend the full session, although there are typically several breaks and opportunities for private meetings with the mediator and/or with counsel. Most mediations are resolved in one meeting, but subsequent sessions can be scheduled by mutual agreement at the close of each session.
Contact the National Conflict Resolution Center. A case coordinator will assist you in the scheduling of your mediation.
Divorce Mediation FAQs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 that 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.
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.
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.
- One-time administrative fee: $200 per person ($100 per person for post-divorce cases)
- Sessions: $350 per hour ($375/HR. for Judge Finlay) — usually two to five sessions for approximately two hours each
- Form preparation: $350 — includes summons, petition, response and other necessary forms
- Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA): $2,000–$4,000, depending on the complexity of the document, as determined by the mediator, and includes preparation of the final required forms called "the Judgment Package"
- Petition for Dissolution: $435 at filing
- Response: $435 at filing
- Additional orders: $20
We require a credit card guarantee for the mediation time. Nothing is charged on the card unless an appointment is missed or not cancelled with at least 48 business hours’ notice. Visa, MasterCard and Discover are accepted.
After both parties agree to participate in mediation, the first session can be scheduled within two weeks.
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.
No. NCRC’s divorce mediators also work with couples who 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.
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.
The mediator assists the parties in reaching mutually acceptable solutions, provides relevant legal information, helps parties communicate productively on difficult issues, assists in generating resolution options, crafts terms of an agreement which are consistent with the principles of justice and fairness, drafts the MSA and files necessary documents.
It should be noted that the NCRC divorce mediator provides both parties with current, relevant legal information outlining the law applicable to their individual circumstances. The mediator will neither advise the clients nor 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.
Parties considering divorce mediation may elect to initiate mediation before or after filing a Petition for Dissolution.