Agreeing or deciding to mediate your divorce is a step toward a more peaceful and amicable process. However, it is important to understand what the process entails before you make any decisions about whether it is right for you.

Below, we explain the basic aspects of mediation as well as what you can expect from your sessions.

The setting

Mediation sessions take place in a non-courtroom setting. Often, divorcing spouses and the mediator will meet in a conference room or office. Attorneys, counselors and other professionals may also be present.

At each session — there will typically be at least a few sessions — the parties will tackle various divorce-related matters.

The mediator

While spouses will ultimately be in control of the resolutions, mediators are facilitators trained in effective mediation tactics. Their specific approaches can vary, but most mediators will focus on keeping conversations balanced and productive. They remain neutral throughout the process and typically will not make decisions or provide any legal advice, though they can offer information and creative alternatives.

The discussions

At the first session, participants will discuss background and expectations with the mediator. Throughout the remaining sessions, parties will discuss all relevant divorce-related issues. These include child custody, support and property division. The exact schedule or agenda will depend on the specific requests and circumstances of the divorcing spouses.

The resolutions

When parties reach a consensus in mediation, the mediator will draft the agreement reflecting their decisions. Parties and their attorneys will review the agreement and sign it. Upon approval by the courts, the agreement becomes binding. If parties do not reach an agreement on an issue, it moves to the courts for a decision.

Collaborative divorce

Similar to mediation, collaborative divorce is another amicable option. It is a process in which a divorcing couple, together with trained professionals, work as a team to resolve issues respectfully, without going to court.

This information reflects the basic elements and process of mediation in California. Understand that every case is different, and there may be elements of your mediation experience that differ from other individual’s experience. To better understand your specific situation and what to expect as you go through mediation or a collaborative divorce, you can discuss the details with your attorney.