Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between “Mediation” and “Collaboration”?
The main difference between Mediation and Collaboration is the role of the professional(s). Mediation requires you and your spouse/partner to directly negotiate with each other. As the mediator, I act as an impartial facilitator to the negotiations. A “facilitator” in this context means a guide. Since I am an attorney, I may offer a general statement about California family law. But as a neutral, I never offer legal advice and never advance one party’s interests over the other party’s interests.
In Collaboration, there are attorneys for each party. There is no mediator. But, like mediation, the parties directly negotiate for their own interests. The attorneys act as guides in this process, but they are not impartial and may therefore give individual advice to their clients.
Both Mediation and Collaboration have – as their central core principles – that the parties are best served by negotiating with each other in good faith and staying out of court.
What do I do if my spouse/partner files court papers?
If your spouse/partner files court papers, you can either hire a litigation attorney to represent you, or you can represent yourself. If you choose to represent yourself, you may still want help preparing the paperwork or getting ready for the hearing. I do not offer representation at the hearing itself. But, I can help you prepare the responsive documents and offer you legal advice regarding the issues. I can also help you negotiate a settlement if your spouse/partner wants to cooperate on an agreement.
What if my spouse/partner and I are already in agreement about the issues?
If you have an agreement, or even a partial agreement, I can help you put those terms down in the formal legal documents that a court requires. In addition to the agreement itself, California law requires you to complete detailed financial disclosure documents. I can help with some or all of these documents, or if you have the time to do the paperwork yourself, I can review it and make sure it is done correctly.
We are committed to staying out of court, but we don’t know whether Mediation or Collaboration is better for us. What do we do?
Please contact me. I offer a free initial consultation for exactly this purpose – to go over the process choices. We also discuss what California law requires of you regardless of which process you choose.
What is covered in the free initial consultation?
I offer up to one hour of free initial consulting time to get to know each other. This consultation is designed to give you basic process options and some understanding of what California law requires. We discuss my fees and services and I learn more about your particular situation. If you are interested in Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, both parties should attend the informational session. If you need individual services, you will attend alone.
What do you mean by “good faith negotiation”?
A good faith negotiation is one without coercion or manipulation. It also means that the parties commit to complete transparency of all financial aspects. That means that the parties disclose all income, expenses, assets and debts to each other. Each party is given the opportunity to review these disclosures, ask questions, and request further documentation.
What is a consulting attorney and am I required to have one?
If you are working with me as your mediator, I will recommend that you also consult with an attorney. Because mediators are impartial and cannot advise you on your individual best interests, you may find it useful to meet with a consulting attorney to review documents, discuss tentative agreements, and have a more in-depth discussion of your legal rights and obligations. Clients often express to me that they feel that their final agreements are better informed if they have taken this step.
What is the role of the law in Mediation? Will you tell us how a Judge would rule in our situation?
I do discuss California law in general terms with my mediation clients. I want clients to feel that their final agreements are well-informed, and California law offers one part of that information. But the law does not dictate the outcome of your mediation or the content of your final agreements. I encourage my mediation clients to be creative in crafting an agreement that resonates with their own sense of fairness and integrity, as long as both parties’ needs are met by the agreement. Besides, I would not presume to say how a Judge might rule in your case because the law is not usually so concrete in its application. One of the main reasons why people argue in court-based proceedings is because two reasonable and intelligent people can argue for a different outcome on the same set of facts.