California has its own personality with divorce. One of only 9 states that follows Community Property law, California seems intent on doing things its own way.
But a divorce in California doesn’t need to be complicated. At least not the legal part.
Mediation provides a way for couples to get divorced in a respectful, thoughtful and informed way without “giving away the farm.”
Because California community property law is so simple: everything is 50/50 from the date of the marriage until the date of separation (assets, debts, everything), the complex part becomes all about the exceptions to the very simple rule. And there are plenty of exceptions.
What I like about mediation, at least mediation with an attorney-mediator, is that you can talk about the rules and the exceptions, and the laws and case law that supports each side in a very open way. When we have these legal discussions at Peace Talks, if it’s something clear-cut under the law, we can give people a copy of the law, or a handout that explains.
If it’s something more complicated, I can say, “If I was husband’s attorney, this is what I would argue, and here’s the law that supports his position,” and then, in the same breath, “If I was wife’s attorney, this is what I would argue, and here’s the law that supports her position.”
Once everyone has heard both sides, we can then talk about what seems fair.
The problem with going to only 1 attorney, individually, is that you’d just hear the argument that favored your side, while your spouse would be in another attorney’s office hearing the argument that favors the other side. See the issue?
I’m convinced that when people have the information, time, and support that they need to make a good decision, that they will make a good decision. And that’s what mediation is all about.
Sometimes I hear criticism of mediation, like that a participant is feeling like the mediator is taking sides, or that their position isn’t being heard. Speak up! Part of a mediator’s job is to make sure you don’t feel that way, but sometimes it’s not clear from the discussion that someone is uncomfortable. Bring it up! It’s really important to the process, and your mediator WANTS to hear that you feel like the mediation isn’t working. It’s much easier to fix that problem in the session, while you’re there with the mediator, than afterwards.
If you do speak up and your mediator gets defensive, then maybe it’s time to switch mediators. It’s the mediator’s job to hear everyone’s side and where they’re coming from, even if the mediator doesn’t personally agree. After all, it’s about the clients and participants, not about the mediator.
Want to learn more about mediation? Check out these resources, or schedule an appointment with a Peace Talks Mediator: