Divorce Continuum

Divorce Resolution Continuum

By Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, copyright 2003

The decision to divorce is followed by a number of choices for how a case might be filed and later resolved. Some of the steps are a loop, and others may be mixed and matched, but the general continuum, from least confrontational to most confrontational, is:

Decision to Divorce

• No response: spouse ignores petition, or is missing = proceed by Default

• Kitchen Table discussion on how to resolve case, do-it-yourself papers

• See a lawyer, get an idea of rights, then resolve around the Kitchen Table and DIY

• Use a paralegal or one lawyer to draft the papers, no individual representation

• Individual representation with lawyer for one party only who helps parties settle informally, without court


• Mediation with lawyers involved, to a more or lesser degree

• Streamlined Collaborative Divorce

• Collaborative Divorce

• Start litigation

• Litigation at first but ultimately settle

• Litigation at first, but use Private Judge or Arbitrator for final decision

• Litigation and Trial

Know your choices. Litigation attorneys have a reputation for determining the total amount of your net assets, dividing by their hourly rate, and then that’s how long your case takes. Some cases cannot avoid litigation, but understand the toll and the cost. https://www.peace-talks.com/compare.php

Creating a Good Divorce

I know. It’s an oxymoron–nobody wants a divorce to begin with, so how could a divorce be good? There are a lot of ways to make the best of the situation when you’re faced with a divorce.

I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 22 years, and expert on what works best for both parties when you’re getting divorced. As a divorcee myself, I perfected a personal “what works” that helps people navigate the often rough waters of divorce.


When you’re faced with a divorce or other family law case (custody, support, domestic partnership, cohabitation), you have the maximum opportunity for success in resolving everything to the best benefits through mediation.

This might sound somewhat self-interested, since I’m a full time family law mediator….but I became a mediator after giving up a very high paying divorce lawyer job because I felt it was more important to be part of the solution, and not encourage the fighting that often characterizes divorce. I traded my fancy car for a 2002 Honda Accord, and 11 years later it’s still fulfilling helping families through this difficult life transition of divorce.

Diana Mercer, Mediator

Here’s how it works:

In mediation, you and your spouse or partner work with a neutral, unbiased professional. This is more often a lawyer, a therapist trained in mediation, or someone with both legal and counseling expertise. The job of the mediator in your family law case is to help you settle your differences, from cars and furniture to parenting plans for children, financial support and sharing of retirement accounts.

When considering a family law or divorce mediator, look around. Mediator styles vary. Ask your prospective mediator if a free orientation or initial consultation is available. Take time to decide what type of mediator might work best for your personal circumstances. This is an intensely personal process, so you should seek a personal connection with your chosen mediator. Find a mediator anywhere in the United States on www.mediate.com (search by area code).

A mediator’s style might include:

* Making suggestions

* Informing you about legal provisions

* Relating what others have done in your situation

* Defining your options

* Helping you consider alternative ways to resolve your problem

* Facilitating communication

* Ensuring the divorce discussion is balanced, productive, and respectful

* Writing down agreements in a cogent, easy-to-follow way

* Guiding you through court paperwork (or doing it for you)

* Mentoring your staying on task and finishing discussions, because when discussions grow difficult, it’s tempting to just change the subject.

Not all mediators do all these things, so use this list as your own list of questions when considering a mediator in a divorce proceeding.


TopTips for Choosing your Divorce Mediation Attorney

Choosing the right mediator is important.

You’re going to be talking with your mediator about everything you care anything about in the entire world: Your future, your kids, your home, your job…..and so you want to choose someone you feel comfortable with.

Mediators are all trained in basically the same way, but each person has a different way that they practice. So ask if they have a free mediation orientation (or if they charge just to meet them) and do a little research. Click on the link above for our mediation orientation outline and information.

When you talk with the mediator and the office staff, how are you treated? Are they patient and do they answer your questions? Or is it just an answering service without any information and they are slow getting back to you?

divorce mediation

Are they generous with resources and do they encourage self-help? The “really useful free stuff” below includes an interactive divorce mission statement you can do in just a minute or two, an interactive divorce journal you can download for free, and worksheets and checklists to get you organized and started. They were written by Peace Talks Mediation Services founder, Diana Mercer, as a supplement to her most recent book, Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life.


Need a mediator but you’re not in Los Angeles? Mediate.com lets you search for a mediator by your telephone area code.

My colleague Fern Topas Salka came up with a good interview list:

Questions to Ask a Mediator

If you are interviewing a mediator ask these questions:
1. Why did you become a mediator?
2. What do you see as your goal for a mediation?
3. What kind of commitment do you need form us to agree to mediate?
4. Will you want to meet separately with us? If so, why? And if so, would you hold secrets?
5. How familiar are you with Family Law?
6. Will you tell us how you think a court would decide our case?
7. How important is the law to you in mediation?
8. How would you deal with stalemates?
9. How do you feel about our using consultants, including consulting lawyers?
10. Would you talk directly to our lawyers?
11. How do you see your role in our communication with each other?
12. What is the place of our feelings in this process?
13. How do you feel about our talking to each other about our conflicts outside the mediation office?
14. What mediation training have you undertaken?
15. How much mediating experience do you have?
16. What is your fee? Can you estimate the total cost for my cases, or give me an average cost for cases like mine?
17. Do you require a retainer?

That’s a lot of questions! But feel free to ask the ones that are important to you. How your mediator answers questions like these will give you a good idea of how he or she will answer your questions during your actual mediation session.


Divorce That Works


If you’re reading this, you’re probably not in such a good place right now.  However it happens, realizing that your marriage doesn’t make you happy and that something has to change is a tough spot.  You might be early on in the process.  Or maybe you’re not looking forward to doing battle with your ex, each of you armed with lawyers. We’re here to tell you that there is an alternative – Divorce Mediation.

If you’re new to the idea of mediation, or friendly divorce, it may seem like an idea for an improbable family film, but in practice it provides the opportunity for you to and your spouse to come out of your divorce with your dignity and sanity intact.  You have lots of life left.  You want to be able to move on to what’s next. 

Divorce doesn’t have to leave your family life in tatters and you in a worse place than before you were married.  Divorce mediation offers an avenue to end your marriage and strengthen your own life.  You wouldn’t be looking for divorce options if everything was rosy.  Living in the day-to-day of a bad marriage is no one’s idea of fun and happiness.  You yearn for something better.  You deserve something better.  You’ve likely heard more bad divorce stories than you have good divorce stories.  How is a good divorce even possible?  At Peace Talks Mediation here in Los Angeles, that’s mostly what we see.  Good divorces.  Good divorces for both parties. 

Your divorce is pedescribe the imagermanent.  The legal process may conclude with signed and witnessed documents.  But your divorce, whether or not you remarry, continues well after the ink is dry.  Marriage changed your life.  Divorce will too.  The details will differ depending on whether you asked for the divorce or if it’s your spouse’s decision, but the impact will affect the both of your lives and most importantly, the lives of your children.

It is up to you to determine what that impact will be.  In fact, you can have a good deal of control about how your divorce goes.  If you want the divorce, you are looking forward to the day when your next chapter begins.  If divorce is not your decision, you’d like to know more about what went wrong and look forward to better days.  Either way, you’re probably feeling that mix of fear and excitement that accompany most major life decisions.  And divorce certainly fits into the major life decision category.

If you’re looking for options to the adversarial approach to divorce, an option to fighting it out in the courts, you’re not alone.  Peaceful divorce sounds like an oxymoron but it’s worked for many, many people.  Are you really looking forward to an ongoing, potentially bitter battle with your spouse?  It’s enough that the marriage is over.  You don’t need to suffer the additional emotional bruising that often comes with that approach.  You can come out of all this more prepared for the rest of your life.

Divorce mediation is truly a learning process. What you’ll learn about you and your spouse, as well as the whys and hows of how you got you here, will affect every aspect of your divorce.  Money and property division.  Your kids.  Your extended family.  And what happens next.  The insight and peacemaking skills you’ll learn from the mediation process will stay with you the rest of your life.

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Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.