When it comes to divorce mediation, Santa Rosa-based Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office offers clients skilled assistance.
We believe if you can avoid the courtroom, you and your family will be much better off today and for years to come.
One of the ways you can avoid the courtroom is through use of a skilled mediating family court lawyer.
Santa Rosa divorce and family law mediator Thomas Shields is experienced in helping families achieve outcomes that save clients money and achieve resolution sooner.
We want to help you obtain assistance quickly while the Sonoma County family law court (and/or your attorneys, if applicable) may not be operating at full capacity. Due to the Corona Virus pandemic, the Sonoma County family law court is closed (except for limited emergency circumstances such as domestic violence issues or where a child is in immediate danger). Mediation is a way to work remotely now with our skilled mediator to help resolve Sonoma County custody, visitation, and divorce related issues, particularly during the Corona Virus COVID-19 pandemic. Mediation can be used to resolve your entire divorce or custody matter without the need to go to court.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which you and your spouse, partner, or other parent are brought together with a neutral third-party (mediator). Mediation can be used to solve a single issue or the entire divorce case. The mediator does not represent or advocate for either of you. The mediator cannot give legal advice to either of you.
Instead, the mediator-attorney can provide legal information to both of you. Mediation is usually based on a series of sessions lasting one to three hours each. The sequential sessions prepares both of you to work toward agreement(s) over time rather than pressuring you to come up with a global agreement by the end of one session.
Role of a Mediating Family Court Lawyer: Santa Rosa Divorce and Family Law Mediation Explained
- The mediator helps you and your spouse, partner, or other parent identify the areas of dispute(s);
- The mediator helps you and your spouse, partner, or other parent feel heard;
- The mediator creates a safe atmosphere;
- The mediator helps you and your spouse, partner, or other parent manage emotions;
- The mediator helps balance the power between you and your spouse, partner, or other parent;
- The mediator assists you and your spouse, partner, or other parent in developing options and creative alternatives in order to resolve the dispute(s);
- The mediator helps break through “roadblocks” to settlement;
- The mediator applies appropriate pressure to you and your spouse, partner, or other parent to reach agreements and discusses implementation;
- The mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between you and your spouse, partner, or other parent in order to reach a consensual settlement;
- The mediator and Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office can prepare certain legal documents, if you and your spouse, partner, or other parent wish.
You and your spouse, partner, or other parent cannot be forced to accept a particular decision in mediation. Participating in mediation does not affect you and your spouse, partner, or other parent’s right to a Court hearing.
You and/or your spouse, partner, or other parent are free to hire your own attorneys, if desired. The attorneys are welcome to attend mediation sessions as long as each spouse, partner, or other parent and mediator consent in advance.
Some people in mediation hire a consulting attorney who acts as a coach through the divorce process.
When using the mediation services of a mediating family court lawyer, Santa Rosa/Sonoma County clients are encouraged to review any agreements made in mediation with their own attorney before finalizing them.
Benefits of Mediation:
- You and your spouse, partner, or other parent control the mediation process;
- You and your spouse, partner, or other parent get to choose your mediator (and can fire your mediator at any time);
- You and your spouse, partner, or other parent save money;
- The mediation process is private;
- You and your spouse, partner, or other parent have reduced conflict (which is better for your children);
- You and your spouse, partner, or other parent learn more effective communication and parenting skills;
- The mediation process is faster than traditional divorce/family law dispute resolution methods;
- The solutions are generated by you and your spouse, partner, or other parent yourselves;
- You and your spouse, partner, or other parent’s lives are better!
Mediation Versus Sonoma County Court Litigation
Courts, lawyers, and state law control the litigation process. You and your spouse, partner, or other parent have little, if any, ‘say’ in when, where, or how court hearings will be held.
In mediation, you and your spouse, partner, or other parent can schedule appointments of your choice and can formulate your own processes outside the confines of state law.
You and your spouse, partner, or other parent have no choice in the Judge assigned to your case. The Judge may be newly assigned to family law with little experience in sensitive family law matters.
The Judge may have their own feelings (good or bad) about you and/or your case. It is very difficult to remove a Judge from your matter once assigned. In mediation, if you and/or your spouse, partner, or other parent is unhappy with the mediator, either of you may immediately terminate the relationship with the mediator.
In litigation, the Judge makes all of the decisions for you and your spouse, partner, or other parent and your family which may affect your family for years. This Judge may or may not hold the same values and beliefs that you and your spouse, partner, or other parent do. The Judge does not know you or your family.
The Judge is basing important decisions about your family on very limited (and perhaps skewed) facts and has limited time to make such critical decisions for your family. The Judge is limited to making decisions within the parameters of the California Family Law Code. In mediation, you and your spouse, partner, or other parent make your own decisions based on your own needs, values, and beliefs.
You and your spouse, partner, or other parent are not limited to making decisions solely based on what the Family Law Code dictates. When you and your spouse, partner, or other parent are determining your own agreements, you are each much more likely to adhere to your agreements than to orders made by a stranger.
Without a Mediating Family Court Lawyer, Santa Rosa Clients Can Expect…
You may be in for expensive litigation! Assuming each of you has an attorney, you are paying for all communications by you to attorney, then attorney back to you, then attorney to your spouse, partner, or other parent’s attorney (and back). Then your spouse, partner, or other parent is paying for the same lengthy process of communicating. Mediation can cut out this expensive “middle-man” process of communicating.
Further, much time is spent by you, your spouse, partner, or other parent and your attorneys preparing for court. This includes the “Discovery” process, where each of you compels the other to provide certain information. This can be quite expensive, especially if one of you is uncooperative or if there are depositions. Then, time spent in court–whether actually litigating or just waiting perhaps hours for your hearing to be held is billed hourly by both of your attorneys.
Meanwhile, you, your spouse, partner, or other parent may be missing work and losing wages. Also, the expense of litigation can easily be amplified if one or both of you have an attorney who is not settlement-minded. Some attorneys are far from settlement-minded!
Court hearings are typically open to the public. There are often dozens of other parties waiting in the courtroom for their hearing while your hearing is being held.
Documents and agreements made through litigation are typically filed with the Court and are public record. This means you, your spouse, partner, or other parent’s friends, neighbors, church, potential employers, and even your children can access documents of the most personal nature contained in your court record for years.
In mediation, all communications are confidential (with some very limited exceptions) unless both of you consent to disclosure. Agreements made in mediation can be made confidential outside of public record should both of you request it.
In litigation, you, your spouse, partner, or other parent and attorneys typically have a “win-lose” attitude. This inevitably leads to competition and conflict between you, your spouse, partner, or other parent. Mediation seeks to avoid this attitude and conflict by teaching both of you better communication and negotiation skills so that you can make the best decisions yourselves. This reduced conflict and enhanced communication benefits you, your spouse, partner, or other parent and your children for years to come.
Litigation can drag on for years! This is due to many factors ranging from congested Court calendars, uncooperative parties, or obstinate attorneys. To get a hearing, you must first file documents with the Court (which takes time and usually filing fees) and then must provide your spouse, partner, or other parent with sufficient legal notice before a hearing can even be held (which takes more time).
Hearings are often continued to a later date for varying reasons. Mediation can be started immediately without waiting for an available date on the Court’s crowded calendar. Santa Rosa mediation can be scheduled as often as you, your spouse, partner, or other parent wish until agreements are made. This is especially important for your cusotdy, support, and divorce issues while the Sonoma County family law court is closed due to the Corona Virus COVID-19 pandemic!
Mediation May be Right for You and/or Your Spouse If:
- Neither of you are hiding assets;
- You both can agree to provide access to documentation;
- There is low risk that either of you will try to take advantage of the other;
- There is no history of violence, abuse, high conflict or litigation;
- You both can understand math, budgets, financial, and parenting issues;
- You both have a history of cooperation and successful problem solving;
- You both are capable and willing to communicate;
- You both have a high desire to reach a settlement;
- You are willing to make a limited investment to reduce the risk of contested litigation;
- If either of you have attorneys, your attorneys are supportive of mediation.
How Much Does Divorce Mediation / Santa Rosa Family Law Mediation Cost?
There are many variables that may affect the cost of mediation. These variables include the complexity of the legal and financial issues, as well as the emotional and negotiation chemistry of you, your spouse, partner, or other parent.
Besides time in mediation, it takes additional time outside of mediation for the drafting of summary letters, phone/email/written correspondence with the parties, and legal document preparation (if requested). We are happy to provide you with our mediator-attorney and paralegals’ current hourly rate by phone, email, or by submitting our contact form.
At Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office, we believe so strongly in the benefits to our clients in mediation over traditional litigation, we generally require a retainer of less than $2,500 should you decide to hire us for on-going mediation services after your first appointment. We hope this will encourage you to mediate in Santa Rosa rather than litigate.
Our mediation retainer is much less than we require for a non-mediated matter (and is substantially lower than most other local attorney-mediators’ retainers). Our Sonoma County mediator, Thomas Shields, will discuss this further during your first appointment and will follow it up in writing in a fee agreement should you wish to retain us.
Who Pays for the Santa Rosa Mediator?
In Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office‘s mediation fee agreement, you, your spouse, partner, or other parent must state how you wish to allocate the fees and costs of your mediation. Some people agree to split the fees and costs equally.
Others agree that only one of you will bear the fees and costs. Some agree to bill all fees and costs to one particular credit card and then later determine who will be responsible for that debt through the mediation negotiation process.
Some people agree to allocate the fees and costs depending on their respective incomes (i.e. one of you pays 30%, the other pays 70%). You decide, which is what mediation is all about!
Still on the Fence About Mediation?
Talk to your friends or family about their experience in family law court, if they’ve been through it.
Once open, go to the Sonoma County family law courthouse and observe the traditional litigation system first-hand. Notice all of the attorneys and parties in the hallway before court. Hear and feel the tension, emotions, and stress of these parties at the courthouse. Sit in on the hearings. Listen to the adversarial nature of the communications between the attorneys and the parties.
See how little time the Judge has to hear each case crammed onto their busy schedule. Notice how little opportunity the parties have to speak with the Judge or even each other. After witnessing this, we believe that you will understand and appreciate the benefits and value that Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office can offer you through our Santa Rosa mediation services.
Are You Ready to Get Started With Mediation?
At Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office, we ask that both you, your spouse, partner, or other parent be willing and able to meet together via video-conference (or phone) with our Santa Rosa mediator-attorney before either of you contacts our office CLICK HERE to schedule your first appointment.
We suggest that you share this web page with your other party. Kindly ask them to review it and let you know if they are agreeable to scheduling a mediation appointment and decide how you will allocate the fees.
Once you have both agreed to schedule a consultation, please contact us. Of course, if your spouse, partner, or other parent is unwilling to consider family law or divorce mediation, Santa Rosa-based attorneys in our firm can help you with any of our other services. This applies as long as we have not consulted with your spouse, partner, or other parent already.
If it is impractical to call together to schedule the first appointment, you should decide who will contact our office to schedule it. Please determine the best days and time frames for scheduling for each of you (and any dates in the near future when either is unavailable) before contacting us.
Please be ready to provide us with your spouse, partner, or other parent contact information including their e-mail address, if applicable. We will contact them to provide them with the appointment information once it is made. Please let us know whether they prefer us to contact them by phone or by e-mail.
At the first mediation appointment, both of you will simultaneously meet by video or phone with our Santa Rosa mediator-attorney, Thomas Shields, to discuss the mediation process and begin exploring the issues in order to work toward reaching agreements.
Should you decide during your first appointment to retain Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office for on-going mediation, we will provide a fee agreement for both of you to review, sign, and take care of the financial arrangements and schedule your next mediation session.
If you think you can benefit from family law or divorce mediation, Santa Rosa-based Wine Country Family Law & Bankruptcy Office serves clients in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Windsor, Guerneville, Cotati, and surrounding communities.
Please check out our client reviews to see for yourself what our clients have to say about us. It’s our commitment to providing high quality legal services in a friendly manner that sets us apart from the pack! Read our post regarding using mediation in Santa Rosa custody during Coronavirus!