Mediation is a useful tool when used properly. It can be used to resolve every issue in your case, or only a few limited issues. Also, a mediation of sorts is required in every custody matter brought before a San Diego County court. This mandatory mediation is free and held by the counselors at Family Court Services where only the issues of custody and visitation will be addressed. This type of mediation usually results in the counselor drafting a recommendation to the Judge as to how he or she should rule on the issues of custody and visitation. Obviously you want to be well prepared for such a meeting.
If you choose private mediation, you and your spouse will meet with a neutral third party who will help you resolve your custody, property and support issues. The goal is to obtain a legally binding, stipulated Judgment of Dissolution. You will make your decisions in a private setting. Unlike a judicial officer, the mediator does not make decisions for you. Instead, he or she will help you explore alternatives. The aim is for you and your spouse to reach solutions tailored to the specific needs and wishes of you and your family.
You should, however, hire a consulting attorney to advise you during the process and review the final agreement. Or, you may choose to have an attorney accompany you to your mediation sessions. Or, if your spouse appears to be hiding important information, you may need an attorney to conduct formal discovery (to request information or take a deposition, for example). This is unusual in mediation but can be done with an agreement from you and your spouse.
Working through divorce issues with a trained mediator may help you and your spouse better handle family and parenting issues in the years to come. In addition, you may prefer hammering out your own solutions in private mediation rather than going to court. Your attorney will make sure you do not sacrifice too much in terms of results and ensure that you fully understand your final Settlement.