What happens after we reach an agreement in mediation?
An agreement in mediation occurs after a series of meetings in which you and your spouse have provided full disclosure of your assets, debts, and income, and have collaborated with your mediator to divide your marital property and set forth solutions for child and spousal support ( if those are at issue). Once this happens, your mediator (usually an attorney) will prepare all the court required paperwork. This will include completing the court forms, writing the Marital Settlement Agreement or Stipulation for Judgment, and perhaps preparing an Inter-spousal Transfer Deed and Preliminary Change of Ownership Form for the county in which you live, in order to the transfer the family home to one of the spouses as separate property. Your mediator may also compose letters on your behalf in order to roll-over IRA accounts from one spouse to another or prepare Qualified Domestic Relations Orders to divide Pensions or help you complete forms to Roll-Over portions of a 401 K Plan to an Individual Retirement Account in the name of the other spouse.
All the documents and letters should be prepared in draft by your mediator for you to review with a consulting attorney to make sure that the agreement is fair and that you are very comfortable signing the documents. Your mediator, even if he/she is an attorney acts as a neutral to help you understand your rights and obligations under the law, however, he/she must not be your individual advocate. The mediator is neutral and has a duty to help you both get a fair agreement under the laws of your state. And your mediator has an ethical duty to advise you to review your financial agreements with an accountant to clarify any tax issues and an independent attorney to review the issues with you to make sure you are protected. You are not required to get a final review with another attorney, but your mediator is required under rule of professional conduct to advise you to get independent advice before signing your final dissolution paperwork.
Then, when all concerns are satisfied, the mediator will prepare all the forms in final- you will not need to physically go to court ever. The mediator will file all the appropriate documents on your behalf and provide you copies of all the paperwork for your file. You won’t have to see a judge, sit on a witness stand, or air anything in public.
Your marital settlement agreement and certain forms must be filed with the court, but you won’t have to appear. If you have an attorney/mediator who is especially concerned about protecting your privacy, you may file a public marital settlement agreement as to critical non- financial issues (but you must provide certain financial information for support), and prepare and sign a private stipulation/ marital settlement as to all your financial assets and debts distribution to protect your privacy. Once you reach an agreement in mediation it will be a relief, and you will avoid the costs and stress of a litigated battle. Reaching agreement will give you peace of mind and help heal the hurts from past. What a relief!
Mari Frank is a divorce attorney who practices divorce mediation in Laguna Niguel (Orange County), CA. She has been featured on numerous national television shows including 48 Hours, Dateline, NBC Nightly News, and The O’Reilly Factor and in newspapers across the nation including the L.A. Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.