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), 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.
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 Factorand in newspapers across the nation including the L.A. Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.