Yes, there are other options. You don’t have to go directly to court if divorce mediation doesn’t work out.
There is very little downside to divorce mediation, even if you don’t reach a mutual agreement. Divorce mediation is a voluntary and confidential process, and it usually becomes clear early in the process if the mediation is not progressing. You don’t waive your right to go to trial by participating in divorce mediation. If you can’t reach a mutual agreement in mediation, you can proceed through the regular court procedure, or you might choose other options.
One option you may choose is to arbitrate your case. Another option is to use the Collaborative Divorce process. California recently adopted a statutory framework for Collaborative Divorce, in which both parties have attorneys, but the attorneys file a joint stipulation that they will work collaboratively and not go to court. If the case has to go to court, the collaborative attorneys withdraw from the case. Typically, in addition to the attorneys for each side, there are a financial expert, sometimes a therapist, consultant, or coach; an advocate for the children; and perhaps a mediator.
John C. Juarez is a professional, full-time mediator with Pamela Britton White Mediation Services.