INFORMATION FOR CLIENTS OF PACIFIC COAST MEDIATION

WHAT IS DIVORCE MEDIATION?

Mediation is an informal yet structured process for handling your divorce in which the parties involved voluntarily meet with trained and impartial mediators to resolve their dispute.

CO-MEDIATION

Pacific Coast Mediation co-mediates all divorce, pre-marital, separation, marital and post- divorce mediation. That means you will receive a female and male mediator to support you in this process. We have found the team approach allows for more efficient use of time in session, allows for balance at the table, and having a male and female mediator eliminates the potential bias or perceived bias of one gender and provides for more professionals working together to benefit the clients.  All our attorney mediators are licensed attorneys in California. We have also secured a preferential rate for a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) if parties want/need the additional support of these experts.

YOU DECIDE

The mediators do not decide the outcome, but help the parties reach their own agreement on issues of parenting plan, child support, spousal support, and the division of all property/assets/debts.

PRIVACY
All financial and personal discussions relating to you and your children will be kept private unlike in court where all information becomes public record.
AGREEMENT

An agreement is reached when both parties are satisfied with all of the terms.  You chose to create your family and you should be the decision makers on how you will be restructuring the family; you know your unique needs and relationship better than we do so we will support you, facilitate the conversations on the issues that need to be decided, give you legal information (not legal advice) if needed, draft all the legal documents, file everything and guide the process for you both but we are not the decision makers, you are.

WHAT MAKES PCM UNIQUE?

NO LITIGATION: We only mediate and never litigate at PCM. It is unique to a mediation firm who doesn’t ever litigate and only mediates. This allows our focus to always remain on the communication piece of your divorce.

TEAM MEDIATION: We are one of just a few mediation practices that co-mediates all divorces with both a male and female mediator. Our clients appreciate this unique and balanced perspective.  Having 2 mediators allows for a more efficient use of time as there are two mediators to keep the proposals going, ensure there is balance at the table, one to take notes while other continues the dialogue, two professionals to help brainstorm and provide legal information etc.

NO HIDDEN COSTS:  By offering package structured fees we ensure transparency in our fees.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING DIVORCE MEDIATION?

Mediation sessions are informal but structured discussions facilitated by the mediators.  The mediators structure the discussion to help clarify the issues and move toward an agreement, called a Marital Settlement Agreement. During the intake the mediator will ensure all information has been gathered and everyone is prepared for the mediation.  At the mediation there is an agenda with all items that need to be discussed and agreed on.  Each party will be heard regarding their proposal for the items. PCM focuses on the future so that both parties can start the healing process.

OVERVIEW: THE STAGES OF DIVORCE MEDIATION:

  1. Free consultation
    PCM provides a free 30 minute in person consultation to review the mediation process, discuss what to expect, review cost for your specific divorce, and answer your questions. Both parties must attend the consultation as mediation is a voluntary process and requires both parties to participate.
  2. Intake Appointment
    Both parties will meet jointly with the mediators to prepare for mediation session.
  3. Joint sessions to discuss and resolve issues
    Typically, a series of joint sessions are held at times that are agreed to by both spouses. Issues that need to be resolved for the dissolution to be complete will be identified, discussed, narrowed and resolved by the parties. The total number of sessions needed to resolve all issues will depend on the individual parties. All mediation sessions are scheduled for 2 hours in length so that all parties can plan accordingly.
  4. Develop draft Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA)
    After the parties have reached an agreement on all issues the mediators will draft a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA).
  5. Review MSA
    Both parties are encouraged to submit the MSA draft to an outside attorney for review to ensure they fully understand the agreements they have made regarding all their individual legal rights.
  6. Finalize and file MSA
    The final MSA and Judgment documents are drafted by Pacific Coast Mediation. A final judgment and decree will be entered and recorded after the judge reviews MSA.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF MEDIATION?

Mediation provides a unique opportunity to develop a mutually acceptable outcome that meets the individual needs of the parties.

PRIVATE

You both will meet in our office to discuss all the issues that need to be resolved (not in the public court room). Our legal courier goes to the court house and files the documents for you. Your discussions regarding the issues that are personal and private (such as your money, parenting plan etc.) are simply discussed at the mediation table with the mediators and not in the public arena of the court room.

SAVES MONEY (we are on average 90- 95% less expensive than litigation).

***According to Presiding Family Law Judge Marjorie Steinberg in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, May 4, 2008, if a couple can get a divorce for $100,000 in Los Angeles, Judge Steinberg considers that “pretty cheap.”  Los Angeles’ then-presiding family law judge, Aviva Bobb, from a bar association meeting in September 2002 stated: “By the time we see [divorce] cases in court, most people have spent all their community assets on the divorce itself.”

CONVENIENT

We offer after work appointment options as well if needed. We work at your pace set around your schedule.

TIME EFFICIENT

You determine the pace of the process. In litigation you can only move at the pace of the court’s schedule but in mediation we schedule the sessions at a time that works for everyone and we can be done in a day or take a few sessions to complete, it’s up to the two of you.

INFORMAL

We handle your divorce process in a private and respectful environment. The process of divorce is never easy but we can support you both in crafting an agreement that represents your unique relationship and family while encouraging you to stay future focused.  When children are involved we promote a child-centered decision making process.

NO COURT APPEARANCE NEEDED

You won’t need to appear at the public court house; we will file everything for you.  If you don’t finish the process prior to your first court appearance, we can draft and file a stipulation to postpone your next court date for 6 months while you finish up in mediation.

LESS STRESS

We take care of all the drafting and filing of the legal documents from the initial court documents to the final MSA and judgment documents. You do not have to spend the emotional time and energy on figure out the forms or going to court.

WHAT ISSUES CAN BE RESOLVED IN MEDIATION?

There are required issues that need to resolve in a divorce and also issues that are important to the parties including:

  • Parenting plan (time children will spend with the parents)
  • Spousal support
  • Child support
  • Property division (real estate, household items, cars etc)
  • Financial issues
  • Dating guidelines (in regards to the children) that the spouses would like to address for future
  • How spouses will communicate with each other

WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO MEDIATION?

You do not need to bring anything to the free consultation. If the two of you decide mediation is the process you want to use for your divorce and we are the right fit for you then your case manager will work with you both in getting your mediation scheduled, get the documents needed to you and ensure you are both prepared prior to your session.  The more prepared the parties are for the mediation sessions the quicker (and less expensive) the divorce mediation will be!

DOES THE DIVORCE NEED TO BE FILED IN COURT BEFORE THE MEDIATION IS STARTED?

No. The attorney mediators at PCM can file the petition, response, summons, and UCCJEA for both parties. Mediation can begin at any time during the divorce process.  Some clients come to PCM when first discussing divorce and PCM works with the parties from the beginning to the end of the divorce and takes care of all paperwork. Some clients come to PCM after attending their first court ordered appearance and both parties agree they want to make the agreements themselves and avoid going to court for the judge to decide for them. California law allows for divorcing parties to negotiate most of the terms of their divorce for themselves, subject to the final approval of the court.

WILL PACIFIC COAST MEDIATION PREPARE OR ASSIST IN PREPARING THE LEGAL DOCUMENTS?

Yes. The attorney mediators will prepare or assist in the preparation and filing of documents required by the court. The mediators will NOT provide legal advice, but will provide general legal information. The attorney mediators can prepare and file the initial court documents along with the MSA and judgment documents.

HOW MUCH DOES A MEDIATED DIVORCE COST?

There is a one-time administrative fee of $250 per person.  This administrative fee is to open up a case file at PCM.  Each party will pay $250 when the parties are ready to open up a case file with PCM and begin the process.  This is not part of the mediation support or package but is strictly an administrative fee to open a case file and the preparation work needed prior to your intake session.

With PCM there are no hidden fees and no retainers.  Most Attorneys require up front retainers (most family law attorneys have retainers between $5,000-$10,000 so each party would be required to hire their own separate attorney and pay their retainer) and their fees are expensive and highly unpredictable as your case could drag out for months or years depending on the court. Our PCM package includes a team approach with a male and female mediator.  All our attorney mediators are licensed attorneys in California.  We have found the team approach allows for more efficient use of time in session, allows for balance at the table, and having a male and female mediator eliminates the potential bias or perceived bias and provides for more professionals working together to benefit the clients. We offer a package price structure that captures all the communication that is normally charged as billable hours; i.e. scheduling, phone calls, photocopies, emails as well as legal drafting time.  We want to encourage ongoing communication to support you both throughout this process without the fear of receiving additional billable hours for every question/email/phone call about the process. The package doesn’t include mediation time.  Every case is different and in order to customize the amount of actual session time needed clients just pay for the actual mediation time they use.

Our fees are structured per person as mediation requires both parties to participate; some clients choose to have one party pay all mediation fees, some with each pay their half and some will have one party pay the fees and the other party’s half will be compensated in the overall equalization in the division of assets/debts.

Our PCM package includes all or whatever is needed of the below (note mediation sessions are not included in package as those are hourly for any time actually used by clients).  PCM package is $1950 per person (total of $3900) if parties have minor children.  If parties have no minor children it is $1750 per person (total of $3500) as there is less legal drafting needed.  The package fee is paid at the end of the intake session:

  • Case management for your file at PCM (emails, scheduling, phone calls, faxes, photo copies, billing/invoicing, postage).  Please note that all communication regarding substance MUST be discussed in mediation session.  Emails and phone calls are for procedural questions only.
  • 1 hour joint intake session with both parties and the mediators.  This is a preparation session prior to the mediation to ensure your time in mediation is used most efficiently.  All disclosures and supporting documents will be reviewed and collected at this session.
  • Drafting and filing of all initial court documents (petition, response, summons, UCCJEA if minor children). These are the documents which open a court case
  • Legal Courier service fee for the filing of all court documents
  • Signing session
  • Notary
  • Mediation summary notes after your session if needed
  • First and Final draft of Marital Settlement Agreement (typically about a 25-50 page legal document that outlines all agreements of the divorce) or a Memorandum of Understanding if applicable
  • Filing of the Marital Settlement Agreement with the courts
  • Drafting of all judgment documents
  • Filing of all judgment documents with the courts on your behalf

Mediation sessions are hourly rate of $162.50 per person (total of $325) for team mediation.  Parties simply pay for mediation time they need at the end of each session.  Whether it is 1 hour to 6 hours parties pay at the end of the session for the actual time they need with their mediation team.  We will reserve 2 hour time slot for each mediation and parties pay for the actual time used on the half hour.
Even though PCM philosophy is a team approach we recognize this approach may not be right for all clients so we do offer one mediator if that is the right fit for a client.  Should clients decide the team approach is not the right fit for them we do offer one attorney mediator at hourly rate of $147.50 per person (total of $295).

PCM offers specialists if needed/wanted:  PCM’s philosophy is to provide a team approach and we have secured a preferential rate for a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and/or Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) for parties who may want/need this additional level of support/expertise in their mediation session. If you want/need the expertise of a CFP to help with the division of assets, debts, pensions, stock, RSU etc. it’s an hourly rate of $100 per party. The CFP will prepare for your mediation by reviewing your financial documents and will come prepared with an equalization tool to help clients visualize and discuss their proposals and options.  The CFP requires 1 hour of preparation and then it is hourly for any time needed by the clients. Our MFT can help clients understand different parenting plan options that may be appropriate based on their child(ren) age.  Our MFT is also at the preferential hourly rate of $100 per party.

Our PCM Post divorce or Prenuptial package includes all or whatever is needed of the below (note mediation sessions are not included in package as those are hourly for any time actually used by clients).  PCM Post and Prenuptial package is $525 per person (total of $1050).   The package fee is paid at the end of the mediation session:

  • Case management for your file at PCM (emails, scheduling, phone calls, faxes, photo copies, billing/invoicing, postage).  Please note that all communication regarding substance MUST be discussed in mediation session.  Emails and phone calls are for procedural questions only.
    Drafting and filing of a stipulation.
  • Legal Courier service fee for the filing of all court documents
  • Signing session
  • Notary, if needed
  • Mediation summary notes after your session if needed
  • Court filing fee for the stipulation

There are no refunds when your matter resolves in less than the hours you paid for in your mediation package. You are paying for the package of services and supports and are
responsible for the full package fee regardless of if you choose to end the mediation process for any reason at any time. This is not a retainer or billable hours, therefore your package fee is
not refundable. The package fee will be paid in full at the first mediation session.  Cash, check or credit cards are accepted.

We do have a 48 hour cancellation policy.  We hold that reserved date and time for your appointment and can’t offer it to any other client so we do require 48 hour notice for cancelling or rescheduling. If you do not cancel or reschedule within 48 hours prior to your appointment you will be charged for 1 (one) hour of both mediators time for a total of $325 (Three Hundred Twenty-Five Dollars).

The courts charge to file for divorce. This fee is completely separate from PCM and is a fee directly from the courts. This fee must be paid with a check made payable to The Clerk of Superior Court. The court’s filing fees are paid separately to the court as follows:

  • $435 when the Petition is filed
  • $435 when the Response is filed
  • $20 when the Stipulation and Order re: Mediation is filed (when needed)

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SCHEDULE MEDIATION?

After both parties agree they want to use mediation for their process the first session can be scheduled within a week or so. We offer afternoon and evening appointments to try and meet the needs of our clients who need appointment times for after work.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS ONCE WE FINISH MEDIATION?

After all agreements have been made we will draft your MSA and judgment documents.  Our attorney mediators draft all required legal documents. We will then file the MSA and judgment documents for you.  After your MSA has been filed with the courts there are many tasks that both parties will then need to get completed. These tasks can be anything from removing one party off title of a car, changing maiden name at social security office, restructuring trust and/or wills etc. Everyone has items that will need to be done after the MSA is signed, notarized and filed and those tasks are dependent on your particular situation and assets/debts/property.

DO BOTH SPOUSES HAVE TO AGREE TO MEDIATE BEFORE CALLING PACIFIC COAST MEDIATION?

No. If either party is interested in divorce then we recommend starting the conversation with the other spouse by using this FAQ as a talking point. However, both spouses do have to agree to mediation as their choice for the divorce (instead of litigation which doesn’t require both to be in agreement) in order to proceed.

DO PARTIES NEED TO HIRE THEIR OWN ATTORNEYS?

No, you may choose to obtain legal, financial or other advice at any time in the mediation process. All parties are encouraged to obtain just a review of the MSA once it is drafted prior to signing if they want/need additional clarification regarding the legal document.  The parties
can take the MSA to an attorney on a consultation basis. We can help prepare some possible questions for your attorney consultation in order to make the best use of your time. If you use PCM for your divorce we will do all the drafting and filing of legal documents!

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE MEDIATORS?

The role of the mediators is to:

  • Facilitate a process that assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable solution
  • Help parties communicate productively on difficult issues in order to stay future focused
  • Help in generating options/brainstorming possibilities for resolving issues between the parties
  • Ensure that the mediation process stays balanced and both parties get to discuss their wants and needs from their perspective
  • Assist in crafting terms of the MSA agreement that is consistent with the principles of justice and fairness
  • Assist both parties in staying child-centered in their decision making.

Pacific Coast Mediation will provide both parties with current, relevant legal INFORMATION regarding divorce in California but will not ADVISE the clients or make judgments on their behalf about what they should do with the legal information. The difference between providing legal information verse legal advice is that our attorney mediators can tell parties what the law says but not how they should use that information for their benefit because the
mediator does NOT represent either party. The spouses have control over all agreements made in the mediation process.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO START THE DIVORCE MEDIATION PROCESS?

Parties considering using divorce mediation instead of litigating their divorce in the courts may choose to start the mediation before or after filing a Petition for Dissolution.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR TO SCHEDULE YOUR FREE CONSULTATION:

Email: admin@pacificcoastmediation.com or call: 858-750-1634