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Avoid the Turbulent Waters of Divorce Through Mediation

How is a divorce like a journey through turbulent waters? Imagine that you and your spouse are about to undertake a river rafting trip, and are faced with deciding between two methods of travel.

In the competitive method, each of you will have his/her own boat and own guide. During the trip, you will fight over who gets most or all of the provisions, and incidentally or deliberately, will attempt to damage the other's boat.

In the mediation method, both will be in one boat with one guide. Provisions will be divided by negotiation, and no one will attempt to damage the boat. At the outset, the spouses and the guide all agree in writing to make a continuing good faith effort to work together to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Divorce court is like the competitive boat's method. Each spouse has his/her own attorney who spends a lot of time fighting with the other attorney and getting ready for a trial. Just before the time for the trial, in almost all cases, the two sides "settle on the courthouse steps." Along the way, there has been little or no planning for the future, and no attempt to determine the real issues dividing the spouses. The time and money spent fighting and preparing for the trial-that-didn't-happen has been largely wasted. Naturally, the last minute "settlement" often proves to be unsatisfactory to both spouses. Also, after all the legal squabbling, the spouses are very likely to be more antagonistic toward each other than they were at the start of the divorce.

Mediation is like the one-boat method. All issues are decided by negotiation, not by conflict. The mediator assists the spouses to talk directly [not through an attorney] on all issues. Instead of fighting about who should get more assets, money, or time with children, the spouses identify underlying issues and negotiate to reach mutually acceptable agreements.

The resulting Marital Settlement Agreement takes into account the highest priorities of both spouses and of their children. And, unlike in divorce court, the spouses have a good chance of preserving relatively amicable relations between themselves and in-laws. Most importantly, damage to children can be minimized if not avoided completely.


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In a summary dissolution, a hearing with the judge is typically not needed. A marriage of five years or less may be ended by summary dissolution, which is a simplified procedure to terminate a marriage in the state of California. With a summary dissolution, a joint petition is filed when 1) either spouse meets the standard residency requirement, 2) the marriage is irretrievably broken down due to irreconcilable differences, 3) the marriage is childless, 4) the wife is not pregnant, 5) neither spouse owns real estate, 6) there are no unpaid debts greater than $4,000, 7) the total value of community property is less than $25,000, 8) neither spouse has separate property (excluding cars and loans) of greater than $25,000, 9) the spouses have reached an agreement regarding the division and distributions of assets and liabilities, 10) both waive their rights to maintenance and appeal; 11) both have read a brochure about summary dissolution and 12) both desire to end the marriage.
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