“MEDIATION: A kinder, gentler way to separate.”
WHAT IS MEDIATION?
Mediation is creative and courageous way to resolve conflicts. Mediation involves hiring a neutral third party to discuss solutions – eventually leading to an agreement which would work for you and your partner – your family.
- You are in control – NOT the lawyers, Judges, or evaluators, or anyone else. Every lawyer’s retainer agreement contains a “Disclaimer of Guarantee”. No lawyer can guarantee you what will happen in your case. You are simply not in control in the courtroom. The outcome depends on the Judges, the attorneys, the evaluators – all of their past experiences and biases. Basically, the outcome depends on circumstances beyond your control. In stark contrast, in mediation, YOU and YOUR SPOUSE make the decisions regarding your life. You can take charge of your family, and your future. You can still have an attorney (I always advise this!), but you can choose to use your attorney as much or as little as you want.
- It’s confidential. Documents filed with the court are public record. Anyone (your children, your in-laws, your neighbors) with a case number can access your legal documents and peep into your personal business. In stark contrast, everything in mediation is protected and never to be shared. Unless you two agree to the documents being filed, and what the documents say, everything else discussed is private. Why do you think the smartest of celebrities elect mediation?
- You get to tell your story. I’ve been a divorce lawyer for almost 20 years. You know what is the single worst feeling for everyone? Being alone: Not being heard. Not being understood. Living alone in fear and in doubt. Some people will FIGHT for the right to tell their story in court. But guess what? This is not reality. The reality is that our courts are clogged. You want the Judge to hear your story? You have to file a motion and your hearing date will be set 2-3 months later. Once you get to Court, you are vying for the Judge’s time – Judge has 20 – 55 matters on calendar. The reality is, you get very little time to tell your story in Court. (maybe 15 minutes max). Mediation, on the other hand – is all about you and your partner. You are in the room with your partner and the mediator. You can book 1 session of 3 hours, or 6 hours, or 10 3-hour sessions. It can go as fast or as slow as you want. This is truth: Many people leave the Court feeling robbed of Due Process. On the other hand, people who leave mediation (even if it doesn’t settle that day), leave feeling a bit “lighter” – having been able to tell people what’s on their mind.
- Mediation is cheaper than litigation. BY A LOT. As a litigator, my favorite quote to my clients is this: “Marriage is grand! Divorce… a hundred grand.” It is not unusual for a divorce to cost over $100,000 (not exaggerated). With each party hiring an attorney (Certified Family Law Specialist fees range from $500 – $1,500 per HOUR, with typical $10,000 – $50,000 replenishable retainers), the costs of litigation greatly exceed mediation. The costs of a mediator ($500 per hour) are shared between the parties. In mediation involving complicated issues, the parties may choose to hire Mental Health Professionals, Financial Experts, or a Parenting Plan Coordinator to aid them in the process. In addition, I always advise parties to consult with attorneys. Yet, even with all these added helpers, mediation still costs a lot less than litigation. My mediation fees are listed here.
- Mediation is a better way to handle conflict. How many times has a litigant came up to me and said, “I am SO glad we spent all this time fighting in court!” None. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. The general consensus is that you go to Court only when absolutely necessary. In 90% of cases, mediation IS an option. This is true even in the bitterest of cases, or when you and your spouse are barely talking. Conflict is natural. In a divorce, it’s inevitable. I believe that conflict should be resolved at all possible using mediation. Court should be the last resort.
- If you have children, MEDIATION is always better than LITIGATION. Studies after studies have shown how conflict negatively impacts children. I highly encourage the documentary “Split” by Ellen Bruno. In this film, the filmmaker interviewed several children of divorcing parents. Their testimonies will break your heart. I have a copy in my Client Library. I invite you to arrive an hour early to your consultation to view. You and your partner have made wonderful children. Why leave your parenting plan to be created by child custody evaluators, therapists, attorneys, and a Judge? Consider Mediation.
- Mediation can heal you. I understand that sometimes, there simply is no choice, and court is unavoidable. Remember though, litigation may get you temporary “results”, however, it does not heal you. Even if you “win” one hearing or trial, the win is temporary because bitterness continues. More often than not, divorcing parties thrown into the court system end up worse than where they started – mentally, emotionally, and financially. Your divorce does not need to be handled that way. Time heals all wounds. Mediation, if done right, is a more time-efficient process to reach resolution. Mediation, if done right, heals.
- Commitment to Action. Studies after studies have shown that often, people ordered to do something will be less likely to commit to doing it. Child support orders often need garnishments. Contempt actions are common in litigation. In mediation, when you reach an agreement, it’s something you both can commit to. It may not be easy to reach an agreement. It may take many sessions. We may need help from other professionals. But it’s worth it.
IS KELLY THE RIGHT MEDIATOR FOR ME?
Every mediator has their own style. Our purpose is to enable you and your partner to reach your own agreements regarding your children, finances, and property. It is important that both of you trust me to do this job; to remain neutral at all times. This is why I offer a free 1/2 hour Orientation. You do not have to spend a dime until you are absolutely sure that I am a good fit for your case.
I am both a “facilitative” and “evaluative” mediator. I am trained to aid in resolving conflict. With the permission of both parties, I may make suggestions and recommendations based on my experience.
I have been a family lawyer for almost 20 years. I have been a Certified Family Law Specialist since 2008. I have a strong background in litigation. I know first-hand what happens in Family Court. I have seen the inside and outside of that courtroom. More often than not, I have “won” in court. However, the rewards of winning the courtroom do not compensate for the years lost, and the money spent. Many litigants simply do not have the financial resources to fund a trial. I have seen too much sadness and anger. I am a believer in purpose. Just because you are going through a divorce does not mean you have to put your life on hold until this ugly thing ends. Amidst the struggles is the beauty of healing and a new life.
I have experience mediating disputes. In law school, I trained with the San Diego Mediation Center. I was a volunteer mediation for the San Diego Superior Court, mediating small claims disputes for 3 years. In addition, I was one of the first mediators for SquareTrade, a online dispute resolution company. In fact, I participated in the launch of online dispute resolution services, mediating thousands of conflicts arising out of eBay transactions.
I have also trained intensively under Forrest Mosten, a pioneer divorce mediator and teacher in 2005, and again in September 2015. I am currently a Daily Settlement Officer in the Los Angeles County Family Court, where I volunteer as mediator for family law cases.
After almost 20 years of litigation, my heart goes out to the many brave souls whose paths have crossed mine during their times of need. I hope that I can truly help everyone who comes to see me. Not every case is right for mediation. But then again, not every case is right for litigation. If you have a choice, I would advise you to give mediation a try. You always have a choice. Choose wisely.
Kelly Chang Rickert