Are the agreements reached in mediation binding?

Will they be accepted by the court?

Attorney Hamid NaraghiYes. Once you and your spouse reach an agreement through our mediation process, we will put that agreement into the legal format that will make it acceptable to the court. This properly formatted marital settlement agreement is just as binding as one made by a family law judge.

Is using a Private Judge more expensive than going through the court system?

Attorney William E. WoodcockSurprisingly, working with a private judge to resolve your issues and finalize your divorce can be relatively inexpensive; keeping costs in the neighborhood of hundreds dollars as opposed to the thousands of dollars. It really depends on your personal situation and whether your purpose for using a private judge is to speed up the processing of your documents with the courts, or whether you need the private judge to hold hearings and trials. Please contact Divorce Helpline and we can consult with you to give specific price information.

How Do I Prepare for Mediation?

Attorney Hamid NaraghiIt depends. If you have specific issues that you need to address in mediation such as spousal support or child custody, we will advise you on the documents you should bring with you. If you are mediating other issues related to finances, you will want to gather any documentation related to your assets, debts and personal finances. We can discuss with you ahead of time what items may be beneficial to bring to your mediation session.

Do I have to have a QDRO if my spouse and I are splitting a pension or retirement account?

Attorney Allison HardinIf a pension or retirement account is being divided or reallocated in a divorce, then yes, you need a QDRO. However, Divorce Helpline attorneys can help people avoid QDROs through other channels. One example would be a buyout of the account by one party or an exchange of one asset for another. If someone has an IRA and a 401K, it may be possible to do an IRA to IRA transfer incident to the divorce, thereby avoiding the need for a QDRO.

Can using a private judge keep my divorce documents confidential?

Attorney William E. WoodcockMaybe. In some cases, using a private judge may allow you to keep information about your divorce agreement out of the public record, including the details of who got what, who has custody of the children, who is paying support and how much, etc. With more courts progressing to digital records that can be searched online, the idea of public records with the details of divorce agreements being easily accessible is a growing concern.

Whether your agreement can be kept out of the public record depends in large part on the county in which your divorce is filed (not necessarily where you currently live) and whether or not that jurisdiction allows for certain divorce documents to remain private. We have helped many people, including celebrities, keep the details of a divorce private by strategically selecting the court in which they file for divorce. If you are at all interested in this option, consult with an attorney at Divorce Helpline to find out if options are available to you.

How Many Mediation Sessions Are Needed to Complete a Divorce?

Attorney Hamid NaraghiThis depends entirely on each couples’ situation. When we discuss your individual case with you prior to mediation, we can give you an idea of how many sessions may be needed. It’s possible that you may not need mediation at all. Generally, most of our clients are able to settle their issues so that we can prepare a settlement agreement within one or two mediation sessions.

Can a consultation help me decide if a divorce is a good idea?

Attorney William E. WoodcockOnly you can decide if you should or should not get divorced. Needless to say, that is not a decision that should be taken lightly. But it is extremely important to go to the right person for the right help. On the emotional decision as to whether your marriage is over, you should speak to anyone who can help, whether that is a friend, family member, clergy, family therapist, etc. To the extent that knowing your legal rights, obligations and options may help you decide whether or when you should move forward with a divorce, a consultation with a Divorce Helpline attorney can help you understand and weigh all of your options.

The team at Divorce Helpline is skilled, knowledgeable and experienced in all phases of the divorce or legal separation process, and we can provide some clear information that may make it easier for you to make a decision. At Divorce Helpline, we are completely neutral—our job is not to sway you in one direction or another. We are here simply to provide you with knowledge. A consultation is always a good first step, whether you ultimately decide to divorce or not. It is an inexpensive way to consider your options, and far less expensive than going directly to a litigating attorney. You can pay as you go, minute by minute, if you choose. We’re here to help you as much, or as little, as you need.

If my same-sex spouse and I live outside of California, can you help us get a legal divorce?

Attorney Allison HardinYes. If you and your spouse live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, we may be able to help you obtain a divorce in California. In order to be eligible for a California divorce, you will have to meet one of these criteria: you were married in California, but now live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage; or, your marriage or domestic partnership was established in California or another state, and either you or your partner live in California; or, your domestic partnership was established in California and you now live elsewhere.

Can a private judge shorten the time it takes to get a divorce?

Attorney Hamid NaraghiYes and no. Every divorce in California is subject to the “6-month rule” as required by law. This cannot be reduced by a private judge. However, using a private judge can help to significantly reduce the amount of time that it takes to get a divorce finalized after the 6 months have passed. Using the private judge option can be also be extremely valuable in providing predictability and control over when your divorce will be final!

The “6-month rule” means that under California law, your divorce cannot be finalized, and you cannot be returned to the status of a single person, until a minimum of six months and one day have passed from the time your spouse is either served with a Petition and Summons, or the service requirement is otherwise met (speak to a Divorce Helpline attorney about how to avoid personal service of documents. In an amicable divorce setting, this is often recommended). However, because of the strain on the court system in California and the budget issues which have only worsened that strain, it can often take much longer to navigate a divorce through the courts, sometimes as much as one year from the time an agreement is reached and your final documents are submitted to the court for final approval. Using a private judge allows you to bypass the majority of the processing of paperwork with the courts and waiting for a judge of the Superior Court to get around to your file, which can reduce this timeframe to about one month. Knowing and controlling when your divorce is final is desired by many people, especially for those who would benefit by having their divorce final by the end of any given calendar year.

A private judge can also help you resolve issues and provide a legally binding decision that will be filed with the court. This can be done in a matter of days or weeks, not months or years.

The private judge option can be a valuable one, but it’s not necessary for all situations. If you are at all curious about whether your situation would benefit from this option, contact Divorce Helpline for a no obligation evaluation by one of our attorneys.