Divorce mediation Newport Beach is a great way for couples located in the said area to move forward and come to agreements about their divorce—without needing to deal with the expense and inconvenience.

However, mediation itself isn’t a legal process. How do you move forward and find answers to legal questions without guidance from the court?

Here are the basics for getting started with divorce mediation Newport Beach, and when you might need a lawyer involved in the mediation process.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Divorce mediation is an informal way for couples to discuss their divorce and make important decisions about how to divide up property, provide financial support, and more.

One of the main advantages of mediation is that it is confidential. That means that no matter what you and your spouse discuss—from money to personal issues, none of it will be a matter of public record.

By contrast, court records are usually public and can reveal the details of your financial situation and marriage. The publicity and inconvenience of going through a court process are unappealing to some couples. Mediation gives you freedom and flexibility instead of a one-size-fits-all answer.

Your mediator will guide you through all the most important questions you need to answer about finances, custody, and more. Some mediators have areas of expertise in finance, law, or elsewhere. 

Is Divorce Mediation Legally Binding?

Divorce mediation allows you to move outside the legal system. It frees you from the red tape and backlog of work found in courthouses. It also requires you to make some difficult decisions yourself, instead of having them made by a judge.

The mediation process itself isn’t governed by the courts, and it gives you more freedom to reach answers that make sense for you and your family. You don’t need to report the conversations you have during mediation, or the specifics of your finances.

While mediation isn’t a legal process, the desired end result is a written statement detailing the agreement between you and your spouse. This statement is filed alongside the rest of your divorce paperwork and serves an important purpose.

It works as a legal document explaining your agreement. This statement provides a legal record of how each person should conduct themselves after the divorce, with regards to custody, alimony, child support, and any other issues.

This written settlement agreement is legally binding, so you should be sure it reflects the best possible outcome for your divorce. If you want more assurance that it is legally sound and filed correctly, you can get confirmation or advice from a lawyer.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Divorce Mediation?

After you’ve gone through a mediation session and settled some issues with your spouse, you may be wondering if a lawyer is necessary. This really depends on your mediator and the company you use for this service.

Some mediators are in fact attorneys, so they can help you every step of the way through your divorce, from filling out paperwork to drafting your agreement and finally, filing it in the courthouse. If your mediator is also a lawyer, he or she can write the final version of this agreement for you.

Other mediators can only walk you through the negotiation and discussion process. Instead of drafting your final written agreement, they will leave you with a memorandum of understanding that contains the details of your agreement, and you can have it turned into a formal legal document by a lawyer.

You may want to have your own lawyer assess the final document before filing it, to ensure that it is fair and represents your interests. You’ll need a lawyer’s expertise to decode the legal language and ensure that there aren’t any surprises.

The bottom line is, a lawyer must be involved at some point. If your mediator is also an attorney, you may not have to bring another lawyer in, which streamlines the process.

What Is a Divorce Settlement Agreement?

A divorce settlement agreement is a formal written document that contains all the agreements you reached during mediation. Since mediation is informal and confidential, this document is an essential record of your agreement.

It should cover issues such as child custody, division of property and debts, alimony, and so on. Once you and your spouse have signed and filed this document, it is on record and you must both follow the agreement.

If one of you does not follow it, you could potentially be found in contempt of court. Your former spouse will be compelled to provide whatever they owe, whether it’s parenting time or support payments.

However, that’s the most extreme possibility, and it will require documentation of violations and time in court.

The two of you may change your agreement and have a verbal commitment to follow another plan instead of the one filed in court. The original document still stands unless you modify it, however, this means that you will be held accountable for the original terms you agreed upon.

Can You Modify a Settlement?

If you have already filed a settlement with the court, but want to change it, that’s a situation where a lawyer can be helpful. Mediation can help you settle the terms of your new agreement, just as it did the original.

The modification will be called a Modification Agreement, and it will require a new court order. You can modify agreements regarding finances or property as long as both of you agree to them.

The wording of your original agreement will affect whether or not you can change the original agreement on things like alimony.

To change the terms of child custody, visitation, or support, you’ll need to demonstrate a change in circumstances that demonstrates a reason for the modification. The reason could be a significant move, the need for more child support due to different circumstances, or another major event.

Choose a Reliable Divorce Mediator for Your Needs

When you modify a settlement, you’ll want to get help from a lawyer to assess the document and make sure it is phrased correctly. 

We have expert attorneys, mediators, and accountants, all experienced in family law. If you want help from a team of divorce mediation specialists Costa Mesa, contact us at Divorce Mediation of California today.