• (925) 750-7795
  • 5890 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 105,
    Pleasanton, CA 94588
Q1 - When should I contact an estate planning attorney?

The short answer is now. However, we know you are busy and have lots of items on your to-do list. So we recommend that you schedule a meeting with an estate planning attorney if you own a home, have gotten married or divorced, if you are planning a vacation and don’t have a recent estate plan in place, if you have a child, if you have been diagnosed with a  terminal illness, or if you have not spoken to your estate planning attorney in 3 years or more.

Q2 - If we mediate our case, do we have to go to court?

In California, it is possible to mediate your entire divorce without setting foot in a court room. In order, however, to have your marital status changed and to have your agreements turned into a judgment that will be enforced by the court, your paperwork must go through court and be signed by a bench officer (judge or commissioner).

Q3 - Will the mediator decide issues for us if we cannot agree?

No. A mediator is a neutral party who does not have the authority to make decisions for you. Arbitrators and judges make decisions. If you are not able to reach an agreement, you can ask the mediator for a recommendation. If the recommendation does not resolve your issue or help you reach an agreement, you have the option of taking that issue to court for a judge to decide or taking the entire case to court for a judge to decide.

Before running off to court, I recommend passing on an issue and working on others. After the other issues have been resolved, we can return to the one causing us trouble and see if an agreeable solution to the problem can be found. Often, working out all of the other issues makes the remaining one that’s more difficult, less daunting to tackle. You have gained some trust in the process and in your own ability to resolve problems through negotiation and compromise.

Q4 - Do we need to hire attorneys if we chose to mediate our divorce?

Hiring an attorney is never required in a divorce matter, but it is always encouraged. For mediation, you are strongly encouraged to hire a consulting attorney. A consulting attorney is a resource who enables you to seek advice between mediation sessions and for reviewing any agreements that we reach in mediation before you sign off on the agreement.

Consulting attorneys are great for helping you to prepare paperwork that the mediator cannot prepare.

Having a consulting attorney will also strengthen the likelihood of your Divorce Judgment being upheld if at some future date the other spouse changes his or her mind about the terms of the agreement.

Q5 - Who Completes the Divorce Paperwork?

Divorces include a lot of paperwork that can be broken into three stages: initiating the divorce, disclosing financial information, and a Stipulated Judgment, which makes your agreements into court orders. Who prepares this paperwork really depends on who you select as your mediator.

The term mediator is very broad. It allows for a variety of persons to fill the role without any requirement to have specific training in divorce law. Divorce mediators will often be attorneys or counselors, however, not always. If your mediator is an attorney, she or he can fill out much of the paperwork that you will need for your divorce. If your mediator is not an attorney, you are going to need someone else to do the paperwork. This can be one of the parties’ consulting attorneys or a paralegal. The parties could even do it themselves, however, that is not advised.

Even if you have a mediator who will complete paperwork for you, it is unlikely that the mediator will complete the financial disclosure paperwork that must be done. Personally, when I mediate cases, I provide that paperwork with some basic instructions for completing it; however, leave it to the client to fill in the information with or without the help of an attorney of their choosing. I do this to avoid creating a conflict of interest since the financial disclosures involve characterizing the property that the parties have, which is a form of legal advice. I cannot give legal advice to both parties and if I gave legal advice to one party, I would no longer be able to act as a neutral mediator.

Q6 - How does the mediator help us reach agreements?

Certified mediators are trained in a number of negotiation and facilitation tools which are aimed at helping the parties feel heard and understood. Once the mediator knows what is important to each party, we ask questions and make suggestions that will assist the parties to find an agreement that is consistent with each party’s values and desires.

Q7 - Won’t I get more if I go to court?

Not likely. For one, the law requires Judges to divide property and debt equally. In mediation, you can divide property and debt however you wish. Money spent paying attorneys to fight is money you could be using to put your kids through college, to pay down a mortgage so one of you can keep the former family home, or money that could be used to support the spouses.

Q8 - How much do you charge?

The cost of our fees varies by service. Mediation services are offered at an hourly rate of $350.00 per hour or for a flat fee. Divorce Mediations typically cost between $3,500.00 and $8,500.00.

Family Law,  Trust Administration, and Litigation services are offered at an hourly rate of $350.00. We employ evergreen retainers that typically range between $3000.00 and $10,000.00. An evergreen retainer must be replenished each month until the last month. Your final bill is paid from your retainer. Hourly retainers are refundable. Meaning if you do not use the entire retainer, the balance is refunded to you at the end of your case.

Estate Planning services are offered at a flat fee. Estate plans typically cost between $600.00 and $3600.00 depending on the complexity of the planning and the number of parties involved.

Probate services are regulated by statute and therefore our fee is set by the law.

In addition to our fees, you may incur costs for court filing fees, process server fees, expert witness fees, and other expenses related to a legal process.

Q9 - Does it matter how soon we start our Divorce Mediation?

Most definitely yes. Divorce Mediation should not be put off. The longer you wait to get the process moving the harder it is to finish once you do get started. One of the biggest obstacles is collecting financial information from the past. Another obstacle parties who wait too long to get started face is trying to trace assets to figure out where the community’s share ended and where the parties’ separate assets begin.

Stalling on going to divorce mediation also increases the chances that the other party will start the process in court and no one wants that.

Divorce is big and scary, but it is also manageable and inevitable if you marriage is irremediably broken. Together we conquer the obstacles, save you money and stress, and help you navigate the future. And when you are done, you will be glad you didn’t wait another day because closure helps us to heal.

Q10 - Which communities do you serve?

Our office is located in Pleasanton. We serve clients throughout the Bay Area, but find that most of our clients come from the Tri-Valley (Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore) Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Danville, Alameda, Castro Valley, San Leandro, Hayward, and Fremont. All of these cities are a reasonable driving distance to our office.