The Complete California Divorce Mediation Checklist

Mediation offers a more peaceful approach to divorce and saves you from the emotional damage and financial hardships of going to court. Instead of working with divorce lawyers and the court system, mediation allows you to build a positive foundation for both of your futures.

In this article, we’ll discuss this gentler way of going through divorce. We’ll build out a complete California divorce mediation checklist that covers:

  • essential information;
  • setting goals; and
  • finding the right mediator.

What is divorce mediation?

Imagine a path forward that doesn’t feel like a battle — a path forward that is built on mutual respect.

That’s divorce mediation.

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Let’s say two people who have been married for many years decide to divorce.

Their priority is doing what is right by their children, so they choose mediation for an amicable negotiation process and fair outcome. With the guidance of a mediator, they are able to:

  • agree on the child custody schedule and how to divide assets; and
  • step into their new roles of co-parents with hope and peace.

A compassionate, skilled mediator makes the divorce process a conversation. You can shape your future with care — and mediation is your opportunity to do so.

What are the benefits of divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation has many benefits over hiring divorce attorneys and litigating. A few of the benefits are:

  • Protects kids. Divorce itself does not emotionally or psychologically harm children. Rather, it’s the ongoing conflict between parents that is harmful. Mediation keeps your kids at the forefront of every conversation. You can help them adjust to this transition by working together rather than against each other.
  • Less expensive: You can invest in your future, rather than in conflict. You can complete your process for up to 90% less than what it would cost to litigate in court. Why not use your savings to help ensure financial stability for both of you moving forward?  
  • More efficient: You can avoid the lengthy delays of a court battle. In mediation, you control the pace — whether you would like to move quickly or prefer to take more time. You are not forced to conform to the court’s availability.
  • More private: You can have a confidential process that keeps your personal information private. Sensitive discussions do not become a part of the public record, as happens in litigated cases. Any information discussed during mediation can not be used in court at a later date.
  • More control: The two of you can make all of the decisions, rather than a judge making them for you. Mediation results in peaceful resolutions that reflect your needs and values.
  • Emotionally healthier: Your mediator will guide you both every step of the way. You can work together and reduce stress while laying a foundation for a positive co-parenting arrangement.

How does mediation work in California?

In California, divorce mediation is a structured yet flexible process. It helps spouses reach a divorce settlement without going to court.

California mediation has the following three characteristics:


The divorce mediation process is built on voluntary participation. That means that both spouses have chosen mediation to navigate their divorce process.

Willingness to work together sets the stage for respectful mediation.


What’s discussed during mediation remains confidential. This is a safe space for both spouses to openly express themselves.


The mutual agreements reached during mediation can be made legal. Once both spouses agree, the mediator drafts a settlement agreement. Once signed by both spouses and approved by a judge, the mediated divorce has the same legal standing as a litigated divorce.

What’s the role of a mediator?

A divorce mediator’s role as a neutral third party is to help spouses with their process. They create a safe and respectful space for conversations to occur.

This is an image of a mother and child sitting together on the beach with some surfboards nearby.

Mediators don’t make decisions for the divorcing spouses. Instead, they:

  • help the spouses find common ground;
  • inform them on what state law says about each divorce topic;
  • suggest creative and beneficial solutions and ideas for problem-solving based on their experience addressing unique challenges; and
  • draft the final agreement.

There aren’t state license requirements for mediating in California. But there are generally accepted standards.

Mediators in California come from diverse professional backgrounds, including:

  • law;
  • psychology;
  • social work; and
  • conflict resolution.

They’re well-trained in the mediation process and bring a wealth of experience and skill.

Now, let’s take a look at our detailed checklists for divorce mediation in California. We’ll start with what to gather beforehand, follow with goals and objectives to have, and finish up with what to look for in a professional mediator.

Checklist #1: What to gather before mediation

Gathering divorce paperwork is your first step to ensuring an honest process and financially secure future.

Here’s what you’ll need for your first mediation meeting:

Financial statements

The following records will help paint a clear picture of your finances:

  • bank statements (for all checking and savings accounts);
  • tax returns and W-2 forms for the last three years;
  • recent pay stubs or income statements for both spouses;
  • documentation of any other sources of income (such as dividends or rental income);
  • recent statements for all outstanding debts (credit cards, mortgages, etc.);
  • information on any other liabilities, such as business debts;
  • health insurance, property insurance, and life insurance policies

Property documents

Gather the following information to help ensure you, your spouse, and your professional mediator are on the same page about any personal property and marital assets:

  • current statements for all investment accounts (such as stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts);
  • recent appraisals for real estate (such as a primary house or vacation home); and
  • titles and recent values for other marital property (vehicles, artwork, etc.).

Custody arrangements

For parents, you’ll want to consider the following information:

  • the children’s current and potential educational, health, and special care needs;
  • possible child custody arrangement and parenting plan — including weekends, holidays, and vacations;
  • child-related expenses and financial needs; and
  • children’s schooling and any relevant medical records.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement can serve as a roadmap during mediation. It typically specifies the division of assets, property, and spousal support, reducing uncertainty and conflict. Ensure you bring a copy of your prenuptial agreement to mediation sessions, as it will help the mediator understand the pre-established terms and guide the discussions accordingly.

Checklist #2: Goals and objectives for successful mediation

The second checklist to help you prepare for mediation refers to your goals and objectives. Be honest with what you want to achieve with the mediation process.

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Many people find it helpful to have their goals well-thought-out and written down for reference throughout their process.

Financial goals

Think about what you hope to achieve, or your priorities related to financial issues such as:

  • dividing major assets, such as the home;
  • dividing bank accounts;
  • dividing retirement accounts and investments;
  • handling outstanding marital debts; and
  • handling any agreements on continuing joint ventures or businesses.

Spousal support goals

Consider what you hope to achieve, or your priorities related to spousal support such as:

  • any need for spousal support and the potential amount;
  • duration of spousal support payments; and
  • factors that influence spousal support (such as the length of the marriage relationship and the standard of living).

Custody and child support goals

For parents, be honest with each other about your priorities and goals regarding:

  • physical custody arrangements;
  • your reasoning and goals for the proposed parenting schedule; and
  • child support, including any special needs the children have.

Checklist #3: Choosing the right mediator

Now, we’ll share insights on finding an experienced mediator — one who you can trust to support you both every step of the way. We will take a close look at qualifications, questions to ask, and key qualities to look for.


Important qualities of a California divorce mediator include:

  • training or certification in divorce mediation;
  • experience with divorce cases in California;
  • an understanding of California divorce law;
  • advanced education; and
  • elevant training and experience.

To gain further insight, you may want to verify that the mediator has legal knowledge with cases similar to yours. Look for a mediator who is experienced in working with all types of divorce cases — even the more complex ones!

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The mediator should also understand the divorce landscape in California in terms of:

  • property division;
  • child support; and
  • spousal support.

Advanced degrees in law or psychology can indicate the ability to more deeply understand your case.

Lastly, look for other specific training, such as conflict resolution, alternative dispute resolution, or negotiation. A background in family law is also a good indicator of mediator knowledge.

Questions to ask

You don’t need to ask your mediator all of the questions below. You can look over the list to find which questions are most relevant to your situation.

  1. What training and certifications do you have in mediation services?
  2. How do you ensure neutrality and manage power imbalances during mediation?
  3. What is your approach to handling high-conflict situations?
  4. How do you handle confidentiality during the mediation process?
  5. What is your process for setting the agenda for each mediation meeting?
  6. Can you explain your fee structure and any extra costs?
  7. How do you ease communication between spouses who are struggling to communicate effectively or who can’t seem to agree?
  8. What is your approach to incorporating the needs and well-being of children?
  9. How do you stay neutral if one party is more dominant or persuasive than the other?
  10. What resources or tools do you use to help spouses understand and consider their options?
  11. What is your policy on follow-up or support after the mediation has concluded?
  12. Do you have reviews or testimonials from past clients?

Qualities to look for

The ideal mediator offers a blend of professional expertise and positive personal attributes. Those two come together to create a respectful and compassionate environment.

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Make sure the person you trust to walk you through mediation is:

  1. Empathetic and understanding
  2. Patient and composed
  3. Neutral and unbiased
  4. Experienced in conflict resolution
  5. Knowledgeable about divorce law
  6. Skilled in facilitating healthy communication
  7. Creative in problem-solving
  8. Respectful of sensitive divorce issues
  9. Committed to confidentiality
  10. Organized and transparent
  11. Flexible and accessible
  12. Optimistic and encouraging

Moving forward in mediation

Divorce can be tricky. Know that you’re not alone as you walk this path.

Use this California divorce mediation checklist whenever you need. Our team is always available to answer any questions you may have. We’d be honored to support you throughout this journey.

At The Aurit Center, mediation is what we do. We help spouses have healthy, collaborative divorces. We believe in the power of mediation to help and heal.

You can have a less expensive, more respectful path to divorce. Let’s take the first step together. Schedule your free mediation consultation today.

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