Divorce Mediation

Resolution Focused

Best Mediation works hard to find win-win solutions. Schedule a free consultation today.

What Is Divorce Mediation?


Mediation is just a method of resolving disputes. A mediator is the person who facilitates the actual meeting so it has the best chance of success. At Best Mediation we think your best mediator is an experienced family law attorney who knows the ropes, the law and has seen “it all” so to speak. When we are your mediator, the first thing we do is send you some paperwork so we know about your assets and your family. You then return it before the actual mediation session with your “wish list” of how you want to divide the property and parent the children, if you have any under the age of 19.

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What happens during mediation?

Mediation is a method for resolving disputes that involves a neutral third party to help two sides make decisions and come to resolutions for anyone that is preparing to get divorced that doesn’t want to go through the stress and expense of hiring an attorney. Most people who have gone through a divorce will tell you it’s challenging. It can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining. And unfortunately, the legal system can make the divorce process more complicated and time-consuming than necessary. You have heard countless divorce horror stories. And sadly, a lot of them are true. That’s because when you and your spouse don’t agree on an issue, you are giving a stranger (the judge) the power to make the decision for you. When you and your spouse mediate together, the two of you retain the power to make decisions about your future. You control the terms and conditions of your divorce and make sure you get what you want out of the settlement.

Creative decisions in mediation

It is important to understand that a meditation can take as long as it takes to get all the property divided and the children taken care of. You are an integral part of the process. You are empowered to help make these decisions. No one decides anything for you. It is up to you and your spouse. If you go the trial route, you will have about 3 hours for the total trial and all the evidence will be presented in a question and answer format. One side only gets about 1 1/2 hours to present their evidence and testimony. Then the judge decides all the issues presented and files a "minute entry" in a couple of weeks that outlines all the rulings. The mediation process allows the parties to make all the decisions and make all the edits to determine the final papers that become the court orders.

Learn How Mediation Can Help You

Schedule a time for you and your spouse to speak with one of our experienced mediators

Contact Us

The Top 5 Reasons to Mediate Your Divorce

Mediation leaves the decision power strictly with the parties. The mediator does not decide what is fair or who is right or wrong.

  • 1. Mediation saves time, money and stress
  • 2. Avoid legal fights, making it easier to move on
  • 3. You control the settlement agreement, not the court
  • 4. Secure what is most important to you
  • 5. Resolve everything quickly and efficiently
Meet Our

Experienced Mediators


Tali Collins
Managing Attorney
Alexus C. Mamood
Managing Attorney
Alan J. Mamood
Attorney
Camille Pedrick
Licensed in CA and NM
Cynthia L. Best
Founding Partner

Best Mediation grew out of a desire to help more people avoid the conflict and stress of divorce litigation. Our attorneys strive to provide the best legal service in Arizona by focusing on communication, professionalism, and results. All of our mediators are experienced family law attorneys who have seen all types of cases, judges, and rulings. Our goal is to listen and facilitate a negotiation that suits you; our mediators have a variety of backgrounds including being appointed as a Judge Pro Tem and conducting court-ordered settlement conferences, Justice Court mediations, and representing clients in private mediation. All of our mediators are equipped with the ‘insider knowledge’ of how the court system works and will put you and your spouse in the best position for successful resolution.

ZOOM MEDIATION


Mediation can also be conducted by zoom or even phone. Zoom seems to work quite well since everyone can be in a comfortable place. Each side can speak with the mediator in separate “rooms” through Zoom and the other person is not sitting in a room alone during these “break out” sessions. Mediation by zoom does not need a reason, it can just be how the parties choose to go through the process. Sometimes the partners first meet in person and the later sessions are conducted by zoom. It is up to the parties how to conduct the mediation. We are here to make it as comfortable as possible so it has the greatest chance of success.

See How We Do It

mediation process


1.
Agree to Mediate

Agreeing to mediate means you both recognize the advantages of taking control of the outcome of your divorce, understand the mediation process, and want to negotiate on your terms without court intervention. With Best Mediation, this will include an actual written agreement you will sign as your commitment to the participation expectations.

2.
Attend Mediation

On the day of mediation, you will meet with your mediator who will review the process with you and outline the expectations of everyone involved until both individuals are comfortable. The mediator will facilitate the conversation and help you work through the unresolved issues. Your participation in negotiations will determine the success of the mediation. Keep in mind, the mediator cannot give legal advice, but they can inform you of the law.

3.
Memo of Understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding can be drafted which is a written agreement outlining the agreements reached during the mediation. At the conclusion of your mediation, if an agreement is reached, the mediator can draft the Memorandum of Understanding. He or she will return with a copy of the Memorandum for each party to review. We will make changes necessary until both parties approve. Once signed, the Memorandum will be legally binding and can be used to prepare the Court paperwork necessary to make the agreement an order of the Court. Best Mediation can prepare documents needed to complete your divorce such as the Summary Consent Decree Process.

What is a

Summary Consent Decree?


A Summary Consent Decree Process is for couples (with or without minor children) who agree on all issues and want to file for a Summary Consent Decree (the divorce).  The package can be filed all at once and the court will sign the Decree after the required sixty (60) waiting period. Most decrees are signed by the Court within 2 weeks of that 60-day expiration date. You and your spouse will be mailed a signed copy by the Court.  Once the judge signs the decree, you will be divorced.  (The old process required one spouse to sue the other spouse and submit documents at various times throughout the process).

Best Mediation can help you with this process, even if you have issues that you and your spouse still need to resolve. We can meet with you, negotiate any issues and resolve them, answer all your legal questions, draft all the documents that you sign and then we can file the entire package with the court at once. Neither party has to file first and you don’t have to wait and send your documents piecemeal. We will submit them all at once and in sixty (60) days, the court will sign the decree and you will be divorced.

You are eligible for a Summary Consent Decree Process if:

  1. Both spouses want the divorce.
  2. Both spouses want to settle the issues and sign the documents.
  3. Either spouse has lived in Arizona for 90 days before you file the form (or either spouse has been stationed in Arizona by the military for 90 days).
  4. If you have minor children, they have lived in Arizona the prior six months.
  5. You and your spouse believe the marriage is “irretrievably broken” (the buzz words used by the court to mean you do not think you can make the marriage work).
  6. You can advise the court that you have tried to resolve the problems through a court process called “Conciliation Services” or you already know there is no point in trying that service.
  7. You don’t have a “covenant marriage” (you would know if you did) and there are exceptions to that also.

Some people find this a bit daunting to do all by themselves without the advice of an attorney. It is not any different than retaining an attorney for a contentious divorce except you and your spouse walk in the door together expecting to do this as a team project. For instance, we can help with any of the concerns you have that might be listed here:

1. What do we do about a parenting time plan for the children?
2. How do we decide what schools the kids go to?
3. How does it work with our business?
4. Won’t I get taxed if we split our retirement?
5. What do we do with my inherited property?
6. My spouse has a second job, is that income for child support?
7. My spouse has been unfaithful, does that matter?
8. How do we decide who gets the house?
9. What if we both want the house or neither of us want the house?
10. Can we live together until we are divorced?

How We Can Help Your Family Find Peace of Mind

You might have a million other questions and we can answer them for you. We have helped hundreds of families just like yours to resolve issues so they can move forward with their lives. Our law firm has almost 75 years of legal experience. Hundreds of clients and families have shown us their trust over the years. Solving problems and helping families is one of the most rewarding aspects of our profession. I remember one of my earliest settlements where I helped a family.  They were stuck on spousal maintenance. She was concerned about the next three years of income. He was upset about the total amount. We found a way for her to have more money in the first three years and he paid the same overall amount. They were both happy to get it resolved once we knew their major concerns. It was truly a win win.

I know that you have major concerns. Divorce isn’t easy and it can create a lot of anxiety. We can address your concerns and it is possible to negotiate a win win solution.  Give us a call today and schedule your consultation to find out more about how we can help you and your family find peace of mind and look forward to the future.

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Mediation vs Litigation


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Here Are The Most

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the cost of mediation?

There is no cost to find out about how mediation would work for your family. You can schedule a phone call with one of our experienced attorneys to learn more and set an appointment. You can schedule that appointment on our website or calling the office. We charge $325 per hour for mediation, with a minimum of 2 hours for the initial meeting. Subsequent sessions or questions to resolve any outstanding issues can be worked out after that point. Call our office to set your mediation appointment and learn more about the process and benefits for your family.

Is mediation successful?

In over 95% of cases we mediate, the parties reach full agreements. If you are unable to reach full agreements at the first mediation session, you can schedule a second session to mediate any remaining disputed issues. You control the process, so the success is dependent on you and your spouse. It is a process and it can take time. You will not feel rushed or forced to make any decision. And, you are always welcome to have your personal counsel review any documents before you sign them.

Who controls the outcome in mediation?

The parties do. Our mediator will work with you to reach agreements, but ultimately all decisions, including the decisions to reach agreements or not reach agreements, belong to the parties. While the mediator will help evaluate the parties' positions regarding disputed issues to help facilitate agreements, the final decision is completely up to the parties.

What happens if we do not reach agreements?

Depending on the outstanding disagreements, you have the option to schedule another mediation session or take these issues to Court for a judge to decide. Frequently, a second mediation session can be helpful prior to seeking Court intervention and spending substantial time and money on the fees and costs of litigation. Even if you don't reach agreements on all issues, reaching agreements on some of the issues saves you the time, stress, and money involved in going to court over those issues.

We have filed in Court, can we still mediate?

Absolutely. You can mediate at any time during the divorce process. If you have already filed, please let us know if you have any deadlines or hearings coming up. Even if you have already filed in Court, it is possible that you can have everything fully resolved without ever having to step foot again in Court. In fact, many parties are encouraged by the Judge to go to mediation in the case at some juncture.

What does the mediator do?

The mediator listens to you and then guides and moderates the discussion. Both parties are given a chance to be listened to and neither party is forced to make any agreements. The mediator helps the parties reach fair and equitable solutions for all the issues that need to be resolved. In the event the parties reach partial or full agreements, the mediator types a Memorandum of Understanding (agreement) for the parties to review and sign.

Will the mediator give us legal advice?

The mediator will not give you or the other party legal advice. This means the mediator will not tell you whether you should agree or disagree with what is being proposed by the other party. But the mediator will tell you what the law is and will tell you how judges normally rule, based on his/her experience. The mediator may propose resolutions for you to consider facilitating fair and efficient resolution.

Is mediation confidential?

Yes, both parties must sign a confidentiality agreement prior to beginning mediation and neither party's positions can be used in Court. The mediator may not be called as a witness, if your case move forward with litigation. The mediator does not keep any documents and any such papers cannot be subpoenaed in any subsequent litigation. What you discuss with our mediators (and team) is confidential pursuant to Rule 67.3(b)(I), Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure and our confidentiality agreement.

How long does filing a divorce take?

Once the Petition for Dissolution is filed with the Court and the Acceptance of Service is signed the 60-day waiting period begins. During that time, you can prepare the Decree and Parenting Plan (if applicable) and file them upon or after the expiration of the 60-day period. The mediation process may take longer than 60 days, so that time will extend the process. If you choose the Summary Consent Decree all the agreements are settled and incorporated into that bundle of documents up front. The Court will sign the documents after the 60 days has expired, but generally within a couple weeks of that date.

How can we divide the house?

Just so you know, if there is a dispute, the judge usually just orders the house sold and the proceeds split evenly. But if you are in mediation you can get the house appraised and one party can buy out the other, you can trade other income for house equity such as trade a retirement account for house equity. You could trade spousal maintenance for house equity. Your mediator and the parties can get as creative as you want or need to be.

How do we decide Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is paid from one spouse to the other to help them meet their reasonable needs. If one spouse is not able to be self-supporting the other spouse may be required to pay them a monthly amount of money for a term of months or years. This is very fact dependent and also is determined by the length of the marriage. This is probably one of the most hotly contested issues. It is usually better to settle this issue because no one is usually very happy to have the judge decide the matter. A mediator will share her trial and settlement experiences with the parties and talk about risks and rewards of not settling. A judge will set an amount for a certain number of months or years and it is always modifiable. Many parties want more certainty in this matter and do not want to leave it open to be litigated in the future. In mediation, the parties can make it non modifiable. They can also fashion it for changing amounts over time (that may have tax consequences so you will want to get tax advice). Spousal maintenance can be "traded" for other assets in a mediation but a trial judge will not be able to be creative like that.

What if I don't know what we own?

Don't feel alone in this regard. Many times spouses learn more in a divorce about their assets and debts that they ever knew during the marriage. Full disclosure is a requirement for divorce in Arizona, whether it is a litigation case or a mediation. You are entitled to everything listed in Rule 49, such as credit card statements, bank statements, investment accounts, titles, deeds, taxes and even information of sole and separate property. Usually this takes place between the spouses but your mediator can make sure there is full disclosure if there are any doubts.

What if s/he had an affair?

Arizona is a no fault divorce state so fault does not matter and will not be considered. The mediator often hears of such issues because it can be easier to settle issues when the parties have had their say and when the mediator understands all of the circumstances.

What if I owned the house prior to marriage and put my spouse's name on the deed?

It is now community property and will be divided equally. In mediation there might be some consideration to return or give credit to one spouse for the down payment. Sometimes parties have had agreements that are not in writing but they want to honor in mediation.

Can I make my husband pay for college for the children?

No, not in litigation by the judge. But if agreements can be made in mediation about this, then yes, the parties can make such an agreement. Arizona law does not require this but it can be considered in mediation.

Can I make my spouse name me as beneficiary on life insurance?

Not in litigation but yes, it is common in mediation. It is sometimes collateral for the payment of spousal maintenance. It is also an idea to help protect children in case of a parent's early death. A trial judge cannot order it but we have seen it used very effectively in mediation.

Do you handle mediations for people over 60 or 70?

Yes, they are sometimes referred to gray divorce or senior citizen divorce. Mediation is a perfect way to find some peace of mind and security to move forward. We pay special attention to health care needs and how social security might dovetail with your assets.

Can you mediate parenting time for me as a single dad?

Yes, this seems to work so much better than filing and going to court. We may eventually advise that you consider filing a Petition to Establish. We can help get agreements made with both parties and it saves them money, stress, and time. We are also able to be creative and do creative plans that are not available in court. One idea that often works is to draft graduated plans when the child is a baby or toddler. Parenting time can be increased for the non custodial parent as the child gets older and the parents exercise a 50-50 plan.

Can you draft court documents for us after mediation?

Yes, we can draft all the documents you need to file with the court.

Do I need to hire a lawyer for mediation?

No, but you are always able to have your private counsel review anything before you sign it. But you don’t have to have a lawyer to represent you. That is one of the benefits and cost saving aspects of mediation. But having a lawyer is allowed and in certain circumstances may be beneficial. If you and your spouse would feel more comfortable with you each being represented by an attorney at your mediation, we would be happy to accommodate. We have often attended mediation with our clients so we know how that system works.

Will my partner and I be in the same room or will we be in separate rooms?

Generally, our mediators prefer to meet with both parties in separate rooms unless the parties wish otherwise. It is our experience that it just works more smoothly if you are in separate rooms.

How does the mediator guide the conversation?

The mediator focuses the conversation on one issue at a time. Generally, we start by listening and answering questions and then we first tackle issues that are closest to being agreed upon. The mediator will address specific topics and ask each party how they would like to resolve the issue. Where the parties are close on an issue, the mediator may propose a resolution for the parties to consider. Where the parties are far away, the mediator can help find creative solutions based on our years of experience of doing this.

What are the types of things we discuss during a divorce mediation?

In every divorce, we must divide all the marital property (which typically includes a house, bank accounts, vehicles, retirement accounts, stock options, credit card debts, and other debts) and decide if there is a claim for spousal maintenance. In a divorce with children, we must determine the custodial issues of legal decision-making and parenting time (the parenting schedule) and child support.

Does the mediator does take sides?

No, the mediator is neutral. Our mediators help the parties evaluate the risks and rewards of settlement vs court. We have also seen different ways to solve problems that address all kinds of situations.

What is mediation used for?

To help parties reach agreements and avoid the cost, time, and stress of battling in Court. Mediation also helps the parties control the outcome.

Who pays for the cost of mediation?

Generally, parties agree to split the cost evenly or divide it proportionate to income. We have also used a system where one side agrees to pay 100% but only if the mediation is successful. We believe that Mediation has a better chance of success when each side bears some financial risk for the outcome.

What kind of property do we divide and how do we do it?

First, you might need to understand some basic family law rules about property. There are two kinds of property to consider; all property is either sole and separate or community. Sole and separate property is property that you 1. owned prior to marriage 2. inherited 3. received as a gift. Community property is property that was accumulated during the marriage. Examples of Sole and Separate Property jewelry clothes bicycle computer camera personal papers cash that was inherited or gifted books purses shoes disability income dogs, cats and other pets sports equipment Community Property is property acquired during the marriage that will be split "equally" or "equitably." Some assets are physically divided and some are paid to one spouse by determining their value. house pensions cash accounts stocks bank accounts retirement plans (no matter whose name they are in) IRAs (no matter whose name they are in) savings (no matter whose name the account is in) cars (no matter whose name they are in) business (if started during marriage, no matter whose name it is in) furniture memberships pets, depends on facts boat camper

What about debts?

Debts acquired during the marriage are divided equally. In mediation, sometimes the person whose name the debt is in will take the debt and trade it for another asset. That way the person can protect their own credit.

How do we divide the retirement accounts?

These are usually divided by a QDRO, a qualified domestic relations order, that is drafted by an attorney retained just for that purpose. Your mediator will be able to recommend a specialized attorney to help with these accounts. These are usually divided by a QDRO, a qualified domestic relations order, that is usually drafted after the divorce by a specialized attorney. The time frame for the division is usually from the date of marriage to the date of the service of the petition or the time the accounts are actually split. The cost to divide each account is approximately $1500. Once these orders are drafted, they are sent to the court. These accounts are not actually closed or cashed out, the names on the accounts are changed and there are no tax consequences for this change unless the accounts are cashed out. As always, tax advice by an outside tax adviser is recommended.

What About the Children? There are 4 issues to decide:

1. Legal decision making. This is the legal right to make decisions for health care and education, primarily. Fit parents usually share this right 50-50. This can also be flexible and one parent might be final decision maker for health care and one for education. 2. Where do the kids live (parenting time)? Two fit parents usually share time with the kids 50-50. Your experienced mediator can help you create a plan that fits your family. It can be graduated and as creative as you need to be. It will include holidays, breaks and vacations. It will also depend on drive time. 3. Child Support. The court requires either an order with an amount or in mediation the parties can decide to waive it if they share the children equally. 4. Parenting Agreement. The court requires a parenting agreement if there are minor children in a divorce. There are certain requirements that must be included in the agreement and our mediator can assist with this document.

What if we lived together for 10 years and married for 5?

You will only divide property from the date of marriage to the date of service of the divorce petition. There is no common law marriage in Arizona. But again, there might be some issues that can be determined that might be more fair other than a strict adherence to community property law.

What if I inherited money and put it in our joint account?

There may be an issue of commingling. If you can trace your inherited money, you might be able to claim it as sole and separate. It becomes a tracing issue. Your mediator can help come up with some creative solutions.

How do we divide the family business?

This can become complicated. Usually the business is valued and one spouse pays the other spouse a set amount until the debt is paid. There can be a variety of other ways to handle this during a mediation. There can be much discussion over this, At a trial, there is no negotiation about this. The judge decides the value based on an expert and determines a payment plan.

Do you handle high net worth mediations?

Yes, we have experience handling business valuations, retirement accounts, pensions, choosing the right QDRO attorney, and multiple real estate properties. High Net Worth spouses tend to choose mediation over litigation to resolve their disputes.

Can we mediate child custody?

Yes, this is actually a much better way to resolve child issues and parenting time. Mediation allows for some give and take in a conversation and is so much easier, less expensive and convenient than a trial. We often mediatie after a divorce also to prevent parents from going back to court to clarify or modify their prior order.

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