An Introduction To How Divorce Mediation Works (PODCAST)

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation; California Divorce Mediators

Welcome to California Divorce Mediator’s PODCAST offering an introduction of how divorce mediation works. 

College Tuition and Expenses Can Be Important Topics Negotiated In Divorce Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediators; California Divorce MediatorsThere will be many important decisions affecting your family that can generally discussed and negotiated amicably during  a typical divorce mediation.  For those parties with children in middle school or high school, one important issue that at least one party generally wants to address is how the parties will pay for future college costs for the children.  Most parties expect that their children will need to attend college in order to advance in their lives, and the increasingly higher and higher college expenses is often an issue of concern for divorcing parents.

It should be pointed out that there is no legal requirement to pay for college tuition or related expenses for a child under California law.  However, most parents recognize the obvious importance of their children receiving a college education and degree.

So at California Divorce Mediators, we assist with providing options and ideas so that informed decisions by the parties can be made.  Those options can include splitting such college expenses equally or in proportion to the parties’ relative incomes, or one parent can agree to assume the full costs if that makes sound financial sense, as well as alternative financing options.  In the mediation setting, such topics can be freely discussed, with the best interests of the family in mind.  After all, at the end of the day, most parents want what is best for their children, to the best of their financial ability to do so.

The bottom line is that there can be definite benefits to including the issue of payment of college expenses as part of a divorce settlement agreement. For further information or to schedule a consultation with California Divorce Mediators, please call (949) 553-0911 or visit  California Divorce Mediators is an experienced Divorce Mediation and Family Law firm serving the Orange County and Riverside areas and neighboring counties, serving individuals, couples and families with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, spousal support, child support and child custody issues.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”


Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce mediators; California Divorce Mediators

By: Gerald Maggio, Esq.

1. Each Party Gets The Opportunity To Be Heard.

In court, the parties generally do not get the ability to talk with each other. In the mediation setting, the more comfortable setting and the process itself allows and promotes the ability to talk with each other, as opposed to avoiding each other and letting their attorneys do all the talking. Mediation promotes conversation, instead of yelling and fighting.

2. The Parties Control the Case, Not The Judge.

Leaving the major issues and decisions affecting your family up to the attorneys or the judge in your case, you maintain the control and the outcome of what happens in your case and in your life. Having such major decisions left to persons with relative little knowledge or stake in your life is an incredible leap of faith that should only be done as an absolute last resort when all else fails in settling your case.

3. Mediated Agreements Tend To be Followed More Than Ones Made By Courts.

Studies have shown that parties that have reached agreements in mediation tend to follow such agreements much more than those made by courts. Why? Because the parties had a direct and committed part in making that agreement, and were a key part in negotiating such agreement.

4. You Can Move On Emotionally Much Sooner.

A mediated resolution of a divorce avoids the emotional turmoil, anger, and hurtful feelings against your spouse, thereby allowing the healing process after the end of a relationship to happen much sooner than an ugly divorce fought in court and the resulting emotional damage.

5. You Can Have A Resolution Of Your Divorce That You Can Be Proud Of.

Yes, you can resolve your divorce case in a way that stays true to your values and who you are as a person, and something that your family and friends will respect you for. Yes, your marriage is coming to an unfortunate end, but that does not mean that you have to handle your case in a way that will leave you with regret.

6. Mediation Saves Money and Emotional Expense.

A mediated divorce saves time, money, and emotions so much more than a normal divorce fought in court which can take months and years to resolve, all at the expense of your wallet, checkbook, and credit cards, not to mention your health and emotional well-being.

For more information or to schedule a consultation about whether divorce mediation is right for you, call California Divorce Mediators at (949) 553-0911 or visit

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Texting Your Ex And How Technology Has Changed How Divorced Parents Communicate

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County Divorce Mediator; California Divorce MediatorsBy:  Gerald Maggio, Esq.

Email and texting has become an increasingly more common way for everyone to communicate but these options for communication have literally revolutionized how divorced parents can communicate with each other. Following a divorce, some parents cannot communicate with each other face-to-face without getting into a heated battle. Even a telephone conversation can be filled with emotional outbursts.

On the contrary, a simple text message letting a parent know the other parent is running late to pick up the kids can be just the simple message it was intended to be and nothing more.

Another recent development is online calendars which have also made co-parenting much more effortless for families. From Google calendars to other types of cloud-based calendars as well as outlook, parents can create a shared calendar to keep track of kids’ activities as well as pick-ups and drop-offs. Most of these online shared calendars are free. One online program called “Our Family Wizard” helps parents not only track calendars and kids’ activities, but it also allows parents to track and document expenses or medical information. The program also provides a place to securely store documents both parents might need. There is a fee for the Family Wizard and there are various levels of pricing depending on what options a family chooses. The program even allows one parent to pay the other parent’s fee if one parent cannot afford it.

Some parenting experts warn that the increased use of technology to communicate may actually do more harm than good. They argue that the lack of face-to-face communication can lower parents’ ability to talk to each other effectively. Sometimes an issue cannot be properly addressed in a text message or email. If a child needs medical attention, or is having trouble in school, parents may need to discuss the background of the issues and the possible options moving forward. Parents who do not have the communication skills for day-to-day communication may not be able to handle the communication skills to handle more serious circumstances.  So although technology advances help in some regards, it should never replace face-to-face communications that parents need to accept and deal with for the sake of their children as part of their responsibility to co-parent.

The other danger of using technology to communicate is sometimes people are willing to say things in an email or text message they might not otherwise say to someone in person. Emails and text messages may be nastier or may be more accusing than a face-to-face conversation because it is easier to make accusations when you are not looking someone in the eye. The fact that there may be a record of the exchange, some people just don’t have the self-control to reel in their emotions in a text or email communication.  Always think before you press “send.”

Generally speaking, parents who take advantage of technology to communicate are more likely to communicate regularly and communicate directly rather than through their children which lowers stress on children as well as on the family as a whole. Parents can also communicate more effectively with their children through the use of texting or skyping if parents are out of town. Of course nothing can take the place of face-to-face time with our children, but regular communication makes both parents and children feel like they are part of each other’s lives.

For further information or to schedule a consultation, please contact California Divorce Mediators at (949)553-0911 or at

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Who Gets The Dog In A Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County Divorce Mediators; California Divorce MediatorsBy:  Gerald Maggio, Esq.

If you don’t have a pet, you might not understand how important and difficult this question can be but if you have ever felt the special bond between a person and a pet, you can imagine how custody issues of pets can be difficult in a divorce. When spouses with children divorce, the court determines whether the parents will have joint custody or if one parent will have sole custody. Courts also provide parenting time schedules for children so both parents have parenting time with the children.

The overriding factor in custody and parenting time decisions is the best interests of the child…not the best interests of the parents. Focusing on the best interests of the child makes custody decisions easier for parents and courts alike because there is enough research on what is best for children in many different situations. If the court were to treat pets like children, they would have to determine what is in the best interests of the pet and that is not something courts are likely to do because court resources are in high demand for more pressing matters. As far as the best interests of the pet, pets are generally fine as long as they have food, water, shelter, perhaps a walk, and someone to give them attention.

Just as not all parents are married, not all pet owners are married either. Roommates, partners, friends, and family might get a pet together and when they go their separate ways, the pet owners may not agree on who should have custody of the pet. For all these situations, courts do not have a process by law to award custody. Some individual courts have made rulings for custody of pets but generally speaking those decisions were left up to the court’s discretion and were not really based in state law.

Pets Are Property

Interestingly, pets are considered property by law so they are treated like property in a divorce. Property includes real property (a house) as well as items such as furniture, electronics, and jewelry. When dividing property, spouses generally each receive property of equal value. One spouse might get the big screen TV while the other spouse might get the china and glassware which has the same value as the TV. How do you put a dollar value on the family pet?

While courts will not typically decide issues regarding pets (there really aren’t any laws for courts to follow regarding pets in divorce) individuals can stipulate their own agreement in regard to family pets. Families with children sometimes decide that the pet should be where the children are. In those cases, the pet follows the same parenting time schedule that the children follow. In some cases, just like property, one spouse might negotiate a deal where he keeps the pet and he offers other types of property in exchange for the pet.

Are You A Dog Lover?

In a survey by the APPA National Pet Owners Survey 62% of households in the United States owned a pet (72.9 million homes). The health benefits of owning a pet are well-documented as pets provide security, companionship, a reason to exercise, and can even lower a person’s blood pressure simply by their presence. People form very special bonds with their pets and particularly in divorce cases where there are no children; the pet can be one of the most valued relationships the divorcing individuals have.

For further information or to schedule a consultation, please contact California Divorce Mediators at (949) 553-0911 or at

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Is My Spouse Entitled to My Inheritance In Our Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County Divorce Mediators; California Divorce MediatorsBy Gerald Maggio, Esq.

In California, assets and debts that are acquired during the marriage are generally community property, meaning that each party is entitled to one-half of such assets (or responsible for one-half of such debts).  One MAJOR EXCEPTION to that principle of law is inheritance.  If a spouse inherits money or other assets from family or others, such assets are considered to be that spouse’s separate property, and would not be divided in a divorce.

However, it is highly important to know that you must have segregated such monies and/or assets in a separate account in your own name.  In other words, let’s say that you inherited $100,000 from your grandmother.  You received a cashier’s check for such monies in your name through her estate.  If you were to deposit that check into a bank account in your own name and it existed at the time of separation/divorce, it would be hard for any court to determine that it was anything but that spouse’s separate property.  On the other hand, if you were to have deposited that check into the joint checking account with your spouse and some or all of the funds were spent on various expenses and splurges, etc., you likely have a limited ability to claim any of those spent funds without proof and dependent on what you spent the money on.  You may have a claim for any remaining monies in the joint account assuming that there was not a valid transmutation into community property pursuant to Family Code section 852, which imposes certain requirements on marital transmutations, including that a transmutation “is not valid unless made in writing by an express declaration that is made, joined in, consented to, or accepted by the spouse whose interest in the property is adversely affected.” there is arguably a transmutation of those funds into community property by way of the deposit into the joint checking account.

In plain English, you will save a lot of headache, legal fees, and expert fees spent tracing the funds into and out of any joint account by simply keeping any inheritance segregated in your own account in your own name from the moment that you receive such inheritance.  If you do want to use such monies for joint purposes in the future, consider a transmutation agreement with your spouse.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact California Divorce Mediators at (949) 553-0911 or at

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Think Twice Before Having A Child Witness Testify In Your Child Custody Case

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County Divorce Mediators; California Divorce MediatorsBy:  Gerald Maggio, Esq.

In some situations, taking the testimony of a minor child can be necessary, especially where physical or sexual abuse is involved.  Those court proceedings are generally done confidentially, either in a closed courtroom or in the judge’s chambers.

However, a parent in a child custody case should think long and think twice before seeking to have a child testify in their case.  For instance, in some cases, there are blended families where there are younger children of the parties’ marriage or relationship, and also older stepchildren or children of just one of the parents (hereinafter described as “the other children” in this article), all living under the same roof.  I have seen parents want to call one of “the other children” to testify against the other party because the children of the relationship of the parties are too young to really do so, to make allegations that the other parent has been abusive to them and to their younger half-siblings.  It becomes apparent soon enough that “the other children” have been coached to say things in a certain way in court to help the parent pushing them to testify in the first place.

It is troubling for any parent to ever put their children in such a difficult position to have to testify in court, if it is not really necessary.  It is awful that any parent would coach their children to potentially lie or misstate the truth, for the sake of the parent seeking the testimony (hereinafter referred to as “bad parent”).  The problem is further compounded when the other attorney representing the other parent starts questioning the child regarding his or her prior, canned responses prepared and coached by “bad parent.”  At that point, the child will start looking at “bad parent” across the courtroom seeking help in how to answer unscripted, tougher questions from the other attorney.  In the end, the child’s previous testimony can be found unbelievable, and potentially “bad parent’s” use of the child’s testimony backfires and hurts bad parent’s custody case, because the court has determined that “bad parent” is not a sympathetic and credible parent, but a manipulative one.

Not only can use of a child’s testimony for such purpose backfire, it can detrimentally affect the child psychologically and emotionally.  Child custody disputes are generally never easy to resolve, but using child witnesses for such purposes is not right and can hurt them and your custody case.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact California Divorce Mediators at (949)553-0911 or at

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County Divorce mediators; California divorce mediatorsBy:  Gerald Maggio, Esq.

The decision to separate and to divorce a spouse (if the choice was yours, and not made for you by your spouse) is certainly a very difficult, complex, and emotionally tough decision you will likely ever make in your life.  We at California Divorce Mediators understand that very well, and our goal is to assist you in working towards a resolution of your case by mediating a fair and amicable agreement without the fear, uncertainty and expense of traditional litigation.

In the past, most cases concerning separation and divorce were handled by separate attorneys representing each spouse, with both sides preparing for litigation in court. Divorce mediation is part of a newer trend of alternate dispute resolution, outside of court.  With the assistance of a divorce mediator, you and your spouse become active, involved decision-making partners in your case, rather than opposing parties in court.

In a divorce mediation, the mediator does not represent either spouse per se.  Rather, the mediator’s role is that of an unbiased, neutral third party who helps you both reach an agreement which is fair and balanced, and one which works for the entire family. Couples who have mediated their separation and divorce have been shown to be more likely to follow the terms of their negotiated agreement, and to be able to maintain a working relationship in the future when children are involved.

A divorce mediator can assist in the resolution of all issues in your separation or divorce case, including:

1.  The division of marital assets and debts

2.  Custody and visitation

3.  Child support and spousal support

In some cases where a marital business is involved, or a substantial community estate, or other factors that make your case more complex, we have a network of experts that can tapped as needed to assist in the resolution of such issues.

Once the issues of your separation or divorce case have been resolved, the terms thereof are incorporated into a Stipulated Judgment prepared by  the mediator, to be notarized by the parties and ultimately filed with the court.  Once the Judgment is processed by the court, the Judgment terms become court orders, making the Judgment a formal legal agreement between the parties, and thereby also dissolving the marital status of the parties.

For further information or to schedule a consultation, contact California Divorce Mediators at (949) 553-0911 or

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

When Can I Modify My California Spousal Support Order?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce mediators; California divorce mediatorsBy Gerald Maggio, Esq.

There are 2 types of spousal support orders in California.  First, there are temporary spousal support orders made while a divorce or legal separation case is pending, which are generally made in the initial stage of such cases until a final resolution of the case is accomplished.  Second, spousal support orders made at trial of trial or by a stipulated Judgment reached between the parties are generally termed “long-term” spousal support orders intended to kick in once the divorce or legal separation is finalized.

In California cases, long-term spousal support orders can be amended or terminated under certain circumstances. Supporting partners have a number of different options available to them, if they wish to pursue a modification or termination of the support they provide.

In most cases, long-term spousal support can be terminated or modified at any time during the support period.  The only instance when this is not true is when there is a written agreement by the parties expressly stating that spousal support is non-modifiable. In the absence of such an agreement, the court generally retains continuing spousal support jurisdiction and can decide to terminate or reduce spousal support in later court proceedings.  This is especially true for marriages that were more than 10 years in duration.

If the court assumes continuing spousal support jurisdiction, then the court may grant a request to modify spousal support if the supporting party can demonstrate a material change of circumstance since the most recent court order outlining the spousal support. When reviewing a modification or termination request, the court will consider the following factors:

  • Reducing Support if Spouse is Self Supporting– The California Family Code emphasizes that even in long-term marriages, defined as those which last 10 years or more, the supported spouse has a duty to become self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time, which is considered to be one-half the length of the marriage.  Generally, if the duration of the marriage is less than ten years, a supported spouse is expected to become self-supporting in half the length of the marriage. Modification or termination of the support can be ended before this time. If the spouse has not made any reasonable efforts to become self-supporting, you may ask      the court to terminate the spousal support.  If, on the other hand, your former spouse has actually increased his or her earnings, you will be able to present evidence of this in court and argue that he or she now has a reduced need for support.
  • Reducing Spousal Support Based on Obligations– In some cases, the supported party’s separate estate, including any and all assets allocated to him or her in the community property division, and its reasonable income potential, may be enough for you to seek a reduction or termination of previously awarded spousal support.
  • Other Factors that affect Modification of Spousal Support include:
  •    Remarriage– A spousal support order automatically terminates when the supported party gets remarried.
  •    Cohabitation– Cohabitation may also be a basis for seeking a modification or termination of a spousal support order. If your former spouse is cohabitating with a    member of the opposite sex in a romantic relationship, you can request that the court order a termination of support or a downward modification of support.
  •    Retirement– The retirement of the supporting party may be sufficient basis to receive a termination of support; however, it will be important to prove that the supporting spouse has a right to retire and is not choosing early retirement.  In California, the recognized retirement age is 65, meaning that your ex-spouse cannot force you to work beyond that age, and if your retirement income is less than your pre-retirement income, you are likely entitled to a modification of the spousal support order at a minimum.

Whether you can terminate or reduce your existing spousal support obligation depends upon the unique facts and circumstances of your case. If you are considering modifying or terminating your spousal support order, you should contact a family law attorney who will review your case and advise you on how best to proceed.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact California Divorce Mediators at (949) 553-0911 or at

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

What Are My Options Concerning My House In A Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediator;s California divorce mediatorsBy: Gerald Maggio, Esq.

Following the real estate collapse in the past 5 years, more people owe more on their homes than the home is worth than prior to the real estate bust.  Many have no equity in the home and some are even under water because they owe more than the value of the house.  Historically, when people divorced, it was common for people to fight over who would get to keep the house because there was equity in the house. The house was not only desirable for emotional reasons, it was also often the most valuable asset in the  marriage and was expected to increase in value.

In today’s market though, it is common for parties to fight over not taking the house.  No one wants to be saddled with a mortgage that they cannot afford for a house which has no equity, so both spouses are more likely to try to get out of the house. This has been a relatively new dilemma for divorcing parties, for attorneys and for courts.  Here are your 3 options for dealing with this increasingly common problem.

1. Sell the House.

If you can sell your house, you may be able to pay off the mortgage and start fresh. The risk in keeping a house which has no equity is the very real risk of foreclosure.  A homeowner would have to keep the home and continue to make mortgage payments until the real estate market recovers to the point that the home has more value. A homeowner may have to work with the mortgage company on a short sale in order to avoid liability for any remaining balance owing on the mortgage. Both spouses will likely have to remain on the mortgage until the house is sold but once the house is sold, both will be released from the debt.

2. Rent the House.

If parties do not want to sell the house while it has no equity, the parties can choose to rent the house until the market recovers or until there is some equity in the house. One party can assume the responsibility of caring for the home or the parties can share it. If the parties decide to rent the property, they will also have to decide if one of them will take the tax deduction and claim the rental income or if they will share the income and/or the tax deduction. Renting the home allows both parties the option to live somewhere new while still getting some income from the home until the right time to sell arises, or at least buy some time for the real estate market to fully recover. Both parties will likely have to remain on the mortgage until such time as the home is sold.

3. Stay in the House.

One party may decide to take the risk and assume possession and the sole interest in the home.  The risk is that the home may not ever be worth as much as the amount owed on it, but the potential benefit is that over time, the house will have value again and in the meantime, they will receive the tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes.  If one party is willing to assume that risk, the party should not owe anything of value in return for getting the house. For example, if the house had equity of $200,000, and the wife decided to keep the house, then she would have to compensate the husband for his $100,000 marital share of the equity in the house. When the house has no equity, there is no reason to compensate the other spouse.  The house may have value someday, but it might not. The person willing to assume the risk will solely assume the loss or the profit from that decision.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call California Divorce Mediators at (949) 553-0911 or visit

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”