Mediation is one of the best ways to handle family law disputes. Rather than getting involved in a never-ending court battle, you can save time, money and help preserve family relationships. Forensic accountants can be a crucial part of this process as finances are often one of the most disputed areas in family law matters. In California, judges have the power to appoint a mutual financial expert to determine income available for support, business valuations, and tracing of community and separate property under California Evidence Code Section 730. We regularly serve as 730 experts and have found it to be the best way to represent our clients. Rather than paying two separate experts who can come up with contrasting conclusions, a mutually appointed expert can have a conversation with both parties and come to a mutual agreement. First off, what is mediation? According to Wikipedia, “Mediation, as used in law, is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties with concrete effects.” How does mediation save time? The courts are infamously known for being impacted, and setting a court date can take months.  Also, the time that it takes for you, your attorneys and your experts to prepare for trial is significant. By working together, face to face, and having an open dialogue in a safe environment, it is possible for a settlement to be reached. Mediation saves you money. While there is no dollar cost average that I can find, a contested divorce involving litigation is easily tens of thousands of dollars. Attorney’s fees (in Southern California) range in price from $300-$900 per hour, as do forensic accountants such as ourselves. The more time you spend litigating, the more money that will be involved. How does mediation preserve relationships? Litigators are notorious for “protecting their client’s interests” and often times pushing the two parties apart even further; thus dragging out court battles. Rather than positioning parties against each other, mediation wishes to restore the relationship between the two parties. Especially if there are children involved, preserving relationships is critical. Mediation provides a step-by-step approach to resolving each issue. Both parties will have an opportunity to speak to present their side of the story. The mediator will help identify the issues, and help to present possible solutions. The mediator helps the parties to come to a common understanding by brainstorming different scenarios, with the goal of getting both parties to feel comfortable with the results. In conclusion, mediation should definitely be considered for family law matters. Ultimately it can save you time, money and help preserve family relationships.
By Kim Onisko, CPA Kim Onisko is a Partner with Onisko & Scholz, Certified Public Accountants, LLP. You can find him on Google+. He has been in public accounting for over 20 years and has a specialty in forensic accounting.