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Watch the videos below to see clips from Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law Series on To watch the full interview, click here.

What is your experience in divorce mediation?

Well i serve as a mediator. i have done mediation for clients um that is that is part of my practice is doing divorce mediation i do divorce mediation collaborative law as well as litigation

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What is divorce mediation?

So mediation is where you have one attorney that doesn’t represent either party that is acting as a neutral in trying to facilitate an agreement that resolves all the issues similar to collaborative so um the end result being a marital settlement agreement again similar to collaborative resolving custody child and spousal support and property division the difference between mediation and collaborative is that that mediator is is not representing either party so they’re not there to you know help the parties determine is there is this in their best interest they’re not going to get and underneath an agreement to determine you know is this really what you want why is this what you want and then you know investigating and analyzing choices that are interest based their job is to get an agreement between the parties that’s why people often prefer collaborative because allows for a lot more in-depth discussion and empowers the parties more with support so they’ve got their own attorney in their corner and they’ve got you know a mental health person who can also help them unearth what what is it they really want and why um and that’s going to be best for them and then coming up with solutions that work for both whereas a mediator is is trying to come up with an agreement but they’re not getting into that kind of depth so collaborative I think provides a lot more satisfaction uh than mediation does but it is a quick and dirty and it’s usually less expensive um than any other model.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What are the biggest challenges faced in divorce mediation?

Yeah, the biggest challenge is that the parties don’t have support. The mediator is a neutral just trying to facilitate an agreement so if the parties really want support or somebody to talk to to determine if this is really in their best interest then they need to consult with an attorney on the side while they’re going through mediation.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What are the pros and cons of choosing mediation in a divorce?

The pros are it’s usually the least expensive option for going through the divorce it’s also client directed so you know the parties have control over the process how long it takes and whether or not they reach an agreement it’s confidential just like collaborative so nobody else is hearing all of their all of their issues those are some of the advantages um disadvantages are you it’s usually not appropriate if there’s a real power imbalance or if one person is a lot more in the no than the other because it’s not the mediat mediator’s job to to create balance in the process and so if if one party is particularly vulnerable um and needs more support or if there are issues such as domestic violence significant mental health issues or substance abuse it’s usually not the right process another disadvantage is similarly to collaborative if it fails the parties have to start over in another process like litigation they can’t use the mediator in court to move forward.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What role do you play in a divorce mediation?

So the difference in the attorney’s role in mediation and collaborative is that in mediation the lawyer is not representing either party so their role is not advising the parties their role is to neutrally get an agreement and so they will do so by informing the parties of what the law is and you know what a court would do often times but they’re not there to help them to decide or to advise them as to what would be in their interest collaborative is is not that way you each party does have their own attorney who is assisting them and helping them to determine their interest and create interest-based decisions and in doing that um the law is brought in because it is an informed process but it’s brought in carefully and not in a way that creates polarity so the way that we usually do it in collaborative is both attorneys get together let’s say there’s a particular legal issue the lawyers get together and discuss it and then it’s brought forward by both lawyers in terms of here’s what the law is and here’s what the range of possibilities are so that the parties have the spectrum of of um of potentials and then they can choose to go with the law or not go with the law that’s the beauty of collaborative is you there’s a lot more creativity that’s available for creating Solutions than just the law model however it you know it is an informed process so the law is brought in so the lawyer’s role is to bring in the law and to assist in supporting the parties in creating interest based Solutions and then obviously creating the paperwork and the contracts that are necessary to complete the divorce process.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What is the cost of divorce mediation compared to traditional divorce?

When you’re comparing mediation, collaborative, and litigation, I’m always going to say that litigation is more expensive. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t reach agreements in litigation; you can. You can have two attorneys that cooperate and work together and reach an agreement but in most cases, it’s going to be more expensive. The reason is that as you’re going through the divorce and preparing what is necessary in order to either get to an agreement or get to a judge to adjudicate a decision, there’s information gathering and analysis that needs to happen. In mediation and collaborative processes, you bring in individual team members who are doing the work that they have the most knowledge and training on instead of having the attorney do everything, which is what you’re doing in litigation. The attorney is overseeing everything and advising the client, so it’s not as much of an empowering process and tends to be more expensive. Oftentimes in litigation, the other side is doing the same thing, so you’ve got duplicate efforts going on which are costly. Then sometimes you have dueling experts who are opining on the same thing and making completely different opinions, and that has to be resolved, which can become more expensive. You often have to have discovery because there isn’t that transparency layer that you have in mediation and collaborative. In collaborative, it’s a requirement as part of the process that if there’s a mistake or a misunderstanding made by the other side on a particular issue, that gets brought to the table and corrected right away so no one’s taking advantage of the other. Litigation is the most expensive, collaborative is the next level. However, in Sacramento, we are working on trying to create a model for modest-income families that is in the process of being developed. Collaborative is a front-loaded process, so you are paying a retainer for your attorney and your mental health professionals and your financial person just as a starting point. However, that doesn’t mean the retainers necessarily get used up or the process isn’t able to be completed within those retainers, which it usually is, so it ends up being a less expensive process than litigation by far. Mediation is the least expensive because you only have one attorney who’s not representing either one of you that’s just facilitating the agreement and creating the marital settlement agreement which is the end result that becomes the party’s divorce judgment. However, sometimes the mediator does need to bring in expertise such as an expert for valuing a business or determining a pension etc., so that can still be something that can add to the cost in mediation as well. But that’s the tier of cost as those three models would dictate.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

Through the years, Ms. Molinaro has worked with clients in California during their most stressful family times.  

"Mary makes you feel like you’re her only client. With each successful hearing (most notably a landmark court ruling in my favor), I was filled with renewed hope."


- Jane

"Ms. Molinaro is a fighter for her clients’ rights. When you meet her in her office, she is pleasant and sweet; but in court, she is professional, quick and a powerful adversary."


- Child Custody Client

"Mary Molinaro and her paralegal, Mashanda, handled my divorce and I could not have been more pleased... She produces amazing results and I am happy to have had her representing me."


- Leah B.

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