Divorce Mediation in Riverside and San Bernardino, CA Counties
Going through a divorce can involve a wide range of disagreements, but you may be able to resolve your issues out of court by working with a professional divorce mediation service. At California Arbitration & Mediation Services in Inland Empire, CA, we have more than a decade of experience helping individuals deal with issues like asset division and child custody and support. Our fully licensed, bonded, and insured services are designed to get you through this difficult situation as smoothly as possible.
For many years, whenever the word “mediation” was used in the context of family law, parties (and even sometimes, lawyers) cringed. The problems with the process related to the term “mediation” in family law cases are many. This short essay will address but a few and will happily announce the slaying of the boogeyman.
Mediation is a special process designed to help disputing parties arrive at a resolution of whatever may be in dispute without having to resort to public trials, open hearings, the incredible costs of litigation and the overwhelming inconvenience and confusion the court system presents. Unfortunately, many years ago someone decided that in every family law case in which there were children, the matter must be “mediated” by a “mediator” who works for the Family Court Services (“FCS”). This intention was good. It was created to try intended to remove the drama and uncertainty from the issues surrounding child custody and visitation. The problem is there was little resemblance between FCS “mediation” and actual mediation.
The professionals in FCS--who have worked hard to provide a service to the public--have been dreadfully overworked. In spite of being trained in the concepts of mediation, the demands upon them and the time constraints inflicted upon them by the sheer number of family law litigants eventually transformed the process into one of dissatisfaction and sometimes outright trauma for the parents. True mediation takes time and requires the voluntary participation of the parties. Since FCS was mandated in all cases involving children, FCS mediation was never voluntary. In counties where the FCS mediators made recommendations to the courts describing what the mediator believed was the custody and visitation arrangement, the confidentiality and sanctity of mediation was nonexistent. If a parent attended FCS mediation involuntarily and then had no opportunity to have his or her story heard and understood by the overtaxed “mediator,” sometimes frustration with the process translated into a lack of cooperation or a poor attitude when the report from the FCS mediator made its way to the Judge. The result was the perceived stripping of the due process rights from the family law litigants.
The parties could reject the recommendation of the FCS mediator but just as Family Court Services are overburdened, California bench officers (judges and commissioners) in the family courts suffer with overwhelming caseloads and calendars that are unmanageable. A recent study indicated that the average time a litigant (all of the cases filed and heard in a one-year timeframe divided into the number of Family Court hours available to those litigants) would have before a judicial officer in the entire course of his or her case was something around twenty minutes, TOTAL. On a day in Family Court in which the bench officer must hear as many as 40 cases between 8:30 a.m. and noon, one can see how limited the time might be. Even the most conscientious judicial officer may occasionally rely too heavily upon the recommendation of the FCS mediator. I am told that in some courts there is a 95%, or more, probability that a bench officer will adopt the FCS recommendation in whole or in substantial part notwithstanding objections by the litigants. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of family law litigants are self-represented without the experience or wherewithal to challenge such a recommendation at trial, one should be able to see that the word “mediation” in family law settings is not well received by the parties.
Fortunately, beginning in 2012, the California courts no longer refer to the FCS process as “mediation.” As of January 2012 the process is known as Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC). There is no longer any suggestion this process is mediation.
SO, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Mediation is a process by which a trained neutral party assists litigants or disputants (mediation is used in the wide variety of disputed matters) to find a resolution to their dispute on their own terms. Because most of the parties in a family law case are self-represented, mediation is particularly critical. Except for “user-friendly” courts such as the small claims courts, the court system is a bewildering labyrinth of forms, rules, law and procedures that creates distress even in well experienced attorneys. People without the assistance of an attorney almost always run into legal barriers that may seem insurmountable. Without some type of guide through the system, substantive rights may be forever lost because the individual does not understand the process.
When a couple decides to dissolve their marriage and turns to a complete stranger (the Family Court judge) to make life-changing decisions the parties are unable or unwilling to make on their own, they are taking serious risks. Family Court judges work hard to rule in the best interests of the parties and, particularly, the children in a divorce. However, given the small amount of time they have to devote to each case in the overwhelming number of cases they have to consider, not surprisingly, they frequently make rulings devastating to one or even both parties. A Judge once addressed a couple in which one of the spouses was accused of being unfaithful. Allegedly, that conduct went on for many years before the victim spouse discovered the lie. During heated argument over who was telling the truth on a particular issue, the judge looked at the victim spouse and said, “It took you 20 years to figure out that your spouse was lying to you. Do you expect me to determine who’s telling the truth as between the two of you in the five minutes we have?” Obviously, most courtrooms are not the ideal place for the revelation of truth or, even, the presumption of justice.
Family Law mediation involves a well-trained mediator experienced in family law, the courts in the area and, ideally, has some sense of the temperament and tendencies of the family law judges. The keys, however, are formal mediation training and experience coupled with solid family law experience. In order for mediation to be efficiently productive, the parties (the disputing spouses) must want a resolution of their case. If all of those elements exist, a skilled mediator can resolve the case.
Because family law, at least in California, is “form-driven” with many statutory requirements (individual laws affecting the divorce), a mediator experienced in family law is essential if he/she will be successful in assisting the parties to reach a resolution and have a judgment entered. While mediators do not provide legal advice nor do they provide any “advocacy” to the mediating parties, it is always helpful for the mediator to know the procedures required in the local courts because unless all of the “I’s and T’s” are appropriately treated, cases can get stalled when a judgment is submitted for signing (the Judgment is the document that divides the property, identifies and resolve child issues, defines child and/or spousal [alimony] support and acts as the instrument that records the dissolution of the marriage or the divorce). An experienced Family Law Mediator can identify and provide limited assistance with the required court forms and procedures.
When parties submit their cases to a Judge the parties lose any influence they may have over the outcome and, we can say with firm assurance, those outcomes are often-times devastating to at least one of the parties.
Unlike submitting a dispute to a judge, when parties opt for mediation and want to resolve their case, they can fashion a resolution that will become a judgment that meets their needs as they define those needs through negotiation and compromise. Most people understand that divorce is a “negative sum” proposition. What that means is that the divorcing spouses (and the children) are almost never as well off financially after as they were during the marriage. However, by mediating a family law case, the parties can mitigate and control the negative outcome and work with the mediator to find resolutions that will meet the needs of the parties, rather than the system—and all without having a grumpy judge growling at them! Ideally, parties who turn to mediation to resolve their family law matters will never have to see the inside of a courtroom or see a judge. The PARTIES will make the decisions for their own lives.
Private Family Law mediation is not free, but it is cost effective and efficient. Typically, even the most complex meditations cost the parties less than simplest cases that go to trial. If the parties choose mediation and cooperate with the mediator and the process in getting their case resolved, the case will be done in days or weeks as opposed to months or years in the courthouse and at a cost that is a fraction of what it would be to try the case.
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Successful Mediated Settlement denied by Judicial Officer
Neutral Donald Cripe, appointed by the court to attempt resolution of an acrimonious family probate at the time it was called for trial, did an awesome job in crafting a settlement that responded to each party's specific needs. One party was represented and the other parties were self-represented. Despite the painstaking care Mr. Cripe took to explain, read and secure the self-represented parties' consent, they reneged on the settlement, denied they understood its terms (despite agreeing to it in open court) and the probate judge sided with the self-represented litigants. After so much work, it was disappointing and the parties are headed back to trial. I find this to be an insult to the mediation process, especially when Mr. Cripe did such a thorough job. Unless both sides are self-represented, or both sides are represented by counsel, mediation may not be helpful. Regardless of the outcome, the mediator did his job!
I have been an attorney for over 32 years and had the privilege of seeing Don Cripe in action in mediating and settling many cases. I worked with Don when we did mediations for the Courts in San Bernardino County and Riverside County. Don is both knowledgeable and patient. Don has a pleasant and even-handed approach to the settlement process that helps parties find reasonable ways to help themselves reach settlements with which they can be satisfied, and which are fair to all. I would, and have highly recommended Don and C.A.M.S. to many of my fellow attorneys and to clients alike.
Knowledgeable, professional, helpful
I received mediation services from Don Cripe. His past experience and knowledge in the legal field helped answer questions that my client had regarding the benefits of settlement over trial. Don Cripe was well prepared in that he knew the issues of the case and the concerns of both parties. I will use these services in the future.
I have known Don Cripe for over 15 years and he brings a wealth of knowledge to the mediation process. As a veteran trial lawyer, he has local knowledge of jury attitudes and the idiosyncrasies of assigned judges. This type of information is quite helpful in the evaluation process. He knows how to bridge the gap between litigants in getting the case resolved .
Quality of Service and high level of experience
CAMS professionals have proven to be the best resource for resolving disputes at a reasonable cost. My experience with using Mr. Cripe at one of my mediations was great and I would recommend him any time.
Settled difficult case.
Review of service
Quality of service is very good
Don is the best mediator for the money!
Don Cripe is a consummate professional and amazing mediator. If there's a settlement to be struck Don will be the man to find it. Cannot say enough about him.
Cripe Knows Mediation
I've used Don Cripe's mediation services many times and every time I am impressed at how good he is. He's settled cases that I thought would never end. He gets 5 Stars from me. Dr. Jim Husen, Esq., LMFT, Psy.D.
Effective--small case settled with large case mediator skills
Don Cripe resolved a small and scrappy employment case through a local court mediation program. His practical and extensive litigation experience, and people skills, were instrumental. Though this case was small, I will use him for large IE employment cases too.
Extremely capable closer
Don Cripe is an asset to the resolution process of any case. And he gets its done.
Professional & Knowledgeable!
Don did a great job! I've used him several times when he was on the mediation panel for the San Bernardino Courts and privately. I used him privately for two more difficult cases where client control was an issue and he was able to resolve both cases. My client's respect him as do I. I will definitely use him again in the future and highly recommend him!
High quality and outstanding service
Mr. Cripe is a fair and balanced mediator/arbitrator. My experience with him brought to me a better understanding of the entire process and how fairness is quintessential to arbitration. Win or lose I knew that at least all the facts and evidence would be heard and adjudicated. Mr. Cripe maintained an even keel over the time allowing both sides ample opportunity to present their case. I would, without reservation, recommend Mr. Cripe for arbitration.
Mr. Cripe was able to settle a case that was very difficult. I highly recommend him.
I have used Don Cripe for several family law mediations. Two cases in particular involved complex disputed issues and had been in litigation for several years. The parties had spent thousands of dollars in legal fees with estimated trial fees of several times more to fully litigate. In both cases, Don was able to guide the parties to reach a fair and equitable settlement on all issues in about 3-4 hours. I would highly recommend Don for any mediation.
Experienced and Effective
Don Cripe is a very experienced, kind and effective Mediator. He is always pushing for the best results. I highly recommend him for any mediating services.
Excellent mediator and easy to work with.
Knowledgeable and effective
I first came to know Don Cripe when he was counsel for the plaintiff in a matter in which I represented one of the defendants. I enjoyed a good rapport with him during that case and thought highly of him and his approach to litigation. I found him to be thorough, reasonable and always able to maintain his sense of humor and to be courteous and professional while still skillfully advocating on behalf of his client. These are qualities and abilities that have served him well as a mediator. He has mediated several of my cases and during those mediations, he has been able to establish rapport with my clients and has ably explained to them the expenses and perils of continued litigation and the benefits of compromise. One of those cases involved real estate disclosure issues in which the parties began very far apart, both as to whether there had been a failure to disclose and as to the resultant harm. Don worked hard throughout the day, and in the end, Don was able to bridge the gap and settle the case. I recommend him unequivocally.
Excellent job by mediator Don Cripe
I was defense counsel on a slip / trip and fall case involving complicated injuries and medical causation issues, and a plaintiff for which it appeared there may have been client control problems. Don skillfully worked with the plaintiff's camp to explain the risks of litigation, the process, and the issues to help educate plaintiff as to the correct value of the case, and the best course of action. This also saved my client significant fees in trial preparation and the need to continue to hold the file open. Don was extremely polite and very knowledgeable of the law, understood very well the "subtext" in the rooms during mediation, and goals for both sides. I believe he achieved a fair result for both sides and I would highly recommend Don as balanced and neutral, and suitable to select if you are plaintiff or defense.
I have used Donald Cripe a half dozen or so times over the years. He has an exceptional ability to grasp the issues and bring the parties to a resolution. I highly recommend Mr. Cripe.
Cost Effective Mediations
I enjoy working with Mr. Cripe. He is passionate about what he does and very knowledgeable and skilled. Unfortunately, most carriers now are not even willing to offer the amount of the medical specials to resolve a case. I know it's not Don's fault, but I have left very discouraged after several mediations due to the defendant insurance company's unwillingness to be reasonable.
Professional and knowledgeable
I was pleased with the service I received from CAMS. They were very professional and easy to work with from scheduling to the hearing itself. At the hearing, I found Mr. Cripe to be knowledgeable about the case and the area of law and provided a neutral environment that I was fair to both parties. I would use his services again and would recommend them to others.
CAMS mediation/Don Cripe - great service and value
Don did a great job mediating an employment case for my client involving a current employee and emotions that were running high. Slightly unorthodox locale and style, but quite effective. Look forward to working with CAMS again soon.
I first met Soheila while she was a supervisor for the San Bernardino court mediation provider. Her dedication to the process and her determination to resolve cases are unmatched. In family law cases, she can employ a collaborative approach or a straightforward one on one mediation. No matter what you seek, Soheila is the one you need. If I could give her a 6+ star rating, I would.
Dedicated Passionate Effective
As a family law trial attorney, I have known Don Cripe for the better part of 20 years. Don was dedicated to mediating family law cases long before most of his peers even considered the process an effective means of resolving divorce cases, especially those that had intensely conflicted parties and issues. Don is passionate about lifting divorcing couples (and especially their children) out of a litigation (trial) atmosphere, and the economically crushing expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees and litigation costs, into a setting of thoughtful settlement negotiations and realistic, workable compromises concerning the parties' children, their assets/debts, and their pocketbooks when support issues are resolved. Don is effective in getting divorcing parties on with their lives with a divorce judgment in hand that incorporates the necessary tools that will allow them, and their kids, to experience the smoothest transition possible during one of life's most traumatic periods.
Mr. Cripe worked very hard to get our dispute to a resolution. It is clear that Mr. Cripe has a strong grasp of the practicalities of litigating a dispute and of the factors that are important in bringing that dispute to a resolution.
I Highly Recommend Don Cripe
I had the pleasure of shadowing Don Cripe during my ADR training. Don openheartedly shared his wealth of wisdom and experience on how to be a more effective mediator/arbitrator. Don’s wisdom is borne out of the unique combination of his many years of experience as a litigator, his passion for ADR, and his good heart. Don is competent, knowledgeable, and fair. His demeanor commands respect from both parties.
Don Cripe works hard to get matters resolved. He is always well prepared and dedicated to finding a way to get to "yes".
Don Cripe Settles Cases
Don Cripe of CAMS skillfully helped settle a case between two sisters over their father's estate that had been draining the both of them for years. His legal experience and humane respect for attorneys and litigants alike enabled the parties to end their half-decade legal feud. I'm currently using him for a personal injury case. He was a sole practitioner with a wide scope of practice before becoming a full-time mediator some years ago which allows him to skillfully mediate a broad range of cases from Probate and Family Law to Contract and Business Disputes.
Mr. Cripe was able to settle the claim even though the parties had been deadlocked for over one year. He related very well to my clients. I highly reccommend him.
Tremendous effort on court sponsored Mediation
Mr. Cripe was well informed on nature of case and worked very hard on a difficult and rather uncommon medical issue and general damages related thereto. He communicated plaintiffs' position clearly to defense counsel and adjuster to the point where settlement is inevitable. Well done!
Don Cripe did excellent job helping to settle our lawsuit.
I have worked with Don Cripe for several years now as a mediator colleague. I have found him to be extremely intelligent, ethical, and effective, and a strong proponent of mediation as a tool for resolving disputes for the benefit of the parties in terms of dollars and resources saved by avoiding expensive and protracted litigation, and in terms of allowing the parties to creatively craft resolutions not available to a trier of fact, whether judge or arbitrator. I highly recommend him.
Level of expertise and professional service
I found the expertise and professional service provided by CAMS was more than excellent. No doubt mediators at CAMS are well trained professionals. I recommend CAMS for any Alternative Dispute Resolution needs.
Don Cripe mediated a case in which I represented the plaintiff. He was professional, courteous, with no signs of bias for either party. His analysis of the facts and ability to convey information between counsel was quite good. While the case did not settle, the mediation served as a foundation for moving the case towards resolution. I would mediate with him again.
Arguably the most peaceful approach
My experience with mediation was that of shadowing, I was gaining my certificate of mediation. I followed gifted lawyers and judge, and watched them tirelessly facilitate cases between contentious parties. They monitored the anxiety in the room, stayed neutral, and kept interactions level-headed and respectful. My background as a marriage and family therapist (MFT) brought a different perspective to the mediation experience. Don Cripe was considerate of allowing my MFT experience into the mediation process. And the learning was bidirectional. What I noticed in mediation and replicated in the therapy room helped enhance my own practice with my clients. Win-win. Mediation was a worthwhile experience, and I strongly recommend it. The alternative is too big a risk. Resolving matters peaceably cannot be underestimated and resolving the case the earliest possible, preferably jointly, typically works out better for everyone. The help of a willing mediator is worth considering, no matter how small or big the dispute is, emotions and wills can run strong on either side. I respect this program, and all the mediators who serve it.
Knoweldgeable, thoughtful and practical
I have participated in mediation services with Mr. Cripe in my capacity as a family law attorney. I have found him to be knowledgeable in the law, thoughtful, and, perhaps most importantly for purposes of case resolution, practical. Mr. Cripe incorporates a critical cost/benefit component into his analysis and does it in such a way that it is easy to understand for parties who may well have no prior experience with the litigation process. His kind demeanor serves to put the participants at ease, thus facilitating honest discussion and leaving parties open to the possibility of resolving their matter without resort to the cost and uncertainty of the courtroom. I would recommend his services without hesitation.
Don Cripe, Mediator
I have used Don as a mediator several times. I have known Don for many years, first as an attorney in private practice, and the last few years as a mediator. Don is a very effective, tenacious and effective mediator who will stick to a case until it is resolved. He is particularly effective in cases involving high conflict personalities. Don is excellent in keeping the parties toward a reasonable negotiated resolution of their disputes. I would use him again and I highly recommend him to others.
Professional, caring and friendly!
CAMS is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the area of Alternative Dispute Resolution! Great Professionals, Low Rates, Compassion and Dedication in Service. What else can one ask for?! :)
I've used mediator Donald Cripe on several occasions and find him to be extremely effective. On a PI case he handled the defense with aplomb. He got a cranky adjuster to play ball and get our matter resolved. On another occasion he convinced an intransigent plaintiff to come down to earth. Better yet, CAMS's rates are far superior to the other more widely known ADR companies.
I have known Mr. Donald Cripe for over 25 years. During that time, I have used Mr. Cripe's services as a mediator on numerous occasions. Mr. Cripe has the ability to really listen to people and allow them to express their feelings, while at the same time help them look at their options in getting a case resolved. It has been my experience that Mr. Cripe has been able to resolve most of the cases I have had before him. At the same time, the respective parties most always leave the hearing with a sense of satisfaction and appreciation of Mr. Cripe's services. I highly recommend Mr. Cripe as a mediator.
Reasonable prices and committed service.
I have known the practitioners at CAMS for the last 3 years. They not only are devoted and knowledgable about their practice, they also regularly volunteer for court programs to assist people who might otherwise not be familiar with mediation.
Valued Experience for mediators in training
As a strong believer in academic training and education, I can not stress the importance and relevance of hands on experience/training that does not put the client or their concerns in jeopardy. As a Marriage & Family Therapist trainee/Intern completing my certification in mediation, I have had the privilege of shadowing Don Cripe and other members of the California Arbitration and Mediation (C.A.M.) team as they have mediated private cases. I have benefited greatly from their years of experience and expertise, their knowledge of the law, sensitivity and care toward the individuals involved (on both sides) and commitment to the process of mediation which empowers the clients in having the ultimate and final say in the outcome of their cases. Over and over, I have observed this to be a powerful and highly successful process, that saves time, money and emotional reserves, that far out way the frustration of dealing with impacted courts, excessive legal costs, and the disappointment of having no say in the courts outcome. I feel confident in recommending Don and other members of C.A.M.'s mediation and arbitration services as they represent the highest level of care and service available.
Professional and effective
I recently had the pleasure of studying the art and science of negotiation under the guidance of Don Cripe of CAMS. Don was a great coach. He provided wonderful life lessons and a perspective on Alternate Dispute Resolution that lent itself to great success. Don has proven that he knows his stuff with respect to theory and that he can practice what he preaches. He creates an atmosphere of cooperation and congeniality that is perfectly conducive for helping people reach an agreement when there is conflict. I would take my mediation and arbitration needs to CAMS!
Don Cripe: Low Key and Effective Mediator at a Very Reasonable Rate
I have participated in several mediations with Mr. Cripe. I have found him to be knowledgeable on many areas of the law. Mr. Cripe also has been an effective communicator of the basis of his neutral evaluation of the positives and negatives of my client's case so that the client understands and appreciates his suggestions. Mr. Cripe has a decidedly "low key" demeanor in mediation, which I find to be quite effective. I highly recommend his services.
The mediator was very knowledgeable and experienced and used his knowledge and experience in an even-handed way to help the parties find a reasonable resolution to their issue in dispute.
Don Cripe is the first person I contact when I have mediation issues. He is both knowledgable and approachable. Don has the respect of the local legal community. His opinion and work on mediation issues is highly regarded by his fellow mediators and attorneys.
We receive great mediation service from Mr. Cripe. He was professional and intelligent. Mediation was a success and my client was grateful for his honesty and diligence. Thank you.
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- Southern California Mediation Association
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C.A.M.S. is an association of independent Arbitrators and Mediators. Each arbitrator/mediator shall be paid directly for his/her services. C.A.M.S. solely our advertising and contact platform. All references to "Mediator" apply both to the lawyer Mediator and any other professional serving as Mediator, consultant, assisting the mediator or communicating with the parties regarding the mediation. Each Mediator is independently insured. Mediators are qualified judicial immunity from liability under California law (California Evidence Code §703.5 and Howard v Drapkin, (1990) 222 CA3rd 843)
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