Mediation for Divorce & Separation

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  • Divorce Mediator & Consulting Attorney

    (3 replies)

    Hello BPN - My spouse and I are looking for a mediator who is a lawyer and and knowledgeable about complex asset situations to help us work through our Marital Settlement Agreement. We are hoping to get started on this in September. Someone else posted a similar question last December and someone recommended Heba Nimr, but that was the only response. Any other recommendations? How much did you pay per hour for mediation services? Also I will need a consulting attorney for myself. Any recommendations for a divorce lawyer who is willing to serve in that capacity? We are hoping for this process will be as amicable (and less costly) as possible. Thanks!


    Any of the attorneys with the Collaborative Practice East Bay group would be excellent to help you resolve your divorce through mediation, through a Collaborative process. Any of them also could act as a consulting attorney. It's typical and often recommended for each party in mediation to have a consulting attorney. In a Collaborative process, each party has a Collaborative attorney. There also may be a neutral Financial Professional and/or a Child Specialist to assist with relevant matters. Each party also may enlist a Collaborative mental health Coach to help with the emotional impact of the divorce. In either process, the goal is to resolve the divorce issues as efficiently and economically as possible. Fees vary but you should expect an attorney to charge at least $300-400/hour. An amicable divorce, of course, will reduce both the financial and emotional cost of divorcing. Here's the link to the Attorney list:

    I had a very good experience with divorce lawyer Henry Lewis, who specializes in complex asset situations.

    He used to work with another attorney who did mediation, but I think that attorney has retired.

    I consulted w/attorney Mike McDeavitt. He could also have taken both my husband and me on if we wanted mediation together, but I preferred to have my own lawyer. Mike was recommended by a friend who described him as being "neither a shark nor a lamb." She and her soon to be ex-husband were committed to remaining friends and this was my desire as well. I was not looking for an 'aggressive' lawyer. Mike knows how to balance amicability with informing a client how to take care of herself and the future. Located in Pleasanton but we worked virtually after the first meeting. Contact info:  Mike McDeavitt

  • We're looking for someone who can help us divide our assets while also setting up a deal to enable one of us to keep the house, while the other gets a fair shake.  Thanks.

    We're currently working with Heba Nimr as our mediator and I very much recommend her. She calls herself a "Lawyer, Mediator, Collaborative Practitioner" and this is very much what she is. She's charging us $300 per hour, which is expensive but is a much better price than our lawyers. So we decided to try this method instead and so far it's working well.

    Contact her here: wrheba [at] or 510-654-7171. 

  • Divorce Mediator

    (10 replies)

    My husband declared that he was leaving me after almost 2 decades of being together and I'm so heartbroken I can barely function. We need to go to mediation since neither of us wants to take it to court so I need recommendations for some good divorce mediators in East Bay. If you had gone through a similar experience and have some to recommend - I would be really grateful. 

    Thank you!

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss!  This might not work for you, but I went through a divorce around 2000.  We owned a house, not paid off, but had no money since we are both working musicians.  Being agreeable by nature, we used a Nolo Press book and did our own divorce.  A couple times we got stuck and had to consult with an attorney--phone number provided by Nolo Press.  We were charged by the minute so we kept the couple of calls short!  With filing fees, etc., I believe we spent less than $1,000 for the entire divorce.  We both got a little help from family and I managed to buy him out and keep the house.  He managed to buy another home a few blocks away.  We remain on friendly terms.  We also both attended therapy, separately.  I don't know of many people who are agreeable enough to do what we did, but I have always been happy that we did not battle and let lawyers get all the financial benefits.  I will keep you in my thoughts.

    I can not recommend anyone, but I am current not having a good experience with Larry Rosen.  Before you start with anything take an inventory of all of your accounts.   That is the best way to start - retirement (check if they are Roth or traditional), bank accounts, investment accounts, life insurance accounts - pull statements and get super familiar with what you have.   

    You sound blindsided by your husband's decision. I'm sorry you are in this terrible position. If marital counseling is not an option, and the divorce is going to happen, I hope you are able to allow yourself to both grieve and move forward in a way that allows you to protect yourself and your financial stability. Litigation and mediation are not the only paths to divorce in California. I just signed my marital settlement agreement through a collaborative process after 25 years of marriage. I strongly suggest you educate yourself and get emotional support (therapist, friends who have been through it, etc.) in place before choosing an attorney and beginning the formal divorce process. Educating yourself will help you prepare to enter the process and know what questions to ask as you interview attorneys. Also, ask any attorney you'd like to interview for a gratis, brief meet-and-greet; otherwise, it can get very expensive, very quickly, just to select an attorney. I would recommend mine, but she is retiring this week.

    Many high-quality, free, professional resources are available. Here are two to start with: Second Saturday and Collaborative Divorce California. Both offer free workshops to help you get started.

    I wouldn't wish divorce on anyone. Even if both parties have best intentions for an efficient, amicable process, it's a painful, expensive process at best. And yours sounds particularly painful emotionally. Choose the process that best fits your circumstances and personal needs. I greatly benefitted from the collaborative process that works on a professional team model, particularly the coach (mental health professional) who was able to support me in processing my emotions through a very complicated situation and to keep my avoidant former spouse at the table long enough to come to a settlement we could mutually agree to.

    Related: I recently heard the author of "Heartbreak: Personal and Scientific Journey", Florence Williams, interviewed. On the surface, her story sounds similar to yours. I have the book que'd up on my bedside table. 

    I wish you comfort and support. You will get through this, and you may not be able to imagine it now, but there can be a better life for you on the other side of the divorce.

    Does it have to be a person who's local, or could this be done on Zoom? This woman in Boston who helped my cousin navigate a potentially acrimonious divorce was just aces. In addition to being a divorce mediator, she is also has a law degree from Harvard, which has a tendency to calm down snobby husbands! PM me if you want her info. I know it's hard to get local appointments, and everyone seems to be booked, but I have a family "in" with her. (And it's legal to do this across state lines.) If my cousin could afford he, she's probably not charging stratospheric prices...

    In my experience, all divorces must be filed with the court and signed off by a judge. Going to court does not mean you are in disagreement, it is just part of the required process. We used only one lawyer, our agreement was non-emotional and formula-based. The lawyer filed the paperwork with the court, the court assigned us to a mediator to make sure we were in agreement with the filed documents, we waited 6 months, showed up at court, the judged asked if we had any changes, we said no, and the divorce was a done deal.

    Hi, I can't suggest a mediator, but did want to share support. I have been through a divorce and am now in a great marriage. The pain of separation can feel unbearable, but it does get better. I would be happy to share my experience and perspective with you if helpful. Wishing you peace and healing! 

    My sympathies, that sounds very difficult. My former spouse and I used Toby Adams for divorce mediation 7 years ago. She was kind and good.

    toby.adams [at]

    Take care,


    We had a good experience working with Robert Terris JD, MFT (  He's both a licensed attorney and family therapist, which was just what we needed.  I also did an individual consultation with an attorney (as did my ex-partner), so we came in with an understanding of the legal alternatives (I strongly recommend you do this too, it's expensive even for an hour, but worth it).

    I have no recommendation but just want to say that I am sorry.  

    I'm sorry you're going through this -- divorce is always difficult, but even moreso when you are heartbroken.  I was in a similar situation -- husband blindsided me with a divorce declaration.  We attempted mediation -- but because I was so distraught and my then husband just wanted out, it did not work.  He ended up having standard papers drafted by a lawyer and I just signed.  I still have huge regrets about this 12 years later.  "Taking it to court" sounds like a scary thing -- but in actuality you will just have legal counsel fighting on your behalf for what is fair.  Unless there are major things contested, you don't really duke it out in court.  As someone already mentioned -- find your support team (friends, therapist, support group) -- whether you choose a lawyer or mediation or do-it-yourself, it's important to have people to help.

  • The reviews for mediators are old, so I’m posting to see if anyone has a good recommendation for a mediator who can help me separate from my partner who displays many covert narcissistic patterns. We are not married, so “community property” doesn’t necessarily apply, but we own our home, car, joint bank accounts, and have young children. I don’t know what I am legally required to provide (financially) since I am the sole financial provider and have been for close to a decade. My partner has not carried anywhere close to the level of responsibilities that would be expected of a SAHP (ie. I have always worked from home and even though my partner is here, I have continued to shoulder many, if not the majority of the Stay-At-Home responsibilities, such as all the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, family appointments [med, dental, etc.], childcare throughout the day, signing kids up for extracurricular and driving them to/fro). I honestly don’t even think my partner deserves half of what’s in our bank accounts, since they have not carried even half of the mental load in our lives. During this time, I also paid off their student loan in full. I’ve also basically been paying for our mortgage (and our 2nd mortgage) by myself for the majority of our home ownership, which was never the “plan” when we bought it together. I also feel like the bad guy if I don’t leave my partner with half our money. But my partner refused to find employment for the past 2 years, and has only recently started searching, and even that effort has been limited to “searching”, not actively applying, and they also limit the job search to high-level jobs, vs. any job that will bring us income, that we desperately need.  I’m clearly bitter and resentful and I certainly want to co-parent amicably, but I already know my partner is going to make this a painful separation and probably will not be able to keep a “united front” to tell the kids, since they do not wish to separate.  I need help. I am clearly trauma-bonded and cannot escape the grasp of my narcissist partner. Has anyone else gone through this? This whole post sounds desperate, because that’s where I am at this point. Send help!

    I feel for you - a very difficult spot.  In all candor, I think you would be best served by first seeing an individual therapist - to help you with how you cooperate with the dysfunction that has developed, and to strengthen you for the difficult separation work ahead.  After there's some clarity with those issues, then you can decide a family law attorney or a mediator.  From reading your post, I fear that in a mediation situation, you will continue to be taken advantage of.  You deserve a strong advocate and ally who will be objective, clear, and firm in ways that you may not be able to achieve yourself at present. 

    I was divorced in 2014 and I didn’t have kids with my ex but I can relate to your situation. Having kids will make it harder from a legal custody battle perspective, but not being married will actually make it easier. For me, the best thing I did was get out. My ex told me they wanted a divorce and started making it impossible to live in the same home. I decided to move out 2 months later and filed for divorce. Moving out gave me the space I needed to clear my head and get the peace I needed, but the divorce was a mess and I had years of litigation over our only asset which was our home. Good news is your assets aren’t community property so you only have contractual obligations and if you want to keep and stay in the house you will need to buy out your partner. I would consult with an attorney first, and see what you need to do to protect your children. Then I would start looking at finances and get a separate bank account and start putting some money away for incidentals and legal fees. The best thing for your ex would be to agree to a settlement or buyout, and you will need a lawyer to help draft and negotiate. This is not going to be easy but the sooner the better is really true for these types of relationships. Be as cooperative as you can. Avoid conflict. If they become violent or physical GET A RESTRAINING ORDER ASAP because abuse only gets worse. Good luck. 

    I'm so sorry you and your kids are going through this transition. I wish I had some great mediator recommendations or optimistic advice. However, at the risk of being dramatic, I wanted to write in with some guidance. I was in a similar experience (not married, but partnered for a long time). We did not own anything together and had separate bank accounts, so I didn't have to negotiate that. However, I did end up giving him lots of money at the advice of our therapist. She thought it was the kind thing to do and would help him get set up with a nice apartment for our child to live in. Long story short, he blew all the money and couch surfed until he moved in with a new girlfriend and ignored all mediation/court agreements. I had been the primary parent, responsible for our child's medical needs/appointments, recreational activities and camps, school support, etc. However, in CA, custody is typically split 50/50. It was an absolute nightmare trying to co-parent with my ex. Trying to make decisions about medical and summer plans was impossible and contentious. Eventually,I just gave up and we stopped speaking. He gave me no money (despite having a court order for child support/splitting camps etc. 50/50), but would pay for things if asked by our child. So, I just stopped asking. The lack of co-parenting is one of the most sad and disappointing things in my life. To end on a positive note, though,our child does have a good relationship with both of his parents, and once I stopped trying to enforce the court order, my ex did leave me alone. He didn't help me, but he also did stop trying to hurt me. So that was an improvement, and our child was happier. 

    I'm in the middle of a divorce with someone with narcissistic tendencies.  I agree with the poster who said that seeing your own therapist will help you, especially if you feel you are trauma bonded.  Part of my problem was feeling sorry for my husband.

  • Divorce Mediation

    (1 reply)

    I am going through a divorce and we have reached out to Larry Rosen for mediation.  He seems to have very high mediation fees but very good reviews.  He also allows us to discuss what we are willing to pay him per hour.   Does anyone have any recent experience with the mediation process?  typical cost per hour?  Or any recent experience with Larry?  

    I didn't use Larry Rosen, but went through a lengthy mediation process recently over child custody. Lawyer mediators tend to cost more because, well, lawyers. But some psychologist/therapist mediators also charge about as much (the one I used charged $350/hr), especially if connected to the courts, eg as a Child Custody Recommending Counselor. Depending on the personalities involved in the marriage/divorce, it's really important to find someone who can remain truly neutral, and focused on negotiating the settlement.

    Therapist mediators might charge less but the process can also take a lot longer. For my part, we wasted thousands of dollars in therapy- and communication-oriented mediation sessions that stirred up acrimony. The real work -- negotiating agreements to submit to court -- happened in a few focused sessions.

    In short, calculate the cost based on time x hourly rate, not just the hourly rate.

  • Mediation with bullying husband

    (7 replies)

    My husband and I are separating, and it is mutual.  We have a house together, and a daughter entering middle school - we're going to try to wait to divorce and wait to physically separate into different houses.  (We have long slept in separate rooms, and lived somewhat separate lives.)  We would like to avoid going to court, but I think that I'm probably going to need a lawyer or some ally to help me negotiate things with him.  I don't think the situation is currently contentious, but, as my entire marriage with him has shown me, if I disagree with his ideas or even just tell him how I feel, he rages at me and bullies me, and it is really emotionally debilitating, not to mention nothing practical gets accomplished. 

    I wonder if any people "who've been there" can remark on the success of mediation when one of the parties is a bully?  I know I haven't given a lot of information, and it may be a reductive question, but I've been told by some people that they spent thousands of dollars on mediation only to end up having to spend more on attorneys, and they just wished they'd skipped the mediation part altogether since a person like that cannot collaborate in such ways.

    Thank you for your thoughts.


    My experience with a mediator only worked because my ex and I agreed ahead of time on all key issues, and it was the 1st time in 18 years we didn't have to argue. I recommend hiring a good lawyer now.

    Well, fortunately for me forty years has passed, and although I was hosed in the divorce and child custody fight, i have now become an attorney myself. Nothing like some tools and skills to deal with bullies. First of all please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can text or talk, if you have a safe place to call from. You will get some good emotional support to do what needs to be done.

    Divorce itself can be cooperative and collaborative Family law attorneys are bound by their rules of professional conduct not to be scorced earth litigators to drive up the costs. My research turned up several collaborative attorneys on a recent search. INot sure what you mean by mediator, however.

    My ex and I did mediation exclusively. He is a bit verbally abusive, though maybe not as bad an you describe your husband.The mediator basically laid out how the courts would likely divide assets and set spousal support and child support. We both went into it wanting a fair but non-contentious process, and that was what we got. We got a 50/50 joint physical and legal custody agreement with a schedule that worked out for both of us. I declined spousal support, even though I would have been entitled as the lower earning spouse, because I thought him having to write a check every month would cause festering resentment and I wanted to stand on my own feet (and I had enough income to do that). He said at the time that he was willing to pay, but I wasn't confident that willingness would last. As it stands now (7 years later), we still get along and seem to be doing okay at the co-parent thing. 

    I thing problems come up when one of the parties a) Wants primary custody, b) Wants an uneven division of assets, c) Feels entitled to more spousal/child support than the courts would order based on income, or d) Bitterly resents paying spousal and/or child support. Or if both parties want to keep the family house rather than selling it. 

    As a therapist, I hear lots of divorce stories. I also know a handful of divorce and child custody mediators. While it is certainly true that attorneys can drag a divorcing couple practically into bankruptcy if they are determined to keep fighting, it is also true that mediation can be just as expensive. Divorce attorneys who do trial work want to win and it doesn't matter to them how long it takes. Mediators, on the other hand, want both parties to feel heard and understood and it doesn't matter how long that takes either. 

    If you're able to work through issues easily, a mediator is probably cheaper just because they charge so much less per hour. But if you're likely to fight (and it sounds like you think you are) the amount of time a mediator is going to take may well be much longer than an attorney. Plus, if you have a bullying partner, you are really going to need an advocate to fight for you (an attorney) rather than someone who is working too hard to help the two of you process your feelings.

    hi. I have been there and strongly recommend you get a good lawyer. I also wanted to mediate with my very difficult high conflict ex husband (he is a total narcissist, but high conflict people come in different flavors), but what I came to realize over time was that mediators are supposed to stay neutral and what I really needed was a strong ally to ensure my interests were being looked after. I was so accustomed to just ceding to him to avoid being berated that it has taken me years to even identify what my needs/desires/preferences/interests are, let alone to advocate for them. At least go and talk to a lawyer-- you could get a one-time consultation with someone experienced. If you give away too much at this point, you could suffer for years to come, financially and otherwise. 

    Collaborative divorce is one possible model which might work with a difficult spouse, but it's very expensive, so was not an option for me. I did find their divorce options seminar very useful ( ). After several months of trying to figure out to get mediation to work, I ended up hiring a wonderful lawyer (Donna Gibbs) who was able to negotiate a fair settlement with my ex husband's lawyer so we didn't end up having to go to court. However it was important ultimately to have that threat of litigation, so make sure if you do hire a lawyer, it's someone who does still litigate (not all lawyers do).

    It helps you that the decision to separate is mutual. I would leverage that as much as possible so that he thinks he is the one with control and making decisions (as long as they are good for you and your child too!). That will makes things go more smoothly. People like this are typically looking for their own advantage above all (my ex husband did NOT want a divorce-- 5 years later he is still angry about it, despite his remarriage to the 'love of his life' -- he still punishes me every chance he gets through the kids. But I have no regrets-- I wake up happy every day and my kids are managing fine.)

    Sharing a household with someone like this is indeed 'emotionally debilitating'-- it's hard to think clearly or act decisively in such a state. Let me state it clearly: you deserve better. no one deserves to be treated like this. I hope you get the support that you need to move forward. I send you a big hug and wish you well. 

    I am in the process of divorcing.  I chose to hire a lawyer, and he has a lawyer.  I considered mediation, but felt like it would be more expensive than just getting a lawyer.  The bonus is that his lawyer sends letters to my lawyer.  I only have to talk to my lawyer.  He only has to talk to his lawyer.  Both our lawyers charge a lot, so neither of us is having hours-long conversations with our lawyers.  I am happy I picked this option.  I recommend as a first step, getting a therapist.  They may be able to give you a reality check as to what will be possible with your spouse, as well as supporting you in this process.  I think you have a good handle on the risks -- I do know someone whose mediation went past six figures because the spouse didn't care about the money.  But I also know someone who had a successful mediation.  Good luck.

    Hi this is probably too late but just wanted to throw it out there.  SF has a community mediation organization that is very affordable. It is run by volunteers who are trained. So this may or may not be suitable for you and your husband as it is not legally binding.  Basically you call them to set an appointment, they will do an intake with you and then contact your husband (or whomever you have the conflict with). The meeting is 3 hours with at least 2 or sometimes 3 mediators. They help you resolve your differences and come to agreements which are then written out and signed by all parties at the end. You can schedule follow up mediation appointments too.  I think many of their appts are for housing issues - roommates or whatnot but I actually took my mom there over an old family issue that was of a very personal nature. I did so because I don't live in the area so going to counseling together wasn't feasible and I wanted something that was focused on resolution and not reiterating all that old stuff. I found it very very useful and the 2 mediators who ran our session very helpful for both of us. I think I paid about $125 which was a fraction of the price of regular mediators. Just an idea.

  • Hello, 

    My husband and I are divorcing and in need of a good mediator to oversee our Marriage Settlement Agreement.  We have nearly everything prepared and we are looking for a professional to check it over with us before submitting it.

    Anyone you would recommend who is currently practicing? Thank you!

    I went to Camille King for a prenup, I know she does just the sort of thing you need. She is in Albany near 80, and she's wonderful.

Parent Reviews

We're currently working with Heba Nimr as our mediator and I very much recommend her. She calls herself a "Lawyer, Mediator, Collaborative Practitioner" and this is very much what she is. She's charging us $300 per hour, which is expensive but is a much better price than our lawyers. So we decided to try this method instead and so far it's working well.

Contact her here: wrheba [at] or 510-654-7171. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Going through a divorce, looking for a mediator

Aug 2013

My husband and I are going through a sad divorce after only 2 years of marriage and we have a one year old son whose custody needs to be arranged. I would have much rather stayed in our marriage and worked through our problems as they really seem solvable. However my husband is not of the same mind set. From the first day of our childs birth he has envied my motherhood and as odd as it sounds has developed an envy and resentment towards me for ''denied maternity''. I am still nursing my one year old boy and he has some unreasonable expectations on how many nights our son should already be spending with him. I need the help of a mediator who can be compassionate to our situation.

Hello. I am so sorry to hear about your situation. I am also in the process of working out details of a split from my husband and have a 3 year old and 9 year old. We have a mediator, but are also seeing an amazing woman who specializes in couples in this situation (separation or divorce) but her position is to advocate for the children. She focuses on what your child is developmentally ready for and guides you how to handle her recommendations - what to say, how to logistically go about what you will do, etc. She also is helping us with the custody and visitation...what our little one can manage vs. our older child as their ages dictate different needs. Honestly i feel she has been a godsend to us in this situation and highly recommend speaking to her. Another benefit is if you have a PPO you can submit for partial reimbursement because she is a LCSW. Google her, there's a bit of info on her. Good luck!! Sheri

A compassionate mediator in San Rafael area

July 2013

Can anyone recommend a compassionate mediator in San Rafael area? My husband and I are about to get divorced, we have a one year old child and would like somebody to help make this as smooth a transition as possible.

I have two wonderful recommendations for excellent mediators in San Rafael: Edith Politis and Michael Cogen. Both were very instrumental in helping my husband and I create a fair and meaningful pre-marital agreement. Michael worked with both of us and Edith was my representative, though she also works with couples. They are both extremely intelligent, thoughtful, fair, calm and grounded. We drove from Berkeley several times, but lucky for you if you already live in San Rafael.

Edith's website is: Michael's website is: I think very highly of both of them. Good luck. Berkeley Mom

Nancy Foster at Northern California Mediation Center is a wonderful, compassionate mediator in Marin who has trained many of the mediators in the Bay Area. I highly recommend her. Ariel

Need refferal to a great divorce mediator

Nov 2012

After a long and thorough consideration I've decided to end my 14 years of marriage and would like to try a mediation route. I was hoping our wonderful BPN community can share their experience and give me few names. I live in Berkeley. Thank you. anon

Larry Stone is an excellent mediator- is located off of Park Ave in Oakland! You won't be disappointed! You can find him on the web. Beth

Mediator (or lawyer) for separation

Oct 2012

Recommendations sought for someone who can help negotiate an amicable separation. Somewhat complex since there are children involved and we are not domestic partners. It is also not clear that my partner will cooperate on any level. I am the biological parent and need someone who can guide me through my rights and responsibilities. Thanks. getting out (finally!)

Call Emily Doskow. She's a wonderful mediator and lawyer and specializes in helping couples work things out without nasty disputes. She has a lot of experience with nontraditional families as well. Her office is in Oakland. Her website is Good luck. anon

My recommendation is to read through various websites to find which mediator has a philosophy you agree with. Because that mediators can be very different. Some are very agressive and nearly force solutions, and others try to help clients figure it out themselves. I opted for Larry Rosen, who has an office in Rockridge and in SF. His website is and phone is 415-356-9834. He had me and my husband understanding each other like we hadn't in ten years. That's not to say that the process was that easy. We had some tough decisions to make because of our finances. But it did help me understand the man. And I'm able to be a coparent and very friendly with the man. A big surprise to me. And don't do litigation. I know so many women who litigated and really regretted it. Because they can't be friendly with their husbands at all. War takes no prisoners. anon

Divorce mediator in Lamorinda area?

Oct 2012

I find plenty of referrals in the BPN archives for mediators west of the tunnel but none for the Lamorinda/Walnut Creek area. Have any of you had a good experience with a mediator out this way? Any pros and cons about the process would be very helpful, too. Thanks, BPN. Anon

Tamarah Haet is a wonderful family law attorney-mediator in the Lamorinda area. She is smart, analytical, compassionate, and wise and I cannot recommend her highly enough. She can be reached at 510-908-4733. esther

Divorce mediator?

June 2011

Can anyone recommend mediation services to deal with all aspects of divorce, custody agreements, financial issues, separation of assets, etc. I'm not really sure where/how to start the process, but fairly certain skilled negotiation will be necessary to cut through the issues.... Thanks! anon

I am glad you are seeking out recommendations here on BPN. I wish I had done so when I needed a mediator. I had an incredibly expensive and useless two+ years going through divorce mediation. Granted that my ex- was not the most co- operative person in this process, but the mediator would not give up (at $180 hourly). She had me going to mediation sessions alone for a full year while my ex- partner ducked and weaved and made excuses.

From my perspective, the mediator really did not know what was going on, was taken in by, and compliant with, my very controlling ex-partner but had too much professional pride to call a halt to what was fruitless process that ultimately went nowhere. In the end, I just regarded the mediator as simply using me to pay her bills. She just wouldn't give up. If I knew of a place to complain regarding professional misconduct of mediators, I would have done so, but to my knowledge there is no professional body who can actually arbitrate or call a mediator to task for pure bad practice. They all seem to be mavericks.

Luckily, I don't see her name here on BPN and I wish I had gotten some real recommendations from real people, rather than from the list of recommended mediators that my attorney gave me.

Looking for a great Divorce Mediator

April 2010

Hi, my husband and I are getting a divorce and we've been shopping around for mediators, but have had no luck. They all seem really pricey ($250/hr and above). We both decided that we don't want to go the attorney route, but we do need help working through our disagreement over the custody of our daughter. I'm just wondering if there is a mediator out there who provides great service at a more reasonable rate?

Greetings -- Larry Rosen may be right for you; as far as I know, he still charges what you feel you can pay. You can assess what you think you can pay and speak to him about it. His website:

By the way -- mediating is MUCH less expensive than litigating in the long run. There are offices where paralegals will help you do the paperwork, but if you have any issues to resolve like custody, it will be more than worth it to work on the problem with a mediator. Even when working with a mediator there will likely be moments when you are tempted to litigate (I know I was). But resist. And pay the much less that a mediator requires. You'll save not only $$, but sanity. been there

If you want to minimize the pain of a dissolution, Erica Becks of Diversified Mediation is great. She's very skillful and experienced working with even difficult situations. Her number is 387.7245. SM

Chris Littlefield is a mediator extraordinaire 510 247-0199. Tell her Reenie sent ya! Good things on the horizon for you : ) Reenie

Robert Terris is a great mediator for couples in any process. We used him for our separation and we were done with all agreements in 10 hours - which seemed impossible after 16 years of marriage. He is practical and compassionate and is both a lawyer and a therapist. His office is in Rockridge and his rates are very reasonable. His web-page:,MFTI_Oakland_California_73594 anon

Most divorce mediators (and certainly the good ones) have decades of experience as family law attorneys, hence their hourly rates in the 300 plus range. It is well worth it, however, since she will tend to save you a ton in lawyers fees, time, sleepless nights and stress, if your case is right for mediation. I can highly recommend: Sarah Leverett (832-6600) and Donna Gibbs (465-3927). They are both superb. Good luck to you, oakland divorce lawyer

I want to concur with the others, Erica Becks of Diversified Mediation is great. My ex-wife and I used her for our divorce last year. She is very reasonable, personable and will walk you through the entire process of divorce. She has a pretty nice website too, with great self help resources: JG

I would try Larry Rosen. I used him for my divorce earlier this year. I actually paid him $300 per hour but under his system you pay what works for you. Strange? Yes. I thought he was worth this much because it helped us resolve tough issues, went pretty fast and we didn't need to hire outside attorneys. (He is an attorney so he can help with all of the legal issues). But I'd say that in general it's hard to find someone who is good for less than $300 per hour. That's a pretty tough nut for most of us. If you hire a non-attorney, you might save some money but at what price? That's what concerned me. I thought you probably don't get insight into the legal issues. And even attorneys are no guarantee of good mediating. Most attorneys aren't too sensitive to human issues or skilled in resolving them. I was happy with Larry and so was my (former) spouse. He's a smart and sensitive man. Good luck. annon

Divorce as friends

Sept 2009

After years of trying to make it work, my husband and I have decided to go our separate ways. Though we go through periods of mistrust and anger, we really do care about each other and want to divorce in a way that works for both of us. We don't want to spend what little we have saved on attorrneys who drive us apart. Plus, we know our daughter (8 years old) will be better off if we can stay out of court, and maybe even remain friends.

So here are my questions. 1. Does anyone have any advice on good mediators to use? 2. Any words of wisdom to one aspiring for peace from those who have been through a divorce? 3. I remember that there were some posts a year back about divorcing in a peaceful way that were pretty inspiring, but they are not in the archives. Can the moderator put those posts in the archives? (I know two other people in a support group who were looking for those posts as well.) Thank you to anyone who responds. I find that very supportive! Helen

I really do hope for you and your husband that you can divorce peacefully, as friends. A lot of it depends on you; the mediator can help you be fair to each other and help keep the lines of communication open, but it is really your commitment to staying respectful and friendly toward each other that makes it happen. Having said that, Eva Herzer is an excellent and calm mediator. I have a friend who worked out a very amicable divorce with her ex-husband through Eva. A lot of people on the list have recommended Larry Rosen, and I had good initial communication with him, but my ex-husband did not want to go that route (it sounded too ''touchy-feely'' to him). We ended up working with Judith Joshel, who was very good at keeping things fair, open, and out of court, even though my ex-husband and I did NOT have friendly feelings toward one another. You can google all of these recommendations.

I don't know if I have advice that would apply to your case, since every couple is different. But was was important for us what to keep communication limited and business-like, stay away from re-hashing old marital differences, keep your child(ren)'s welfare at the forefront, be prepared to compromise and give a little when necessary, don't use judgmental speech or expose your child(ren) to tension. Those are the basics. Good luck! happily divorced

We used Eva Herzer on Peralta in Berkeley. She did an excellent job and continues to work with us when we need another situation with the kids worked out. kl

Most areas have a Collaborative Divorce network of professionals trained in this modality. It is structured and quite supportive to those who want to remain amicable through divorce. It can be costly, so that may not be the best route for you. Many of those professionals are also mediators. The website for the East Bay is: Good luck, Susan

I have great success during my 10 year divorce with mediators Donna Guillory and Christine Pigeon in Oakland near college avenue. Both Phd. v

Try Catherine Haley in Oakland. Been there

My now ex-husband and I divorced as friends six years ago. It was in Contra Costa County and was logistically pretty easy. We hired one attorney at a flat rate to file the paperwork and went to a mediator assigned by the county. Neither of us asked for child or spousal support, and agreed to split the costs of non-covered medical expenses and daycare. There is also no visitation schedule in the decree, it just says ''reasonable,'' which we figured out on our own and adjust as needed. We only had one court visit at the end for the judge to sign off on it. --happily divorced mom

My husband and I divorced without the ugliness and I think our daughters were spared a lot of drama (though divorce is difficult for everyone no matter what). I have one suggestion that may or may not work for you. Would it be possible to skip the mediator and hash out an agreement with your ex? I think our society is so litigiously oriented that we forget that we are not required to seek out legal/mediation assistance when we divorce. You mentioned mistrust in the past so maybe it is not an option for you.

My ex-husband and I drafted out an agreement without legal assistance or mediation. This agreement was mainly completed via e-mail communication and we submitted it to the court with our other documents. I am not sure if our agreement covers every possible legal loophole but what I do know is that my ex is a good person and a person of his word. We honor the spirit of our agreement rather than the written word of a document.

I hope you do not mind this suggestion. It is nice to see that you and your husband are working hard to be adults and keep your child first. Best of luck to you. - it does get better

Good luck with your divorce. I've just gone through it myself and am writing to say that it can be healthy and you can end up being friends. I have been separated from my ex for 2 years and our divorce will be finalized next week. For about a year prior to our separation, we had weekly meetings with a marriage counselor/therapist (I'm not sure of the difference). Now, while it could be viewed as a failing of marriage counseling that our marriage was not saved, I would actually say that it made the separation and subsequent divorce much more peaceful.

When we finally decided to officially divorce, we worked with Eva Herzer. She was incredibly fair and called each of us out when either of us was pushing for more than what we really deserved. For example, I do significantly more of the child care and felt that my ex should therefore contribute more for our child's costs (e.g. tuition, etc.), but I also earn substantially more. Eva calculated what the state would expect for child support, and I would actually be the one to owe money to my ex. It was surprising to me, but it was all dealt with in a way that made me not feel resentful. (My ex declined to receive child support payments.) I should also say that there were an equal number of times when a disagreement, if it could be called that, went in my favor.

It all worked out quite smoothly, and my ex and I now work together well as a parenting team. The three of us (parents and child) went kayaking this weekend and we're grilling tonight. There are times of tension and stress, but nothing like before.

The key to my peace of mind is to remind myself that my ex cannot and will not change, and I try to limit my expectations of him. His limitations became unbearable in a spouse, but are now simply the personality quirks of a friend. anon

Joel Tranter, in Berkeley,(510-292-0907) is a family lawyer who definitely specializes in helping couples who are seeking a simple and amicable divorce. I think you would do well to look him up and consider using his services as a good first step. I hope he can save you from the heartache of a very contentious divorce. Best of luck to you! Leah

I used Larry Rosen. 415-356-9834. I see that others on BPN have recommended him. My husband had actually used him with a mediation with his business partner and liked him alot. My husband doesn't like lawyers or therapists, so I figured if he likes someone, this was my one chance at mediation. I don't know how it would have gone with other mediators, but happy we were with Larry. He gave us one piece of advice that was really helpful and that I will pass on, it was something like even if you are great friends now, every divorce will have its emergencies, it's the people who come back to mediation especially during their emergencies that make it through mediation. He told us to expect the hard times because everyone has them. We were one of those couples that came into the mediator's office saying that we have it all worked out, we're going to be friends, and no problems. But then I found out he had another credit card and then that he had used it at a hotel, and then of course, that he had an affair. Wow. I was ready to turn it over to an attorney becase I couldn't trust him but then I thought about it, every divorce has real emergencies and the ones who make it through mediation are the ones who stick it out. That's what we did. Larry did a very good job of helping us handle that hard time, but again, maybe other meditoars would have also. (I'm actually writing this from my neighbor's house who also used larry in her divorce and had a good result).

So i say if you want to be friends or to have a good divorce you should expect the hard times and if they arise come back to mediation. Figure it all out in mediation. You might think you won't need this advice because you are friends now, and I hope you don't, but if you are like us, something will derail the process and if you're shocked by that, you might find yourself in a lawyers office instead of working it all out together. Anyhow we made it through and a few years later now pretty good friends again. Our son knows nothing of the hard times because he was never dragged in. Maybe this will help you. K karen

May 2009

I don't know about the attorney you mentioned, but I wouldn't give up on mediation so fast. My ex-wife and i had a very rough (verbal abuse both ways) relationship and a tougher breakup. On the brink of hiring a bull-dog attorney, she read a post last year on peaceful divorces and then spoke to me about it. We decided to go the route of mediation. It hasn't been easy but our relationship has at least gotten somewhat better, rather than worse. The big winner is our child, who would have been the one to lose if we had gone through any form of litigation. I think just about anyone can do without attorneys going to war (if both people are committed). Don't give up on peace. We didn't. S

Mediator for uncomplicated divorce & custody

Dec 2008

Hi: I need recommendations for divorce attorneys and/or mediators. We have a young child and a home, but I don't expect we will have complicated custody / support issues. Does anyone have any recommendations for professionals who can help with the legal and financial aspects of getting divorced? We live in Oakland, but are open to SF or Berkeley recommendations well. Also, I don't really know anyone who has been through this recently and would love to hear any words of wisdom for how to deal with this. Thanks. Need help with divorce process

My divorce was finalized in July, and I strongly recommend the mediation process. A good mediator functions almost like a therapist in the sense that s/he facilitates conversations about very difficult issues and gets you to a place of agreement. I can recommend both Judith Joshel in Berkeley and Eva Herzer in Albany, very close to the Berkeley line. You could talk to each woman to get a sense of her style. Judith Joshel's has a website at, and Eva Herzer's phone number is 510) 526-5146. If you would like to contact me about my experience, feel free.

I would like to recommend Dr. Mary Duryee as a mediator. She can be very insightful and supportive. Her number is (510) 839-7080. Anon

Mary McNeill is very good. Smart, reliable, friendly, professional and organized. She is in North Berkeley and can be reached at 528 3200. g

Responding to the need for a divorce mediator. We used Larry Rosen Through Understanding 5625 College, Suite 216 Oakland CA 94618 Bus: 1-415-356-9834

He used Non Violent Communication which really helped. My ex was so impressed he bought the book. (A little late for our marriage) I believe the process was less painful because of him. D.

Possible to get over the anger, have a peaceful divorce?

Nov 2008

My husband turned 50 last year and said he decided he had to be honest in his life. He told me he hasn?t been in love with me for many years and wants a divorce. I am very angry, in part because it will be so hard on us financially, and in part because I?m afraid of being lonely. But, I don?t want my anger to lead us to war in court. I?ve heard such terrible stories. We have three kids, all under 10 years old, and I don?t want them to be destroyed by this. I don?t want to be destroyed by this myself. A few years ago there were some posts on BPN on whether getting divorced in a peaceful way is possible. I guess those posts are still relevant but I can really use some present-day inspiration. Is it possible to get over the anger and have a peaceful (or at least semi-amicable) relationship with someone who hurt you like this? And has anybody used a professional mediator who really helped them achieve peace with an ex where there was a lot of unresolved anger? I need some hopeful words!

After nearly 20 years together and three children 12 and under, I have made the decision to leave my marriage. It came as a huge shock to my husband, although I have been telling him for some time that I was unhappy. Despite his pain and anger, we feel strongly that it is in our children's best interest that we try and divorce peacefully. We both have divorce coaches, will retain collaborative attorneys, who pledge, along with us, not to pursue litigation, engage the services of a 'financial neutral' and a child specialist.

While this sounds like a lot of people (and a lot of expense) it turns out to cost less if everyone is on board. My divorce coach is Eve Poling and she has an office in Rockridge, but there are many to choose from. I recommend you take a look at this website: There are many regional organizations. I had never heard of this prior to my husband locating someone who practiced this way.

If you think this might be an interesting solution for you, I encourage you to check it out.

I have no false illusions that this will be trouble free, but we are so committed to our sons coming out of this well, we will set aside our issues to serve their best interest.

Although my husband is very angry at me, we both agree we want to 'uncouple' this way.

Best of luck to you. Going through it, too.

Sounds familiar. Two days before my 50th birthday, during a marriage counselling session, my ex-wife announced that she wanted to end the marriage. Together we explained the situation to our 13 yr old son. I went to a divorce recovery workshop at the Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church (not religous) and that helped. We stayed in the same house for a few months until we could find our own places. We agreed on splitting time with the child. We continued to see our couples therapist but used her as a co-parenting coach. We mostly agreed upon the financial split, but that took several years to complete. We both have moved onto other relationships and remain cordial with each other. It can work, and in the long run it may be the best solution for both you and your children. It will be ok.

Hello - I read your message about your hope for a peaceful divorce. I do think it is possible. My husband and I have been married for 15 years and have a 7 year old boy. We are just starting the process of divorce mediation with attorney/mediator Larry Rosen . I read positive reviews about him on BPN and Larry was recommended to me by a resource called Divorce With Dignity. His website, resonated with me and the way I'd like to go through this unfortunate process. Having just met Larry last week, my husband and I both felt he was very kind, honest and intelligent. We left his office feeling very positive that, with Larry's navagation, we could find a way to still care for one another so that we can meet our most important need - the well being of our child. I too have been very angry at my husband and I know that holding that type of energy is causing me tremendous physical and emotional pain. Everyday, through all the chaos, fear and unknowing,!

I choose to be peaceful and seek ways to support that choice. Meditation, taking walks & reading helpful books. Knowing that besides being a loving mother, one of the most important things I can do for my child is to find a way to be peaceful with his father is incentive enough for me. Go to the library and get every book that feels right to you. Conscious Divorce, Ending a Marriage with Integrity by Susan Allison is a good one. Using Divorce Mediation, Save Your Money & Your Sanity by Katherine E. Stoner (NOLO) is a very helpful guide. Give peace a chance. We have to believe it is possible. The alternative is bleak. Lazarous

Hi there,

First off, I'm sorry you find yourself in such a difficult situation. I went through it myself and it was a huge challenge: shocking, hard, and painful.

To cut to the chase, though, yes, it is absolutely possible to have a peaceful divorce.

I think there are two issues: first, can you deal with your own anger? and then second, can you have a peaceful divorce? The second part depends in large part on the first. This is absolutely huge. I have some ideas about getting over anger, and I'd be happy to share those with you in a private email if you're interested.

Now regarding divorce, my ex and I decided to go the mediator route. We chose Larry Rosen , who's a lawyer and trained in Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Larry helped us get to the roots of what each of us wanted and needed and figure out how to get it. He helped us communicate calmly and effectively and understand each other better. I heard my ex express things I now realize he had been feeling for years but I never really got, and I think he experienced the same thing. Larry is skillful, insightful, and calm. With his help we created a (very unusual) settlement agreement that addresses our needs and desires in a way that works for both of us.

One very unusual thing about Larry is his pricing structure. He asks for a ''gift'' of a certain amount of money per hour, and then the clients decide whether they can comfortably pay that, and offer what they can. That rate remains flexible; we changed ours as circumstances changed. Larry's first concern is that the process works for everyone: his work is valued and appreciated and the clients feel they can afford his services and remain committed to peaceful separation.

In short, I worked a lot on myself to deal with anger, and we got a great mediator. My ex and I went from barely speaking last December to celebrating Thanksgiving together with our children and my new partner this year. We're not unusual---you can also have a peaceful divorce.

All the best to you. d.

I am 51 yr old woman who a few short years ago ago felt trapped in a very unhappy marriage of 20+ years. I felt alone and helpless. I was afraid of what was going to happen to me and my young child. I had no money, he had total control of everything. I could not talk to my husband about anything he was very verbally abusive. BUT I took a chance and contacted a Mediator whose info I saw online. This choice was was one of the best I have ever made! He was able to connect with my husband (not easy!!!) and sit down with the two of us and workout a peaceful plan and we were divorced but our daughter was not caught in the middle of a ugly scene. This was a miracle!!!! My daughter was in first grade back then and now is in sixth, she is well adjusted and did not have to be put in a middle of a war zone. I am convinced this would have NEVER happened if it were not for one of the most decent and honorable men I have ever met. To tell you the truth I did not think he was for real at first, he was so genuine and caring but I found out that he is truly one of those rare individuals who dedicate their lives to helping others. Thanks to him I do have my life back, and most importantly my daughter is a happy and healthy child who is not in the middle of chaos.

I have to do my part now, don't feel alone. A peaceful divorce is possible. I can't recommend Larry Rosen enough. There are no words. His website is He has an office in Berkeley. His number is (415) 235-8968.

Good luck to you. Remember there is hope. Divorce is difficult but there can be a life for you and your child or children after the details are worked out. My ex and I will never be best buddies but we are able to co-parent and be mature adults. Sara

Hello...I can offer you some very current advice. I know, because my husband of 18 years and I have decided to end our marriage. We are intentional about our mutual desire to figure this out in a peaceful manner. Recently we learned about a group of practitioners that fall under the title of collaborative practice. They help couples resolve the myriad of issues facing them when dissolving a marriage, especially when children are involved. Here is a link to their website:

I hope it can help you. We are hopeful that it will help us keep our family emotionally whole. Going through it, too.

Yes, it can be done. Six years after our split (we were together for 20 years), we are friends again just like we were when we first met, supportive and helpful to each other. Our children (now 16 and 19) benefitted from our weekly dinners and fluid visiting, custody arrangement (we had something on paper, but we have always been very flexible). A good couples counselor can help you work through and have a ''good'' divorce, for the children, and for yourselves as well. Richard Bush (841-1845) is on several insurance panels and was extraordinary in helping us both come to terms with the changing shape of our individual futures. It made all the difference for us. Good luck. Been there

I think it is possible. I am in the middle of figuring it out myself. My situation is similar to yours, and I understand your feelings of hurt, fear, and anger.

I am motivated by what I DON'T want in my relationship with my ex: the constant stress of fighting and hostility, unpleasant encounters witnessed by the kids, etc. You know the type of divorced couple I'm talking about, the ones who always bad- mouth each other and can't seem to get past their hatred of each other. That's what I don't want. I don't want my life to be controlled by him/my feelings about him. Like you said, you don't want to be destroyed by this yourself.

So when I feel hurt or angry and I want to lash out, I try to hold myself in and communicate in a positive, respectful manner. I'm not saying it's easy, it's not, not at all, and I don't always succeed. I have to fake it, a lot of the time. But when I make an effort to be friendly to him, he's (usually) friendly to me. We've tried to keep the good parts of our relationship in our post-married state. We get along pretty well most of the time.

Look at it this way: you have three kids under ten together. You are going to be a part of each others' lives (whether you want to or not) forever because of that. It's up to both of you to make it what it will be.

I read a book called Still Friends: Living Happily Ever After Even If Your Marriage Falls Apart by Barbara Quick. Even though she doesn't give a lot of tips on how to accomplish this, there were a lot of anecdotes in the book that made me think it was possible.

I know it's hard. I really, really know. But I think it's worth it. It's got to be better than the alternative. Rooting for you

Yes, a peaceful divorce is possible, and is really the way to go for the sake of the kids. Yes, there is pain and disapointment, but I got past that by focussing on the practical matters. We had one lawyer to fill out the paperwork, and we decided everything else fairly on our own (custody, visitation, etc.). Mediation is required and a mediator is assigned in Contra Costa county, so we did that. Then the judge said as long as we could decide how to split kids and property on our own and we were both happy with it, then he wouldn't change our decisions. Now several years later, my ex and I get along fine, joking over our kids' birthday lists and going to soccer games together. -- good luck

of course you are angry. your whole world has just turned upside down. If your husband is certain this is the path he wants to take, you can either do this kicking and screaming or you can do this with dignity. You will respect yourself more if you take the high road. It is hard-but you will sleep well at night knowing you did the right thing. Your kids will be less traumatized if you can keep the ugliness out of their view.............. been there, done that

If you're looking for a mediator to help you, I cannot recommend highly enough the Non-Violent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication) mediators that you can hire through They are wonderful, compassionate people, dedicated to helping people create more peace through better communication. Go to the web site and contact the office, let them know that you are interested to hire a mediator. Many of their instructors are also mediators, and they can get you in touch with some one who can help. You will find this a life altering experience (for the better), I promise! Alesia

I don't know about peaceful divorce. Sad that your whole life has to be turned topsy-turvy. But if he says he is no longer in love, it means he does not want to make an effort and I would focus on yourself and your children as fast as possible. ''If he does not want me I do not need him or want him either'' is the best possible mental state to develop quickly. And don't assume you will be alone. My 50 year old co-worker with 12 year old son is getting remarried on New Years eve. Happiness could be just around the corner. Downsize as quickly as possible. No possessions are worth the mental stress of financial anxiety. The health and happiness of you and your children will come from within. Having an unhappy person out of the home and having a home and things you can easily afford will put you on the right track. Sorry and good luck. Myst

Looking for mediator for divorce

Sept 2008

My wife and I are initiating a divorce and have been given the names of a few mediators and we are seeking feedback on them. Any info is appreciated: Eva Herzer, Gene Seltzer, Leslie Morgan
Thanks! - Signed Need_Mediator_Feedback

We used Eva Herzer for mediation. We did get through after several months but - We had to rewrite all the financial statements and collect the documentation three times - Eva requested this upfront then twice again. We were not clear that it needs to be very up to date when filing. She presented us with a final document where some obsolete law was quoted. She didn't seem be up to date on a particular tax law that was applicable. She forgot about a visit we had scheduled. More subtle things... I felt she was taking sides and that she criticized me for my character traits. It was hard for me but of course it's just my perception and I might be subjective. Anon

A personal friend of mine worked with Eva Herzer and had a very positive experience. As a psychotherapist, there are frequent requests by colleagues for divorce mediators. Eva Herzer's name shows up on every list. (I can't say anything for/against the others.) Best to you

Has anyone used Collaborative divorce?

July 2008

Hello, has anyone used a process called Collaborative divorce recently? Am interested in your recommendations for a group providing this service, how it went, and about how much it cost. Berkeley or Oakland would be ideal. Considering divorce, have children

I am a collaborative attorney/mediator and find that Collaborative Divorce is a great option for parents who want to minimize the stress, pain, and cost of traditional, adversarial family court. This process is designed for separating couples who are willing to work together, are committed to staying out of court (a requirement) and are motivated to resolving their divorce in an amicable, respectful manner that values the needs of each parent as well as their children. Collaborative Practice East Bay ( is the practice group of collaboratively trained professionals for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. You can also find out more at AW

I would recommend Unmani Sarasvati (nee Andrea M. Eichorn) in Oakland. Her number is (510)652-0220. I am mid-way through a collaborative divorce and have valued Unmani's very frank but at the same time caring style. She will do a good job overviewwing for you whether collaborative vs. mediation is a good fit for your circumstances. Collaborating

I did a lot of research about collaborative law before my divorce and here's what i found out.

Collaborative law is a really good process compared with litigation because it's less expensive and less likely to blow up. But, at least in my opinion, from what I've learned, it's not nearly as good of an option as mediation. In collaborative law, at the very least, you have two attorneys who are working to help you. They will likely spend at least 40 hours each on your case. Considering that collaborative attorneys in the bay area charge over $400 per hour on average, you're looking at a $16,000 charge for each attorney. So, over $30,000. And that's if everything goes pretty well. Also, in collaborative divorces, often financial experts are brought in and therapists. So, maybe you're looking at a $40,000 divorce. Wow!

Mediation, I understand, usually takes far fewer hours. The average is around 25 hours (including all filings, writing of agreemnts, etc). It's fewer hours than collaborative law because a lot of time in collaborative law is spent by the attorneys making sure they are on the same page as each other, reviewing each other's work, etc. And mediators who are attorneys usually bill less per hour for some reason, around $325 per hour. So, maybe your looking at $7,500 for mediation vs $40,000 for collaborative law. We didn't have the money to spend like that. (My divorce through mediation cost $5,200, still a lot but i'd say worth it).

Also, I think you end up with a better result in mediation. You don't have the chance of the collaborative attorneys (who are basically all litigators and trained to be agressive) setting each other off. You see, in collaborative law, not only do you have to get along with your spouse but the attorneys have to get along. That's tough. And I've heard that the attorneys often have such different styles (like should they use the law or just try to figure out what's best for their clients) that a lot of time and miscommunication is spent just figuring out how to approach the case.

Anyway, having said all that, my neighbor says she had an excellent experience in collaborative law. It cost her around $35,000 (including all the costs of both attorneys, etc). She used Jennifer Jackson (415-392-1110)in San Francisco. She said great things about her. She also said that Larry ROsen in Oakland(415-235-8968, don't know is east bay number) is very good and works well with Ms. Jackson. Remember, you have to find two attorneys that work well together, and even better, really like each other. I personally also heard good things about David Funk (funny name) in SF. Don't know his number.

Good luck. B

Affordable mediation for leaving abusive marriage?

Oct 2007

I am in the process of leaving an abusive 25 year relationship. We have a house, 2 pre-teens, and a mountain of debt. I left this marriage emotionally at least a couple of yrs ago and now seeing the impact that this dead relationship is having on our children, I can no longer remain physically in the situation. My husband on the other hand comes from an abusive background and would be quite content to remain in this sitation forever (afterall, his parents did and managed to do the whole death do us part thing).

At any rate, I want out. I want better and more for my children. I want my son to know that verbal and physical abuse are nt the only two ways to relate to a woman, and I want my daughter to understand that a woman does not have to be some man's doormat. I don't have a lot of money; in fact I have very little, but I think that if I keep waiting for just the right time or the right circumstances to leave, I'll end up dead or crazy. Can anyone out there, perhaps someone who has come through this and is on the other side of it give me a reference for a good and affordable mediator, and support groups or organizations for women in this situation. Thanks for any help that you can provide.

Mediation is provided by family court services. You need not pay, unless you hire a private mediator and your soon-to-be-ex agree to abide by any agreement you come up with. That agreement becomes a court order. However, private mediation is usually only a good idea if you and your partner are on good terms. A lot of folks would rather simply hire a third party to help them make their mutual agreements into a legal reality. It does not sound like the two of you have the kind of mutual respect and understanding to enter into the kind of arrangement you seek. I would advise going through Family Court Services. Anon

You should contact Andrea Eichorn a mediation attorney at, phone is 652-0222. She teaches a one-afternoon class at Piedmont Adult School for $50 where she explains alternatives to going to court and having adversarial attorneys.

Also a the Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church in Orinda has a 6-week divorce recovery class (925) 283-8722 it is taught by a minister-psychologist. hope this helps

I am a family law attorney and mediator with over 10 years of experience in the field of family violence. I am sorry to hear you have struggled for so long in an abusive relationship, and am glad you are reaching out for help.

I worked for over 5 years as a staff attorney at the Family Violence Law Center (510-208-0255/ They offer support, advice, referrals, and free/sliding scale legal representation to women in situations like yours. They also have an after-hours emergency shelter program in connection with the Oakland Police Department. You are not alone and hopefully they can help you. Of course, if you and/or your children are in immediate danger of physical harm, please call 911 if you can do it safely without increasing your risk.

The vast majority of women I represented in domestic violence cases greatly benefited from having an advocate. A mediator, however, functions as a neutral third party, and does not advocate for either side. As a result, divorce mediation is generally most successful in cases where both parties feel they have equal power in the relationship. That said, I believe it is your choice to decide what is in your own best interests.

I realize this is not exactly what you are asking for but I think that the way to go in almost all situations in divorce and custody is mediation. I (unfortunately) have been divorced twice. The first time my ex and i used two lawyers. We were pretty friendly before the process and ended up really hating each other afterwards. The second time, we were really angry with each other before the divorce. We had hardly spoken a civil word for a month. A neighbor recommend a mediator named Larry Rosen . Since the neighbor was a friend of my husband's he agreed to go. Thank god. After one session we were talking again. We now coparent together really well and get along really well. It is hard and sad to get divorced but find someone who can help you get along afterward--b/c life goes on after divorce. Many mediators don't help you get along, they just help you get divorced. Mr. Rosen's is at 415-356-9834 and I saw him in his Oakland office. His website says he has an office in SF also but i don't know if that's still true. Hang in there. S.

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Divorce mediator who is fair and can problem solve

May 2006

I've asked my wife for a divorce after 18 years, we have two children aged 13 and 10. Our finances are precarious and we need to sell the house to avoid mounting debts. I'm looking for a mediator who is fair, and will help us move through the issues as efficiently and effectively as possible. My wife has a therapist to help her deal with her loss issues, and I don't want mediation to be yet another attempt at couples counseling..we need effective problem solving. Any recommendations? Worried Dad

Christine Pigeon, PhD on College Avenue in Oakland (653-5238) is an excellent divorce mediator; she does not have a therapy practice and only does mediation. Her goal will be to help you and your wife arrive at a plan that will work for you and your family. Good luck to you. Joanna

I can highly recommend Eva Herzer . Her office is on the Colusa Circle in Kensington. Phone 510-526-5144. anon

I would like to personally recommend Maria Joseph as an excellent divorce mediator (she does other types of mediations as well). Maria is effective at helping couples work through the tough decisions involved in any divorce. She is smart, neutral and compassionate, and is very results oriented. She is also an attorney. Her Berkeley office number is 510-869-5301. Laura

Mediation for Support & Custody Issues

Feb 2006

I am looking for recommendations for a custody mediator. Our case is comlicated as far as custody and finances, with both parents disagreeing about almost every aspect of parenting, so we need someone who is very directive, who can be more then a good listener, but who also can take charge and help iron out agreements efficiently and effectively, if possible. thank you for any advice and/or recommendations. anon

Mediation is a challenging option if there's a large chasm between the spouses' perspectives. For some couples with, what could be labeled, ''high-conflict,'' another option is Collaborative Practice. CP is a sophisticated process to help families through the divorce transition with the same positives of mediation (values-based, not law based; and the two people design and control the resulting agreement, not lawyers) but has the added support that attracts people to litigation by introducing an interdisciplinary approach. In Collaborative Practice, both spouses have a CP attorney, who work together as a team to faciliate the couple's agreement, and both spouses have a coach. Coaches are mental health professionals trained to guide people through the CP process-- it's not therapy, they only teach the people how to communicate again as soon-to-be divorced people, and help work out custody arrangements if there are children. The coaches are much cheaper than attorneys and they often help the people communicate better, making the legal aspects go much faster. People who get a Collaborative Practice divorce often say they they spent much less than they would've fighting in the usual adversarial framework and they gained the communication skills to deal with each other in the future. Some websites about CP are:,, and If mediation ends up working out, great! But just in case you feel you need more support than one neutral may want to consider CP. Good luck. Andrea

Divorce lawyer consult for mediated divorce

Oct 2005

My wife and I want an amicable divorce. We have 2 school-age children (we are sharing custody) and a house that we co-own that she cotinues to live in. We have just begun to see mediator Judith Joshel, and are both seeking outside legal consultation, especially to settle financial issues, which we are quite far apart on right now. Question 1: Any feedback/experience with Judith Joshel? Question 2: Recommendations for a divorce lawyer (for me) who knows her/his stuff inside and out but won't urge me to go for the jugular or make me feel like a jerk if I don't go for all I am legally entitled to? R

I cannot say enough good things about Karen Heller Berdy, who practices mainly collaborative divorce law. She has helped us keep a very, very difficult divorce amicable. I truly would not have believed that possible. I expect that she would be available for consultation. She practices in Walnut Creek: (925) 937-0400. Heather

Divorce mediator in San Francisco

March 2005


Hi, I would appreciate any recommendations for a good divorce mediator based in San Francisco. I've checked the archives and found recommendations for mediators only in the East Bay and Marin. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Trying to keep it peaceful

I previously worked with Judi Howardell, who is now a mediator. She specializes in after hours 6 to 9p.m., weekends and telephone mediation of families, divorced parents, civil disputes etc. Her company name is Mediation Resources and her contact information is LadyJ[at] phone 925-788-5834. I can't say I've needed her services, but what I know from working with her is that she's fair when dealing with others. Good luck. Ali

Peaceful way to Divorce??

May 2004

Hello, I have been married for 13 years and have two young sons. My husband had an affair two years ago and we haven't been able to be close or warm to each other since (we've tried). I'm finally ready to leave the marriage. But I don't want to go through an ugly divorce. Though I'm still very angry with my husband, I care about him, and most of all, I want to set a good example for my kids. I want expert help but I don't want to fight. I'm afraid to see an attorney because I suspect (s)he'll tell me that I should fight for what's mine, and I don't want to go that route. Does anyone have a recommendation for mediator or an attorney that can help me get through this peacefully? I mean with caring. Also, I don't have $10,000 to spend on the process, so I guess that's a constraint with attorneys. (I know there are some similar postings but they aren't exactly on the subject, and they aren't that recent). Thanks kindly

I highly recommend Eva Herzer as a mediator. We could barely talk without getting into a fight when we started mediation. Eva provided a safe and structured environment and walked us through the process in an amazingly efficient and calm way. She helped us focus on what really mattered, especially our co-parenting relationship. We ended up with a complete agreement, including a division of our assets, in less than 2 months. I really liked how balanced and fair she was, making space for both of our views. The whole process also helped us on the road to better communication and our agreement has proven to be very workable. Eva also did all of the legal paper work to get us divorced without us having to go to court. Her fee was very reasonable, expecially for someone as experienced as her. She is located in Kensington, off Solano Avenue in Berkeley (510- 526-4144). Anonymous

Hello, wow, I'm really sorry to hear about your divorce but congratulations on going the peaceful route. While I am myself married the reason I'm responding to this post is that my sister was divoced a year ago and is (remarkably) still on warm terms with her husband (he too cheated on her). I didn't think that would be possible, and actually advised her to see an attorney and basically make him pay, but she said she had heard about this lawyer who helps people divorce with kindness and peace, and she wanted that for her kids. And in the years since, it's worked out suprisingly well. Okay, I just received an email from her about it... these are her words, which she told me to post...

I used a man named Larry Rosen, who runs a service called Through Understanding . His website is (415-356-9834. They have offices in Berkely and SF) All I can say is that the approach is shockingly different. In all disputes, he tries to help the people understand each other's perspectives and re-connect. He says that all conflicts are caused by people not understanding each other and that all solutions, if they are to be enduring, must resolve the underlying relationship issues. He helped us be friends again after what was the most painful period of my life. Yes, we're actually friends, or at least we still care about each other, which is the best thing in the world for my kids. And here's the really strange part (which is also really beautiful) the billing system is gift-based, or something like that (I forget what he calls it). Essentially, he has a billable rate that he ''requests'' but then allows you to offer him whatever works best for you. I thought it was scam when my neighbor told me about it, but it's for real. I don't think he's got a psychology background, though I do know he's really into eastern philosophy and has written books about the subject. He is a licensed lawyer though (strange combination of attributes) and so he did all the legal work as well as helping us redefine our relationship. It wasn't easy, and is still sometimes very difficult, but it was kind of like a spiritual divorce (if that's possible). I tell everyone I can about this service because I really do feel like he gave me a gift. I think he's pretty busy these days...but give me a call and please tell him I sent you.

I really hope this turns out well for you. Write me if you want more advice. Becky

Just a thought. Have you considered a good marriage therapist? Even if you're both through with trying to work it out, and are set upon divorcing, you will still have parenting issues to work on in an ongoing basis.

Maybe you want to consider talking with a therapist about the best way to end the marriage, so by the time you get to a mediator/attorney, the legalities will be more formalities. I don't know many skilled couples therapists, but I know one who has specialty in couples work, and I've gotten good feedback about. She has offices in Danville and Albany, Dr. Yael Goldblatt. Good luck. anon

We worked with Eva Herzer on the Kensington Circle. She has a degree in psychology and was formerly a divorce lawyer. We were very pleased with the results of her mediation. She is easy to talk to and humane. K

One nice thing about the Bay Area is there are lots of good family law mediators. I used to be one myself, so I know of many.

One I know well and highly recommend is Eva Herzer - 526-5144. She is in Kensington and used to be a family law litigator, now does mediation and is highly effective and well regarded.

For custody and relationship issues I would also recommend Adele Grunberg - 530-9049. She is a lawyer and has a degree in mediation but did not practice family law so I would use her for relationship issues but not complicated property division issues.

Good luck! amy

I would also like to recommend Through Understanding and Larry Rosen, who is an attorney and mediator, and just a surprisingly down-to-earth practitioner. My business partner used Larry for her divorce a year ago and actually came out of the divorce feeling happy about the direction of her life. She actually asked Larry to continue counseling her after the divorce (but I think he declined for some reason). I then had a pretty ugly dispute with this business partner of mine and we used Larry as well. This is the odd part: you actually get to choose your own level of compensation, which I found both refreshing, and yes, a bit strange. Well, we're still in business together, and we chose to compensate Larry fairly well. I'll tell you, I understand more about my partner now and feel closer to her than ever. I'm not saying his approach is right for everyone or every dispute but it's just so basic and clear: he assumes that all perspectives are valid and then helps people understand where the other person is coming from. Like the other person who mentioned Larry, I recommend him at every opportunity . His website is Best wishes, J

There is a relatively new and branch of family law called Collaborative Family Law. It sounds like it can work for a divorce in which the 2 parties are fairly amicable, but are having some trouble communicating. My understanding of it is that each person has an attorney, but both parties agree that they will not enter into litigation. If they can find no resolution and do feel the need to litigate, both attorneys MUST step down. This provides the CFL attorneys incentive to help the parties come up with creative alternatives and better communication. I know about it only because my father has entered into this type of work after retiring as a law school professor. He is in Southern California however. I'm sure there must be lawyers up here in the Bay Area who are engaged in this type of work. You might just try doing an internet search for ''collaborative law''. If that doesn't come up with anything useful there is a website he gave me which is Lise

2003 & Earlier

Divorce mediator who feels fair to both of us

February 2003

Can anyone recommend a divorce mediator? There are no children involved. We are interested in a mediator who will be sensitive to our desire to reach an agreement that feels fair to both of us, rather than simply interpreting the law and applying it to our situation.

For the person looking for a mediator (with heart), I would recommend William and Robin Samsel at Family Mediation Services, 510 841-5855. William is a former attorney and longtime mediator and Robin is a Marriage and Family Therapist. They know the law, but more importantly are fantastic listeners and can help a couple through a difficult process. Good luck to you. Michael

We had/have (we are in our final stage) Judith Joshel as our mediator and I can highly recommend her. She has offices in Oakland and the South Bay, and her Oakland # is 464 8047. Her rate is around $180, - per hour (I can't remember exactly). Susanne

I recommend Katy Curtis of Mediate2Peace. She is a certified mediator. You can contact Katy at (510) 536-4081. Ann

When I got divorced about 6 years ago, we used a place in Marin County called Northern California Mediation Center and saw a woman named Nancy Foster. I don't have their number anymore. They had resonable rates and we were able to work our whole agreement out (child support, alimony, child custody, material divisions, etc.) without going to court. Nancy seemed very fair to both of us, though I would've liked to consult a lawyer beforehand just to know more about alimony, etc., but if you don't have a small child that might not be an issue. Later when we hired a lawyer to file the court papers, we asked that the agreement we worked out be THE divorce agreement and not to change a word of it.

I was glad we worked with the mediator instead of lawyers in court. My ex-was happy about it too. We really wanted to get on with our lives. Good Luck.

Try Martina Reeves. She is located at 1615 Hopkins in Berkeley. 559-2685.

She helped me through what could have been an extremely stressful situation. I found her to be extremely observant, responsive, and generally effecient for both parties. Good luck.

I recommend Martina Reaves. She is a very experienced family law mediator. She approachs her work with humanity and compassion. She is very knowledgable about the law, but her main goal is to help couples transition out of marriage in a way that best serves both members of the couple. Her office number is 510/559-2685, and her office is in North Berkeley.