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    Leyla Balakhane

    Marina del Rey Family & Divorce Mediator

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    Mediation Encourages Collaboration, Cooperation and Mutual Respect

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Family and Divorce Mediator in Marina del Rey

Are you searching for a divorce mediator near Marina del Rey? Are you looking for cost effective approach to resolving your divorce? Are you wondering if mediation is the right route for you?

Leyla Balakhane is a distinguished Los Angeles divorce mediator, facilitator, coach and trainer serving the Marina del Rey area and specializing in high conflict divorce law.  She is a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association LACBA Arbitration panel where she arbitrates family dispute concerns fees and costs. With respect to COVID19, we our now offering online family and divorce mediation services.

Divorce and Family Law Mediator Marina del Rey

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Going through a divorce can be emotionally taxing extremely costly and legally confusing. Choosing divorce mediation can help alleviate those challenges as mediators support individuals in processing any issues that arise, all while maintaining the autonomy and agency of those involved. If you are looking to file for divorce, mediation will create a space for you to find amicable resolutions with less conflict and legal costs.

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Balakhane Mediation Services

I offer divorce mediation services to families in the greater Los Angeles area. I help my clients reach settlements agreed upon by both parties, so they may reach the best possible outcome. Take a look at my new commercial:

How to Tell Your Kids That You’re Getting a Divorce

Before telling your kids about your divorce, be sure to have a strategy. Find articles, first-hand accounts and professional advice to inform the way you craft the narrative, so the conversation goes as smoothly as possible. How to Tell Your Kids That You’re Getting a Divorce

Divorcing a Narcissist: What You Should Know

divorcing a narcissist

Divorcing a Narcissist: What You Should Know

Separating from a partner is never easy. However, separating from a partner who has narcissistic tendencies or has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be even harder. People with a

narcissistic personality (NP) can be characterized by two main traits: grandiosity and lack of empathy. Because people with NPD do not show empathy, it is hard to show any in return during tumultuous situations such as divorce.

Nevertheless, there are a few things to have awareness towards as you and your spouse struggle with the decision to stay married or get divorced.

Understanding a Narcissist

The mind of individuals with NP is fragmented and fragile. While your spouse may appear loud and strong on the outside, usually what is going on internally tells a different story.

Narcissism, while often generic, can also be because of negative childhood experiences such as poor parenting, overindulging caregivers, parental harshness or criticalness often in the form of physical or emotional abuse, and more.

Internally, people with NP often feel alienated, empty, powerless, and as though life lacks meaning. While it is imperative to understand the mind of a person with NPD, that does not mean their behaviors or destructive tendencies should be excused. Although it can be difficult to understand, someone with NPD doesn’t usually choose to  have the characteristics of NP.

If you’re uncertain about whether or not your partner has narcissistic tendencies or NPD, here are a few common traits:

  • Self-absorbed – Has a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates achievements and talents.
  • Power hungry – Dreams of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. Tactics may include bragging, refocusing topics of conversation, talking loudly, and showing disinterest by “glazing over” when others speak.
  • Controlling – Has a tremendous need to control their partners or others and the situation.
  • Superiority complex – Believes they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions.
  • Exploitative – Exploits and takes advantage of others to achieve personal ends.
  • Apathetic – Lacks empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
  • Defensive – Becomes angry when rejected or if they perceive criticism, often overreacting to small slights and punishing those who don’t support their grandiose image of themselves.

Managing the Divorce

While challenging, it is not impossible to divorce a spouse with NPD even when times get really tough. Spouses with narcissistic tendencies may use different tactics to feel as though they are in control or are “winning” the divorce.

Schemes to pay attention to are your spouse lying to you, an attorney or mediator, a judge, or even children involved or refusing to follow any agreements that have been made, especially if they are not in writing.

Take note of the following behaviors to keep in mind and recognize as narcissistic tendencies and ways to deal with them.

Recognizing Lies

It’s of no surprise that partners with NPD likely lie – and often. Individuals with NP tend to deny conversations or events that you know happened or invent things that never occurred.

When starting mediation, spouses with NP may try to deny or revoke oral agreements that have been made over the phone or even over email. It’s surprising how easy it is to edit an email, text or even voicemail in order for them to manipulate what was said or gaslight you. To avoid any compilation that comes with lying, insist that all divorce-related communications and agreements are made in writing with the inclusion of a mediator or lawyer on all correspondences.

Even if a mediator or lawyer is included in all communication, take screenshots on a phone, save the original email, and store any audio messages that are exchanged. The best way to keep track of all the things you say to one another and agree on is to avoid having individual conversations with your spouse and instead interacting only when there are others around or involved to bear witness to the conversation.

Avoiding Arguments

It’s likely that there is constant tension and arguments in the relationship. As disagreements escalate, they can quickly turn into yelling matches and often end up with someone getting hurt.

Due to individuals with NP’s unrelenting need to be right and critical of the actions of others, engaging in arguments will get you nowhere. Even though what they say during an argument is untrue, their inability to see how their words and actions may impact your life or your children’s lives in a really painful way.

Instead of subjecting yourself to this experience, better outcomes will come from calmly and rationally speaking with a mediator or lawyer about what you want your spouse to understand so that they can relay the message on your behalf.

Making an Agreement

The goal when separating is to reasonably divide any assets and responsibilities so that you and your children can move forward with your lives.

Oftentimes this agreement will include time with your spouse for your children and as little contact as possible with your spouse for you. When drawing up an agreement, be as specific as possible to outline how you want to move forward with arranging time with the children and what you want communication post-divorce to look like.

But, before reaching the point of drawing up an agreement and agreeing on terms, collect any information and important documents related to the accounts and assets you’re looking to divide.

A partner with NP may lie and say assets that you know to exist have never existed or “have gone missing”. This type of scenario can morph into the blame game so in order to avoid that, begin collecting any and all documents or proof of assets that are available. Make copies, take pictures, save them, and share them directly with the mediator or lawyer.

Some documents to have prepared and saved include:

  • Bank accounts (joint and sole)
  • Documents pertaining to real property
  • Mortgages and lines of credit
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Tax returns – past 3 years minimum
  • Insurance paperwork
  • Vehicle registrations/title
  • Valuable antiques/art/jewelry
  • Investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports


When going into mediation, know what you’re willing to compromise on in advance and don’t necessarily put those compromises on the table until further on in the process. At first, make it known that you want everything divided equally so that your spouse believes that they will have to put in a good fight for their demands to be met.

People with narcissistic personalities desire to make things go their way and seek to have control over any situation and the people involved. As mediation proceeds, begin to address the items you’re willing to compromise on at that point even though you knew from the start that those were issues that were not as important to you. Your spouse will be left feeling victorious and so will you.

Taking Care of Yourself

As the divorce process unfolds, feelings of anxiety and dread can bubble up when dealing with a partner with NP. You never know what they might do next or what type of curveball may come your way. It is natural to experience stress, so it is crucial to tap into your support system.

Whether that be a mediator, a friend, or a fitness instructor, know who to lean on when dealing with a partner with NP becomes a little too much to handle. You do not have to go through the divorce alone and a mediator can often serve as one of the best supports throughout the process.

Although you may be dreading divorcing your partner who has displayed narcissistic personality traits, finding a strong mediator who is well versed in personality disorders or high-conflict personalities can be extremely helpful.

As you search for a mediator, ask questions about what type of people they have worked with in the past and how they can best support you in managing the behaviors that often accompany narcissistic personalities if your spouse has NPD.

Divorce Mediation Expert

Divorce Mediation Expert
Leyla Balakhane

Founder – Balakhane Mediation

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Before committing to using the services of a particular mediator, spouses should confirm that the mediator has extensive training beyond the minimum requirements, has considerable experience mediating, is dedicated to helping spouses get the most out of the process, and is the right fit for the personalities involved.

Marina del Rey Divorce Mediation FAQ

Questions regarding mediation in Marina del Rey are normal; we have compiled some frequently asked questions and provided answers below:

What is divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation is a popular process used by a couple in divorce to avoid a costly and lengthy divorce trial. With the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator, agreements are reached on all divorce issues: division of property and debts, spousal support, parenting issues including time-sharing, child custody, and child support. Since all agreements are made in mediation, spouses never have to enter a courtroom and can avoid the conflict and stress of litigation. 

In mediation, spouses make their own voluntary decisions and personalize their divorce terms to meet both of their needs. The choice to settle the case and avoid court is always up to the spouses and which process will work best for them. Spouses tend to be more satisfied with the mediation process compared to litigation due to several advantages including the fact that spouses can discuss their interests in mediation and therefore have the opportunity to have their interests met.

Mediation can occur in person, over the phone, and through video conference. Depending on the circumstances, mediation meetings can happen with the mediator and both spouses together (often called “joint session”). Mediation can also involve the mediator meeting with each spouse privately (often called “private caucus”) to discuss the needs of each party and find a way to help the spouses come closer to common ground.

Unlike the public nature of the litigation process in court, in most states, “mediation confidentiality” is protected by law. This means that all communications in mediation and disclosure of documents are confidential.

How long does mediation in Marina del Rey typically take?

In comparison to the unknown timeline of a full-scale divorce suit that will end up in a trial, the length needed to complete mediation will be clear early on in the process. The average length of mediation usually involves at least three to four two-hour mediation sessions, spread out over at least a month or two. More complex cases can take between four to six months to complete. In addition to the timeliness of mediation, you will never have to feel as though you and your children’s futures are in the hands of someone other than you and your spouse.

Is a mediator in Marina del Rey like a judge?

A mediator is unlike a judge for several reasons. Most importantly, a mediator does not decide who is in the right or the wrong but rather focuses on finding a solution that meets the needs and desires of both spouses. A mediator will not impose his or her conclusions about how the issues should be solved. If necessary, a mediator might offer suggestions, but the most effective mediators will enable the spouses to generate their own solutions and agreements. Mediators do not make any kind of ruling on the case so spouses can spend less time trying to convince the mediator that they are right and instead focus on creating a joint resolution.

What should I look for in Marina del Rey mediators?

Before committing to using the services of a particular mediator, spouses should confirm that the mediator has extensive training beyond the minimum requirements, has considerable experience mediating, is dedicated to helping spouses get the most out of the process, and is the right fit for the personalities involved.

Being a lawyer is not a requirement to be a mediator. Even if your mediator is a lawyer, he or she cannot be your lawyer because a mediator must remain unbiased. For mediation to be successful, it is critical that participants feel comfortable with their mediator’s ability to remain neutral. It is very important to seek the advice of your own qualified and trusted attorney, who will look out for your best interests, before committing to a settlement agreement.

Every mediator has a different approach to the process so all participants must be comfortable with the mediator’s personal style. Some mediators use an evaluative style: freely evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case (in private sessions), to help them assess their alternatives and make wise choices in the mediation. Other mediators are more facilitative: refraining from asserting their judgments and instead facilitating a conversation that draws out the assessments of the spouses themselves. Transformative mediators are somewhat similar to facilitative mediators in that they are focused on the spouses’ needs and points of view. In transformative mediation, the spouses control both the process and the outcome. A creative mediator will be able to use any or all of these approaches when appropriate and may even ask the participants for their input regarding their desired approach. An effective mediator will manage the process in a way that moves participants forward, toward a resolution, with the spouses’ own unique goals and interests as a guide.

When searching for the right fit, most mediators will be happy to spend a few minutes speaking with a potential client at no charge to explain the process, answer any questions the client may have, and allow the client to determine whether the mediator would be a good fit.

Is Marina del Rey mediation private?

Mediation is a private and confidential process; another advantage of divorce mediation. Spouses meet with their mediator as often as agreed upon to finalize an agreement they are happy with, with no public record attached. At the end of the process, the final agreement is taken to court to make it an official order, making that document the only public record of the divorce. The value of assets and debts can even remain private in your final agreement so that they are not explicitly shared in public records. One exception to privacy includes when divorce mediation is court-ordered. In that event, all matters prior to mediation will be public record.

Online Divorce Mediation: How It Works and Who It Benefits?

Online mediation is fast, efficient, and effective and may be more accessible for some couples. The sessions can occur over a multitude of video conferencing services like Zoom or Google Meet and if needed, via conference call. The mediator will engage in mediation as though they were meeting with the couple in-person and focus on facilitating a discussion geared toward coming to a mutually acceptable agreement. As mediation comes to a close and a final agreement has been written, documents requiring signatures can usually be signed and transmitted electronically.

Conducting divorce mediation sessions remotely provides several benefits for divorcing spouses, including:

  • Accessibility: Conducting a online divorce mediation session can be more comfortable than meeting with your spouse and mediator in-person. All you need is a phone or computer anda stable internet connection. An added plus is that it is generally easier to set an appointment that works for all parties involved because they can be squeezed into the middle of a busy day without having to spend time commuting.
  • Convenience: Couples are able to conduct sessions from work, at home, while traveling, or from wherever they might be. Given you can avoid traffic, travel costs, and looking for parking, couples can save lots of time. Online divorce mediation is especially convenient for those who travel frequently and/or have moved out of town, but still want to mediate their divorce settlement.
  • Comfort: Some spouses want to use divorce mediation butbeing in the same room as their spouse can bring up feelings of anger, distress, and pain. Online divorce mediation has the power to mediate those by helping couples (literally) maintain their distance while they work out their differences from a comfortable and safe space.
  • Increases options: If you live in a smaller town or rural area, you may find it difficult to find a divorce mediator in your area. Online divorce mediation provides couples with the opportunity to find a mediator that meets their needs without having to travel a long distance or settle for the closest mediator. 
How is property divided?

California is a community property state, which means that any income or property earned by either partner while married will be split equally between them during the divorce. California is only one of nine states that have community property laws. Decisions made in court will vary significantly depending on which state or country jurisdiction the agreement falls in at the time of the divorce. 

Mediation helps keep courts out of the division of property and instead places the decision in the hands of the couple and family. Through the help of an unbiased third-party mediator, couples experiencing a separation can resolve their issues regarding the division of property and debt without having to resort to a court’s decision-making process.

How are debt and other liabilities and obligations divided?

Debt division is included in the property division process and varies based on community property or equitable division status. It is common for couples to have accumulated high amounts of unsecured debt, with little asset acquisition during the marriage. In these cases, the debt division process is more complicated and if unresolved between the spouses, the courts will determine the division based on rationales provided by state law.By partaking in mediation, couples have the power to decide how they would like to divide debt and other liabilities and obligations without having to involve the court in the decision-making process.

How is alimony or spousal support determined?

Laws determining whether or not one party will be required to make support payments to the other party once divorced and how long said payment should be made vary by state. Community property states like California consider a wide range of factors that can be found in the Family Code Section 4320. Mediators can help reduce the conflict and tension that typically surround this issue and support both spouses in collaborating peaceably without the need to go to court.

What are the financial advantages of mediation over litigation?

Separating from your partner can be a costly process. In mediation, you control that cost. Divorce mediation is not nearly as expensive as a divorce trial or custody suit as a trial alone can cost thousands of dollars per day. Most family and divorce mediators charge by the hour and only charge for the time spent working on the case. Mediation generally costs between five and ten thousand dollars whereas one divorce hearing alone could cost that much. Having a separation agreement already prepared before beginning mediation can lessen the costs of mediation even further.

The money saved by choosing mediation over an exhausting divorce trial can be put towards children’s college tuition or even a few relaxing beach vacations to create lifelong memories with your loved ones.

Are there parenting resources available in Marina del Rey before going to mediation?

Before going into a mediation session, all parents are encouraged to go through the parenting tools and resources on UpToParents.org like the Divorce Mission Statement and utilize the books and podcasts found on FocusOnTheFamily.com. The parenting site CoParenter.com provides easy-to-use tools to draft successful letters to your co-parent and to develop and tweak your parenting plan. It is also recommended that parents use the suggested age-appropriate parenting plans provided by the Orange County Superior Court and the communication tools of OurFamilyWizard.com as resources to help your children through this process.

What are the biggest benefits of divorce mediation for children?

When a child experiences a high-conflict divorce, it can leave lasting psychological and emotional harm. Although it may not be the parent’s intention, children often feel forced to choose sides. Parents may even actively try to alienate the child from the other parent without realizing the impact it can have on the child. As a parent, it is natural to want to fight to protect your relationship with your child but often it is the endless fighting that does the most harm.

Mediation reduces the likelihood of childhood trauma from divorce by reducing conflict, providing positive approaches to family communication, and demonstrating collaborative decision making. Parents are encouraged to consider mediation because of benefits including but not limited to:

  • Reducing stress for the child. Children will endure significantly less psychological and emotional stress when not having to choose sides or witnessing parents fight.
  • Ensuring positive relationships between parents. In mediation, parents are allowed to create a parenting plan that works for everyone involved, particularly the child.
  • Laying the foundation for long-term parental collaboration. Filing for divorce does not mean that parents should no longer work together to raise the child. Mediation lays the groundwork for parents to work together long after the divorce is finalized.
  • Preserving money for the child. A drawn-out battle can be expensive and time-consuming. Money is better preserved when put towards directly caring for the child.
  • Allowing you to spend more time with your child. The time spent in the courtroom during a divorce trial can be better spent with your child. Mediation is often a time-saver.

In countries where family mediation is an accepted adjunct to litigation, research has shown that in cases where mediation is utilized, there is greater potential for the development of optimal co-parenting relationships as well as ongoing parental cooperation. Research also shows that agreements reached through mediation are more likely to be adhered to by the parents. Parents’ ability to develop customized outcomes that meet their and their children’s unique needs and requirements during mediation are more likely to succeed in implementing the terms of the agreement.

Is an agreement reached in mediation legally enforceable?

Once your final agreement is presented before a judge and the seal has been set on your mediation agreement, it is considered a legally binding contract. For example, if you run into problems with parenting time, real estate conflicts, or any other point of contention after the divorce is finalized, any enforcement agencies involved in resolving those conflicts will refer to this order as law. Although the mediation agreement is a more informal and less expensive process, it is just as serious and legally binding once the process is complete.

How has Balakhane Mediation addressed divorce mediation in Marina del Rey during COVID-19?

Balakhane Mediation is now offering Online Divorce and Family Mediation Services for clients in Marina del Rey. Online services include private and confidential video conferencing for both the initial consultation and all mediation meetings. Choosing to engage in online mediation is easy, simple, and convenient!

This year has been a trying time for us all. As parents, our roles have intensified under unforeseen circumstances, and the pandemic makes us all worry about our loved ones and their futures. Co-parenting issues under the lockdown mandate can seem impossible, and the impact on salaries and the global market may generate uncertainty regarding your settlement agreement.

Leyla is here to offer her support and expertise to ensure that such matters are resolved for the benefit of both spouses and most significantly, the children. Please do not hesitate to reach out and let Leyla help you through these difficult times.

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