Some probate cases that I work on in the Los Angeles Superior Court are best resolved by a professional mediator than by a sitting judge. Often the mediator is in fact a former sitting judge who has retired from the bench in order to help people address their differences and come to a resolution. (Mediation is not the same as arbitration; one difference between California arbitration and mediation is that with an arbitration, there is often an agreement among the parties at the outset that the outcome is binding whereas with mediation, the outcome is not necessarily binding.)
One case I worked on was ripe for mediation. I was retained by one of the decedent’s children who was born in the 1970s to a woman the decedent had not married. One of the women the decedent had married and with whom he had two sons filed for divorce in the early 1960s. As part of the divorce, the wife obtained a court-ordered judgment for child support for both sons. The decedent had never appeared in court during the divorce proceedings and left it entirely up to the wife to finish it. He then disappeared from the wife’s and his sons’ lives. The wife, however, never finished the divorce and never obtained a court-ordered judgment decree finalizing her divorce.
About 50 years later, the decedent met another woman and they married each other. Shortly after their marriage, he died without a will. At the time of his marriage, he owned his home in Los Angeles free-and-clear. They did not have any children between them.