Bay Area 
San Francisco 
Contra Costa


Mediation & Conflict Management Services
















Mediation is a private and confidential  process which parties enter into to reach a settlement agreement, facilitated by a neutral third party, to avoid litigating in the Courts.  Participants to the mediation remain in control by reaching agreement, rather than a judge or jury deciding the outcome of a case. 


The parties can represent themselves, choose to be represented by separate attorneys, or simply consult attorneys as they go along.

The actual legal proceedings for divorce, separation, custody, child support, and alimony, as offered by the courts and legal system often exacerbate conflict, making the stress of divorce far worse than it needs to be. 

We make it easy: - We help you to define the issues and guide you through the mediation process, to reach agreement. If you are self representing we provide document assistance for all that you will need to conclude the divorce, including the Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan, as well as help you with your court filings to keep fees and costs to a minimum.

Private Courts adopts a unique mediation model, designed to avoid serious conflict and to make things as easy as possible for couples in the midst of conflict, whether seeking divorce, separation or to continue the marriage.   In family law cases we believe that parties should be spared the emotional upheaval caused by litigation.  We work to help guide parties to place the interests of their children at the fore.  


When seperating or dissolving a marriage there are a myriad of issues to deal with, where the help of a neutral mediator can he;p define the issues and mitigate conflict, especially at the outset. 

Dividing community property and agreeing what will be considered separate property, can become contentious, even in amicable situations and it helps to hire a mediator to avert conflict, whether attorneys are involved or not.

Community property includes real estate, household items, pension plans, IRA's, checking and savings accounts, stocks, business interests, partnerships, art, jewelry, collectibles, time shares, airline mileage, intellectual property such as copyright, insurance policies, vehicles, recreational vehicles, etc.

Full disclosure of all property is crucial, during divorce proceedings, to a fair and just outcome. The expense and emotional hardship associated with the disclosure process can be mitigated if  all or most of it is accomplished in a mediation setting. 


After the parties agree to all the issues raised in mediation and required to settle their divorce, a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) or Memorandum of Settlement is drafted for review by separate attorneys, should the parties so choose.



Parenting Plans are designed with the help of an experienced mediator to mitigate current and future conflict, and include transitional and temporary plans for urgent issues while parties are in process of dissolving the marriage.Clarity, certainty, and unity will determine the mental and physical well being of children and the parties as they seek to uncouple and go through the divorce process. We believe that divorce does not need to be a defining trauma in your children's lives.

Every parent with shared custody or visitation rights should ensure a that a Parenting Plan is in place, to set out clearly the arrangements with the co-parent, to avoid uncertainty. It is not too late to accomplish this at any stage, before, during or after your divorce process. Parenting Plans can be reviewed and updated, as the years go by.

At Private Courts we help you identify the important issues that could come up through the course of your child's formative years. We address issues pertaining to calendar, school, religion, extra curricular activities, smoking, drug and alcohol use, child appropriate time shares, religious and school holiday planning, out of state and country travel, medical decisions and many more issue that are unique to your co-parenting.


We aim to unify parents as productive co-parents, through mediation, to work in the best interests of their children. Parents are involved in deciding their own rules of how to govern the shared custody of their children. Parenting Plans are also used for parents who have visitation instead of shared custody arrangements.


We also offer mediation sessions to modify existing Parenting Plans.

At Private Courts we recommend that parents update their existing plans as the children develop through the years.


In California law, both parents are assured of equal legal custody and physical custody of their child, as long as such is in the best interests of the child. Mediation helps parents navigate the difficulties associated with custody and visitation pertinent to their individual circumstances. 


Mediators are able to help establish teams of professionals, if needed, offer suggestions, creative solutions and choices. Once parties agree, a Parentng Plan is drafted and parties have the option to submit the plan to separate attorneys for review.  This is not binding on the parties until all fully approve and the plan is signed. The plan can then be stipulated to and made an order of court, without parents ever having to appear in front of a judge.

An experienced neutral mediator can help parents reach an agreement, in the best interests of their children, thereby averting protracted costly court battles, where matters are decided by a Judge. Hence the parents remain in control of the outcome.

Most California courts provide for court staff mediators to mediate cases before the trial and thus prior to a judge adjudicating. Court mediation is often limiting, in that parties are not given the time and latitude to fully explore their family's needs. Court mediators make recommendations to judges, whereas private mediators do not, hence private mediaiton keeps the case more in the control of the parents. 


This helps parents control the outcome for their children,  keeping certainty and mitigating expenses incurred between dueling attorneys. In this model attorneys can be used for consultation and review, if the parties choose.


Mediation on the issue of child support helps parties converse so that each fully understands the situation of the other, while balancing the best interests of the children.  In the mediation process options are explored openly and this will help the parties understand fully what is involved, weighing up the legal support calculations, so that they are able to reach agreement on child support, alimony, tax status of parties, and respective obligations for "add-ons" such as extra curricular activities, college expenses, medical and dental, etc.


Private Courts help mediation participants, who are self representing, with document assistance, to satisfy the necessary court filings.

Parties are able to consult with attorneys and law offices for review and consultation at any stage through the mediation and divorce form process.


Melanie Nathan, Mediator, is well known in the LGBT community for her advocacy and activism.  She understands the particular needs of same-sex couples, especially those whose cases have special nuances, and the needs of couples who have been cohabiting for lengthy periods of time, prior to same-sex marriage equality.

Often same-sex couples have lived together for many years before they were able to marry under State law. These couples may be best served by entering into mediation at the outset of their process, to shape an understanding that acknowledges the duration of their cohabitation relationship, prior to the time they were allowed to legally marry. This requires some special navigation that the legal system may not offer, but which mediation can bring into play, to ensure a fair and just agreement between the parties.


Melanie has also mediated many cases where a party has come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), helping parties uncouple or stay in the relationship. In these cases, we are able to help parents unify and plan how best to communicate change and transition with the children. 


In most cases, especially in the area of divorce and family law, clients are often best served by entering private mediation, prior to starting what can amount to a needlesly costly and unnecessary adversarial process.

We are all about making it easier, financially feasible, and helping you come out of it with the whole family's emotional and practical needs as fully intact as possible.  Moving on with one's life in a beneficial and positive fashion can depend to a large extent on how one deals with the prior phase.

We hope to mitigate conflict by providing a neutral platform for guiding dialogue, correcting assumptions, validating positions, and ensuring understanding, leading to simple and creative solutions, often to complex problems:

"Divorce and separation is traumatic. However if handled properly, does not need to be the defining trauma of one's life. Parties in the process of uncoupling are usually extremely stressed. Having help to navigate the process, whether self-representing, or working with attorneys, serves to mitigate stress, costs and helps relive much of the pain." Melanie Nathan, Mediator for Private Courts, Inc.


In most cases, we believe parties should be able to avoid appearing in, or dealing directly with Courts.  We feel strongly about  curbing legal costs and avoiding unnecessary fees.

In some cases we are able to explore reconciliation, and to procure what we term, "Marriage Continuation Agreements."

Melanie Nathan, Private Courts  mediator, has settled hundreds of family law cases, including many that have not been resolved in the "Collaborative Divorce" process.


Our Divorce Coaching services provides hand holding, extra scrutiny, coping strategies,  guidance and also helps you to not feel alone. Through supporting the emotional and pragmatic aspects of your process, one can  further mitigate conflict and many of the difficulties involved in the experience.  



Melanie Nathan, Mediator

Melanie meeting United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

Melanie giving a speech at San Francisco Pride with Mayor 

Melanie is the Executive Director of Private Courts, Inc. She is an experienced and accomplished mediator who practiced as an attorney abroad before immigrating to the United States in 1985. Melanie is now based in Marin County and mediates throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and California. She mediates family law issues, parenting plans, divorce, real estate, contract and commercial disputes. 

Melanie has been mediating for the past 25 years, and is known for settling extremely challenging divorce and custody cases. She works well with self representing parties as well as clients who have attorney representation. 


Melanie specializes in family law cases, mediating divorces, separation from co-habitation, division of community property, custody, child support, spousal support, alimony, parenting plans, marital settlement agreements, and all marital or relationship conflicts. She also offers divorce coaching services.


Melanie is the mother of two young daughters, and places the interests of children at the fore, working to ensure that sensitive and expedient transition parenting plans are secured to mitigate the hardship of divorce for children.


Melanie has mediated many same-sex relationship cases and also "coming out" cases - where parties to marital conflict have come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. She has also mediated many cases of non-married cohabiting parties.


Melanie Nathan is also known for her global human rights and philanthropic work. She has served as a Commisisoner on the Marin Human Rights Commission, VP on the Board of Fair Housing of Marin and SF Pride, and was honored as Community Grand Marshal for San Francisco Pride, 2014 and Grand Marshal Cape Town Pride, 2011.  In 2016 she received the Marin County HRC Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.  Melanie also directs The African Human Rights Coalition and Peacemaker Museum, World Tour.