APPROACHES TO THE DIVORCE, OR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE, PROCESS IN CALIFORNIA
In California, there are three generally recognized methods, or models, to resolve the issues in your divorce. They are the traditional, Representation model, the Mediation model; and the Collaborative model.
The Representation Model:
In this approach, often referred to as the “Litigation Model,” each party retains an attorney, one party files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and, if appropriate a Request for Orders for Temporary Orders for Spousal Support, Child Support, Health Insurance, use and possession of the home or other community property, and Attorney Fees. Each party is then required to complete and serve on the other party their Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure.
Once both parties have exchanged their Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure, the parties can then begin substantive settlement negotiations, discovery, and, if the case doesn’t settle, preparation for Settlement Conference and Trial. The case will also be proceeding to court on any issues raised in a Request for Orders. If there are issues of custody and/or timeshare of the parties minor children, the parties are required to meet with Family Court Services to attempt a resolution of their issues regarding custody and timeshare.
If the parties are unable to agree, the Family Court Recommending Counselor will make a written recommendation to the judge prior to the hearing date. Before the hearing, there is a requirement that the parties “meet and confer” to attempt a resolution of the issues. This is usually by way of “4-way conferences” or “meet and confer conferences” attended by the parties and their counsel. For a further discussion of the “Representation Model” please refer to the Resources page.
The Mediation Model:
In the Mediation Model, the parties retain the services of a Family Law Mediator, usually a family law attorney. The Attorney/Mediator does not represent either party, but works with both parties in the procedural aspects of a divorce action in working through the paperwork necessary to process a divorce action, and, substantively, to “Mediate” agreements between the parties on all issues in the case.
Criteria for Mediation:
- The motivation to mediate:
- Avoid adversarial system
- Resolve differences and reach an agreement together
- Retain control of the process
- Minimize hostility
- Self Responsibility:
- This is the recognition that both of you are in control of the decision-making process.
- You each need to do what is necessary to understand your situation completely.
- You each need to understand your priorities.
- You each need to be able to stand up for yourself and face whatever conflicts arise.
- The willingness to disagree.
- The willingness to agree.
For a further discussion of the Mediation Model please refer to the Resources page.
The Collaborative Model:
While the Collaborative Model is a relatively new approach to resolving family law divorce, custody, and paternity cases, it has proved very successful. In fact, the California Family Law Code now includes provisions specifically regarding the Collaborative Law proses In the Collaborative Model, as in the Litigation Model, each party retains counsel. But then the process shifts. First, for a case to qualify as a Collaborative Case both parties must agree that all court actions will cease and that neither party shall file any actions with the court as long as the Collaborative Case is ongoing. Second, many of the traditional rules of litigation do not apply. For instance, in a Collaborative setting contact between parties and counsel is much more informal and is part of the process. Neutral experts are also utilized. For a further discussion of the Collaborative Model please refer to the Resources page.