Riverside County | Coachella Valley Trained Collaborative Attorneys!
Why Collaborative Divorce?
A contested divorce in family court is certain to be detrimental to you
and to the children of divorce for many, many reasons and for many years.
Even for couples who don't have children, whether as spouses or domestic
partners, battling over property division and spousal or partner support
is sure to generate strong negative emotions.
This fact was recognized in California with the enactment of Family Code
section 2013 in 2007.
Section 2013 describes the "collaborative law process" as one in which "the
parties ... agree in writing to use their best efforts and to make a good
faith attempt to resolve disputes ... without resorting to
adversary judicial intervention." This statute recognizes that judicial intervention
is inherently adversarial.
Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.) defines 'adversary'
as "one that contends with, opposes, or resists: Enemy." Judges
in divorce proceedings view litigants as engaged in a war between themselves,
and their task is not to support parties in transitioning through this
process, but instead to declare winners and losers.
Many People Move Directly into Adversarial Litigation
Because They Aren't Aware of Their Options
Adversary judicial intervention should be a choice of last resort because
it is unsatisfactory in every way. In litigation you have no control over
the process, whether in or out of court. Judges are too busy to understand
your needs, and often they come to the bench with no prior experience
with family law or dispute resolution. Parties in litigation often feel
compelled to say vicious things about each other that become a part of
the public record forever, accessible to employers and potential employers,
co-workers, and even your children. Not only does the experience feel
miserable for often two years or more, vast sums of money can be eaten
up by the discord. The perpetuation of bitterness is well served and self-inflicted.
The collaborative process offers a thoroughly creative alternative. It
allows you to manage your own affairs under the guidance of highly experienced
collaborative professionals, whose common goal is to facilitate compromise
and agreement. It is natural for people in relationship transition to
be suspicious of the other. People at the outset often find it hard to
imagine where the common ground lies. But most assuredly common ground
always exists, because that is how a couple was formed and couples often
share interconnections into the future. Teasing out these joint interests
is a central characteristic of the collaborative process.
Might it work for you? Here are
sample Collaborative Principles and Guidelines that set forth the attitude and commitment that collaborative law fosters.
How Does the Collaborative Process Work?
Because resolving cases collaboratively depends upon using trained non-lawyer
experts who are often more important to the process than attorneys are,
a characteristic of Collaborative Law is the creation of a Collaborative
Team. Collaborative Teams are comprised of the parties, a lawyer for each
spouse/partner, a divorce "coach" for each party (a licensed
therapist or psychologist), and a neutral financial professional. Sometimes
one lawyer acts for both parties as a collaborative mediator, together
with the coaches and a neutral financial.
Divorce coaches interact with the clients directly to support healthy communication
and dialogue, redirect emotional reactions, work through impasses that
occur and help clients to achieve their highest values and hopes for a
successful divorce or domestic partnership dissolution. Coaches are the
same gender as their client.
The financial expert is a licensed CPA, CFP or CDFA with training in forensics,
whose job includes cash flow analysis, financial needs of the family going
forward, helping to determine child and spousal support, and establishing
budgets as one household transitions into two. If needed, attention is
given to training a spouse or partner to handle finances where they might
not have understood or controlled them during the marriage. This supports
skills in managing one's separate finances into the future. Experts
in vocational rehabilitation may be utilized to assist party's in
identifying reeducation needs, or acquiring new skills, that will assist
that person in becoming independent.
In cases involving kids, the parties may select a joint therapist with
experience in developmental issues to be the voice of the children and
to help with parenting plans that take into the best mental health science
experience about what is age appropriate. Many warring parents proclaim
their only interest is the minor children, when the minors' needs
and feelings are never assessed. Collaborative Process integrates children
into the dissolution experience, and radically changes their experience
of your break up. It facilitates cooperation between parents, fosters
healthier children of divorce, and improved relationships between the
parents and the children for years to come. It models appropriate behavior
for children in their future adults in relationship.
Who Participates in the Collaborative Process?
The team meets to identify the goals and desired outcomes for each couple,
and sets the agenda and time-line for issue resolution. These outcomes
are not based upon a "legal rights" analysis (as in "what
would a court do"): The parties are encouraged to decide for themselves
what is best without letting a stranger decide their fate, which is truly
what happens in courtroom dissolutions.
The parties meet separately and together with their coaches to work on
communication and co-parenting issues/and custody sharing, and emotional
issues which left unaddressed might cause disputes to erupt. Meetings
occur with the financial professional to help unravel the couple's
finances, consider how to divide assets and debts, determine expenses
and budgets, and negotiate support. Lawyers answer the legal questions
and act as scriveners to memorialize agreements as they occur.
The Team provides an orderly and respectful framework for dispute resolution
on an item by item basis. Everything that happens in the Collaborative
Process is privileged from disclosure. Nothing said and no information
gained can be used if either party opts out of the process. This creates
a container of confidentiality that helps maintain the integrity of the
collaborative process. It also establishes a disincentive to the parties
to "blow up" the process because neither party can gain an advantage
outside of collaborative process by what was learned or occurred within
it. A collaborative lawyer cannot be used in litigation if the process
Deadlines are set so that the case stays on its track to resolution, unlike
court supervised divorce where cases are not managed. In Family Court
often one party perceives stalling and road-blocking to be in their self
interest. The Collaborative approach does not permit this attitude to
develop, and issues are addressed in real time as they arise.
All information that is needed is exchanged without formal "discovery,"
which in court cases invariably becomes an expensive battleground. The
financial team member ensures that all relevant historical data is located,
exchanged, and evaluated. There are no ambushes and if surprises develop
they are worked through at once. If a party obstructs disclosure and cannot
be convinced by their coach or their attorney to modify that behavior,
the process ends and the parties proceed to litigation. Usually, the difficult
party can be guided back to the ethical path because their self-interest
also lies within it.
Collaborative Process Leads to Binding, Acceptable Settlements!
Property division scenarios are considered, along with tax consequences.
Using the money that once supported one household and stretching it to
support two is challenging, but in collaborative divorce income and expenses
and support can be structured in a way that is sustainable. The number
of years remaining to retirement, and wealth management, can be planned
for and both parties can obtain invaluable tools to budget their affairs
and for considering the evolving needs of children.
Binding agreements are vetted and finalized and once signed these are submitted
to the Family Court for approval and filed as Judgments. The Final Judgment
is the only public record of the divorce. This document includes a method
of dealing with future issues as they arise, and if a Court is later asked
to enforce the agreement (if the parties do not return to the collaborative
process) the Court has an explanation of the parties' expectations.
This permits family courts to protect the spirit of the collaborative
agreement. Flexibility is written into the parties' agreement so that
it can be utilized as a road map into the future.
In the end, the parties know they have treated each other fairly and respectfully,
without further wounding and emotional bloodshed, which is a healthy prescription
for all affected!
Consider a Collaborative Outcome!
Contact Palm Desert Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Thurman Arnold Today for
We serve divorce and family law clients particularly within the desert
cities of Palm Springs, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Joshua
Tree, Blythe, Hemet, Twenty-Nine Palms, Cathedral City, Indio, Desert
Hot Springs, Yucca Valley, and Riverside!