If you are considering a divorce, there are programs throughout California called “Divorce Options Workshop” that is helpful for you to attend before you begin your divorce process. Typically, an attorney, mental health professional, and financial consultant will each talk about what happens in a divorce.
The professionals will explain the different processes you have to choose from: traditional litigation, mediation, or a collaborative divorce. The cost of the workshop is approximately $20.
Traditional litigation is an adversarial process and the one that is the most contentious. Each spouse retains their own attorney. The attorneys may or may not work together to reach a settlement as to the division of property, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
The parties often disagree about the issues. This may require discovery, such as requiring the other party to answer interrogatories or submit to a deposition. The spouses are often pitted against each other, and they may need repeated court hearings to resolve disagreements.
Each spouse hires their own experts, such as child psychologists or forensic accountants. This can be an expensive, tedious, and long process. The parties are at the mercy of the court as to when hearing dates are available while they wait for the court to resolve their disputed issues.
In mediation, the spouses may or may not have their own attorneys and it is up to the spouses to decide whether or not they want attorneys. The spouses meet with a neutral mediator, either with or without their attorneys present. The mediator makes suggestions about how to resolve the issues, but the ultimate settlement decision is made by the spouses. Alternatively, the spouses agree to allow the mediator to “evaluate” any disputed issues and render a decision thereon.
Mediation may result in the resolution of all issues or just some of them. When issues are resolved by agreement, the process is less contentious and this means there are fewer issues left to the court to resolve.
A Collaborative Divorce
At the other end of the spectrum from traditional litigation and the least contentious process is the collaborative process. Although each spouse works with their own attorney who has been collaboratively trained, they agree to resolve the issues between them by way of a settlement agreement.
The process is not adversarial but is need-based. The spouses and their attorneys work with neutral professionals like accountants, mental health professionals, child psychologists, and divorce coaches. They share the cost of the professional they need, which differs from traditional litigation where each spouse hires their own expert. All involved are working together to achieve the goal of meeting the needs of the entire family: mom, dad, and kids.
Another advantage of the collaborative process is that if you wake up feeling emotionally stressed about your divorce, you can tell your attorney, “Today is not going to be the day I can make any decisions,” and the meeting can be postponed. In traditional litigation, if you have a court hearing, you must go to that hearing no matter how distraught you may be.
The professionals working with you in the collaborative divorce process understand that you may have a fight or flight reaction to the emotional stress of the divorce and may need time to process what is happening. Traditional litigation does not allow for you to work through this personal issue.
For more information about attending a Divorce Options Workshop or to have your questions answered about the different divorce processes to choose from, contact us at Collaborative Divorce Central Valley.