Having practiced family law in Northern and Southern California counties for 38 years, I’ve watched the practice of family law evolve. It used to be that most couples seeking divorce or legal separation had lawyers to represent each spouse, or at least one lawyer for the spouse initiating the process. Today, it is just the opposite. The majority of couples seeking divorce are representing themselves and depending upon information they find on the internet, or at the court’s self-help center to guide them.
At the same time that most couples do not seek professional help in their divorce or legal separation, family law has evolved into a much more complicated legal process. Despite the fact that California was the first state in the country to change the causation of divorce to “irreconciliable differences” (or in rare cases to “incurable insanity”), the body of the law concerning the division of community and separate property, the calculation of support, and the parenting of children under the age of 18 has grown considerably.
The court system is not well designed for couples who do not know how to represent themselves before a judge, and how to present the evidence of any points or facts either spouse is making to prove up their case. Even for couples representing themselves, the California Rules of Evidence still apply. Thus, if a particular document is not presented to the court properly, and not received into evidence by the judge, the presenting spouse could lose their argument, and a great deal of money because he or she didn’t know what to do or how to say it. Additionally, since so many couples are now representing themselves, and unsure of how to proceed, the self-represented court proceedings take longer than they should and slow down the court’s calendar. Thus, it may take several months to get a hearing or trial set before a judge to make an important decision such as the parenting of children, the school a child will attend, whether a residence can go up for sale, or how fast financial support can be paid from one spouse to the other, etc.
Even though the methods of how to stay out of court through collaborative practice and mediation have existed in California for at least two decades or more, collaborative practice and mediation still appear to be a well-kept secret in many parts of the State. Thus, most most divorcing couples are not informed of the range of options to amicably divorce.
You’ll find that collaborative and mediation practitioners are experienced, and skilled professionals who are compassionate about the work they do, and how they can assist divorcing couples with peaceful and smart solutions. That’s what I strive for as a collaborative and mediation professional.