Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in California Dissolution Cases
In California, parties wishing to lessen conflict and work toward more “win-win” solutions to their disputes can take advantage of many modes of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including conciliation court (in larger counties), mediation and collaborative law.
California was one of the first states to establish conciliation courts. The purpose of a conciliation court is to encourage families to attempt reconciliation and reduce litigation in family law cases. In California counties with conciliation courts, parties may petition the court for help in resolving disputed family law matters prior to, or even after, filing an action for dissolution. While the matter is under advisement by the conciliation court, neither party may file an action for dissolution without permission of the court.
In situations where child custody and visitation are in dispute, California law requires the parties to address disputed custody and visitation issues through mediation. Mediation is a process in which the disputing parties meet with a neutral third person, a mediator, who works with them to resolve issues so that further litigation is unnecessary. Although not every case is resolved in mediation, many cases are. In nearly all cases, parties are able to resolve at least some of the disputed issues, even if full resolution is not achieved.
The defining feature of collaborative law, a non-adversarial method of dissolving a marriage, is that the parties and their attorneys enter into a stipulation at the outset of a case which includes agreements for informal discovery, open exchange of ideas, a commitment to the process, and most importantly, an agreement that they will not go to court. The parties and attorneys agree that if unable to settle all of the issues in the case when a party decides to take the matter to court, both attorneys must withdraw from the case. The agreement also typically includes a stipulation that documents prepared during the process are inadmissible in court unless both parties agree. Thus, if the process does fail, the parties essentially start anew.
Proponents of a collaborative law process tout that the advantages of using it are substantial. First, most collaborative law cases are significantly less expensive than if pursued through traditional litigation. Second, collaborative cases often take less time than adversarial cases. Finally, an atmosphere of cooperation, rather than conflict, allows the parties involved to focus on the real issues rather than destroying each other, thus ending the process more amicably than they ordinarily might.
However, collaborative law is not foolproof. The biggest disadvantage is the extra cost involved if the process fails and the parties must hire new attorneys. The process may also be abused by a party feigning interest in collaboration, only to take advantage of open discovery.
Learn more about ADR in California dissolution cases
A California lawyer with experience in alternative dispute resolution, including collaborative law, mediation or conciliation court will discuss these options with you. Contact the experienced attorneys at Cullen & Murphy in Riverside today.
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