Alternative Divorce Solutions

Divorce litigation is almost always expensive, time-consuming, and contentious. Many divorcing couples in California are now increasingly pursuing other divorce alternatives. There are choices available to you, such as a legal separation, annulment, summary dissolution, mediation, and collaborative divorce. Our California alternative divorce solution team at Lerner Conflict Resolution Center takes great pride in assisting couples in finding mutually agreeable and respectful ways to achieve the desired outcomes from their divorce.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce is an alternative way to settle divorce and domestic partnership conflicts in which the parties, with the help of impartial professionals, work together to create their own agreements. The spouses collaborate civilly, bearing in mind the need to avoid arguments for the sake of their children and others who could be affected. 

The divorcing couple and specialists work together to collect the facts needed to establish an agreement. This creates a win-win scenario in which everyone involved benefits. The couple makes all of the decisions related to the divorce together, without the involvement of a judge or divorce mediator. 

Meetings between the separating spouse and specialists are set up to discuss problems, negotiate temporary arrangements, and plan for information collection. A team will be established depending on the participants’ requirements and include attorneys, financial experts, child specialists, and communications coaches (mental health professionals provide both positions) as required. 

The collected data will be shared with the other professional team members and clients to define the goals of all parties involved and provide creative approaches to the problem. All relevant parties agree that all information shared throughout this Collaborative Process will be kept strictly secret and will not be used as evidence in any future proceedings outside the Collaborative Process. 

It’s then possible to craft an acceptable solution for all the parties involved. This approach to resolving conflicts aims to keep tensions to a minimum and leave the door open for future interaction and friendship between the parties involved. Many couples in California prefer the collaborative divorce process. 

Collaborative Divorce is based on the premise that the parties and the collaborative divorce specialists agree at the outset that they will resolve the issue themselves without turning to a third-party decision-maker or a court. If they cannot resolve the problems, all the parties involved must withdraw, and the attorneys can help the divorcing couple switch to traditional legal representation if asked to do so. 

If the divorce related issues are addressed at the Collaborative forum, and some or all of the disagreements get settled, the parties will sign a written agreement to that effect. Even if some contentious aspects of the divorce still remain without settlement, it narrows the issues that a court or other neutral arbitrators must resolve. 

A collaborative divorce may also set the stage for the parties to work together post-divorce and resolve any disagreements in the future, which makes it a much better alternative divorce solution for the couple.

Legal Separation

In California, a legal separation is sometimes preferred instead of a divorce. If a couple has a legal separation, they are still considered married in a technical sense. But they can live apart and split their marital assets just as in case of a divorce. While a legally separated couple cannot remarry without first getting divorced, there are certain advantages to a legally separated relationship, such as the following: 

  • Keeping insurance or retirement benefits a spouse receives via employment
  •  Some military privileges will continue to be available 
  • Safeguarding financial assets while you’re separated 
  • Having a healthy regard for one’s own religious or philosophical convictions 
  • Reconciling without having to get married again 
  • Being eligible for tax breaks which is vital when costs are high 

With guidance from an alternative divorce solution specialist, you can fill out the necessary documents with your spouse and submit them to the California family court if you want to get a legal separation. You will be asked to decide on various aspects, including child custody, spousal support, visitation, child support, and property division as part of the paperwork. 

If you and your spouse cannot settle the terms of your divorce, a court can do it on your behalf. Legal separation is an option for divorcing couples only if both parties fulfill specific criteria

Marriage Annulment

Annulment is a legal procedure wherein a state court declares a domestic partnership/marriage null and void, thus invalidating the union and removing the need for a divorce. When a domestic partnership or marriage is annulled in California, it is treated as if it never happened because the law never recognized the union in the first place. 

The courts may grant an annulment if the parties can show that the marriage was never valid under the law or was never acknowledged by either. Commonly used examples include:

  • A marriage in which either/both the partners were either underage or otherwise incapable of entering into a legally binding contract 
  • Instances of marriage between close relatives 
  • A marriage that was entered into by deception, trickery, or misrepresentation
  • A marriage involving a person who was previously married or in a domestic relationship with an outside spouse, who was missing for at least five years, and it wasn’t known whether the person was dead or alive 

In California, if you want to get your marriage/domestic partnership annulled, you’ll need to show that there’s a sound basis for it. Simply pointing to insurmountable obstacles will not suffice. The court will not automatically grant you an annulment if you do not have grounds for declaring your marriage null and void. 

Few marriages are ever annulled, and the duration of the union has no bearing on the likelihood of an annulment. An annulment can only be granted if the couple meets one of the above conditions. The state court of California requires legal representation while seeking an annulment.

Summary Dissolution

A Summary Dissolution is a speedier and less complicated way to legally dissolve a marriage than going through a typical disputed divorce. Those who wish to file for a summary dissolution need to fulfill the following conditions: 

  • The couple is less than five years into their marriage (from marriage to separation date).
  • No children have resulted from their union. 
  • They do not have any property holdings whatsoever. 
  • The couple doesn’t lease any real estate (other than the place they are presently living unless they have a lease term of one year or an option to purchase). 
  • Not including their combined car loans, the couple has not racked up more than $6,000 in debts during their marriage. 
  • Aside from their cars, the total value of the couple’s possessions at the end of their marriage was less than $45,000. 
  • Without counting their vehicles, the total value of the couple’s individual properties (i.e., that which belongs to each spouse separately) is less than $45,000. 
  • The couple has decided that neither partner will get alimony. 
  • The couple has finalized the division of their assets and debts with a written agreement. 

One of the parties must have been a resident of California for the previous six months and for the last three months in the county in which they filed the Summary Dissolution. 

Only some qualify for a summary dissolution, but for those who do, it’s typically the best option because it’s less expensive, takes less time, and involves less paperwork than other divorce processes.

Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation has emerged as an increasingly popular and acceptable choice in California because it helps couples avoid litigation’s high costs and all the emotional strain that it entails along with a lengthy, adversarial, and unpredictable process.

A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who meets with divorcing couples (in person or virtually, in the case of online mediation) to assist them in reaching agreements on various contentious divorce matters. When couples negotiate a divorce settlement agreement via mediation, they can save on the stress, time, and money to a significant extent.

When Can You Use Divorce Mediation in California?

Divorcing couples may choose the process of divorce mediation at any of the following three stages in California: 

Mediation Prior to Filing for Divorce: With the help of a mediator, you and your spouse can resolve any remaining disagreements and finalize your uncontested divorce in the state. Divorce proceedings may proceed faster and cost-effectively if you choose to work through your disputes in this manner and solve the matter amicably. 

Mediation during an Ongoing Divorce Process: Mediation is an option for divorcing spouses regardless of whether they have retained legal counsel. For instance, one partner may be more receptive to mediation if the “discovery” process (during which partners may request information and papers from one another) has disclosed a fuller understanding of the couple’s financial position, including any concealed assets. 

California offers free mediation through the court system for visitation and custody disputes, but you must file for divorce to use this service (some more information below). 

Mediation after the Finalization of Divorce: Divorced individuals often continue to have disagreements with their exes, especially when they have children together. A divorce mediator can help you sort things out if you or your ex-spouse have a dispute over an aspect of your divorce settlement or final dissolution decision, such as child custody or spousal maintenance. 

If one of you wants to change the terms of your custody or visitation arrangement, you’ll have to go through California’s obligatory mediation process through the court system.

Primary Features of Divorce Mediation

Mediators have the authority to set any special ground rules they consider necessary to facilitate the divorce mediation process. But it’s vital to remember the three basic features of mediation:

Divorce Mediation is Voluntary: Barring exceptions, such as child custody matters, participating in and cooperating with the pre-determined mediation process is entirely at the will of both parties. Each party has the right to withdraw from mediation at any point and is not compelled to participate. Mediation aims to help the divorcing couple reach an out-of-court settlement that satisfies everyone involved. Moreover, the agreement only holds if both sides agree to it.

Divorce Mediation is Confidential: In contrast to public court proceedings, divorce mediation is a private negotiation and decision-making process. This lets both individuals feel open to discussing critical matters freely and honestly on delicate issues.

Divorce Mediation is Privileged: Statements made during the divorce mediation process are privileged, which means they can’t be used against you later on in a trial or any other legal procedure.

Mandatory Mediation in Child Custody Disputes

Divorcing couples with minor children often turn to the family courts over custody-related questions when they can’t agree on where the child or children should live, or which parent should be primarily responsible for them. Emotional outbursts, arguing, and psychological and emotional harm to the children in the family are potential challenges when custody issues arise. 

Mandatory mediation in California is used to avoid further difficulties in some instances. Until both parents have participated in mediation with a court-appointed counselor with expertise in these matters, California courts will refrain from making a decision. The information discussed during a session is disclosed to the court when an agreement is reached. 

All child custody mediation sessions begin with brief greetings, followed by a description of the couples’ shared goals and outstanding challenges or concerns. Both parties receive equal and thorough consideration. When retained to represent a party, attorneys are welcome to participate in and observe proceedings. Sessions are scheduled separately and at several predetermined times.

The more details a divorce mediator has, the more productive the sessions are likely to be. A final custody agreement and the closure of any remaining difficulties are dependent on the mediation process being fruitful. Following disclosure to the courts, a resolution to the child custody dispute is achieved.

Advantages of Private Mediation to Settle Child Custody Issues

Divorce mediation in California can be either private or via the judicial system. Taking advantage of court-sponsored mediation in the state may seem a natural choice, given that it’s free of cost to the parties. Moreover, court-coordinated mediation has a number of limitations. 

Private mediation is usually an astute idea for financially stable couples who prefer to work with top-rated divorce mediation professionals. Consider the following aspects: 

  • It may be more productive to use private mediation for highly sensitive matters, such as a child custody dispute and any other divorce matters where the stakes are high, such as who gets to keep the family home or how the business or professional practice must be divided. 
  • Private mediation may be preferable if you reside in a county where the court-connected mediator must report back to the court after a failed mediation session. The private mediation process helps ensure complete privacy during a custody dispute. 

● By choosing private mediation, you can select your divorce mediator and set your mediation appointments according to convenience, which could be crucial for working couples. Taking this into account, you will not encounter the time limitations that are usually enforced in court-connected mediation.

Make a Prudent Decision to Move Forward in Life Choose an Alternative Divorce Process 

Lerner Conflict Resolution Center’s California-based alternative divorce solution professionals will always engage carefully with you and your loved ones. We help divorcing spouses resolve all the issues according to their unique needs and aspirations, where a court would otherwise decide matters unilaterally as per family law. 

Rather than choosing the adversarial path of litigation for your divorce, we recommend exploring alternate, less contentious options. When you sit with a skilled expert in a less formal setting, where you have full decision-making authority, you may be surprised with how much can be accomplished even in the most complex divorce matters. 

During this challenging time, the experts at our specialized alternative divorce solution center can help you focus on what’s essential by facilitating open dialogue regarding your children and your shared future. To avoid prolonged and costly legal complications, please get in touch with us at 657-232-0382 to explore your alternative choices. 

If you and your spouse are having trouble settling on terms for a divorce in California, our team of specialists can help you find a middle ground. We treat your family’s financial situation with the utmost empathy, respect your family’s dynamic, and acknowledge your chosen methods of childrearing as valid. 

Child custody, child support, property division, spousal support, and other related issues are just some of the divorce matters that we can assist you with. We have worked on multitudes of cases and have the skills and knowledge required to help couples find the best solutions with the least stress. 

It’s not necessary to fight bitterly to achieve your goals in a divorce. Get in touch with our team of dedicated and compassionate professionals who are experts in non-traditional divorce solutions and will help you adopt a more peaceful and cooperative approach to your divorce and other family law matters.

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