Stopping Stressful Custody Fights

August 3rd, 2016

Everyone agrees the current court process is damaging, especially to children. Judge Nancy Stock delivered the 2008 AFCC resolution to the Elkins Task Force, the resolution calling the status of children in family courts “a public health crisis.” They ignored it, even though in all the public hearings –including one special day-long session in San Francisco–people spoke only of issues regarding children . And at least 12 other organizations signed on to that resolution, but I have not heard of any action. And the band played on….
So I have written proposed legislation to change that process. Here are the first five pages:
Proposed Amendment to Family Code §§3000-3465 and Related Sections

Part 1. LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS; PURPOSE.—
It is the finding of the Legislature that:
(a) Nearly three-fourths of the children involved in litigation of family matters are age seven and younger, the ages of brain development most vulnerable to toxic stress, causing adverse and permanent damage, a cost to the State of its citizens being impaired in physical health, personal finances and responsible citizenship, and more likely to engage in substance abuse.
(b) Parental conflict related to divorce is a societal concern because children suffer potential short-term and long-term detrimental economic, emotional, and educational effects during this difficult period of family transition. This is particularly true when parents engage in lengthy legal conflict.
(c) Exposure to inter-parental conflict has a lasting, adverse impact on brain development. Prompt interventions will make the stress of divorce tolerable rather than toxic.
(d) Interventions to minimize toxic stress will reduce societal costs and lead to better public health and safety.
(e) The Legislature and people of the State of California find and declare that this amendment is necessary to serve compelling public interests, including those of making the most effective use of the limited financial resources now and prospectively available to support family law courts, maximizing use of the available resources, protecting the health and safety of all children, especially those younger ones whose brains are in development, enhancing the ability of parents to minimize trauma in the dissolution of marriage or partnership process, fostering harmony and tranquility in this state and its families. We recognize the crucial importance of childhood experience in shaping the health of the individual, and ultimately, society.THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT: 1. Each county of this State shall establish a Center for Family Relationships which shall be separate and apart from the family law courts. A county may establish more than one such Center. The goals of the Centers shall be to effectuate parenting plans early in the dissolution process, and to prevent the escalation of conflict which is harmful to children. 2. The Centers shall be staffed with persons trained in parenting relationships and identifying high-conflict persons and domestic violence as defined Division 10 Part 1 of the Family Code. 3. Intake forms at the Centers shall include questionnaires designed to ascertain parenting histories, the amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth; and patterns indicating high-conflict behaviors, including domestic violence. 4. All petitions for dissolution of marriage or partnership in which there are minor children, or actions to establish parental relationship shall be filed with the County Centers. At the time of such filing, a staff person shall interview the petitioner to determine whether the parents are amenable to formulating a parenting plan with the assistance of a staff mediator, or whether they should be assigned to a high-conflict specialist. The parents shall then be assigned to a mediator or specialist and the first session with their assigned staff person shall be set within 30 days of the filing of the petition. 5. When there has been domestic violence between the parties, the parties shall be assigned to a high-conflict specialist. 6. If parents write their own parenting plans, pursuant to minimum standards set forth in Section ___ below, and file those plans within 30 days of the filing of the petition, they may be excused from Center for Family Relationships mediation, except that the staff person assigned to assist in their parenting plans shall review it with the parents to assess whether it complies with minimum requirements for a parenting plan as set forth in subsection — of Section —; it is free from coercion; and it is in the best interests of the child or children. 7. Should a high-conflict specialist be unable to effectuate a parenting plan which is in the best interests of a child, the case shall be referred to a panel of three high-conflict specialists for the purpose of referring the parties to the Superior Court for a judge to order an appropriate parenting plan. The person identified as preventing the effectuation of a parenting plan shall pay the court costs and attorney fees incurred by the other party.
PART 2 ALLOCATION OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES Section ____ Definitions. For purposes of this Part: (a) “Abuse” has the meaning ascribed to that term in Division 10 Part 1 of this Code, Domestic Violence Prevention Act, Sections 6200 and following. (b) “Allocation judgment” means a judgment allocating parental responsibilities. (c) “Caretaking functions” means tasks that involve interaction with a child or that direct, arrange, and supervise the interaction with and care of a child provided by others, or for obtaining the resources allowing for the provision of these functions. The term includes, but is not limited to, the following: (1) satisfying a child’s nutritional needs; managing a child’s bedtime and wake-up routines; caring for a child when the child is sick or injured; being attentive to a child’s personal hygiene needs, including washing, grooming, and dressing; playing with a child and ensuring the child attends scheduled extracurricular activities; protecting a child’s physical safety; and providing transportation for a child; (2) directing a child’s various developmental needs, including the acquisition of motor and language skills, toilet training, self-confidence, and maturation; (3) providing discipline, giving instruction in manners, assigning and supervising chores, and performing other tasks that attend to a child’s needs for behavioral control and self-restraint; (4) ensuring the child attends school, including remedial and special services appropriate to the child’s needs and interests, communicating with teachers and counselors, and supervising homework; (5) helping a child develop and maintain appropriate interpersonal relationships with peers, siblings, and other family members; (6) ensuring the child attends medical appointments and is available for medical follow-up and meeting the medical needs of the child in the home; (7) providing moral and ethical guidance for a child; and (8) arranging alternative care for a child by a family member, babysitter, or other child care provider or facility, including investigating such alternatives, communicating with providers, and supervising such care. (d) “Parental responsibilities” means both parenting time and significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to a child. (e) “Parenting time” means the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child. (f) “Parenting plan” means a written agreement that allocates significant decision-making responsibilities, parenting time, or both. (g) “Relocation” means: (1) a change of residence from the child’s current primary residence to a new residence within this State that is more than 25 miles from the child’s current residence; (2) a change of residence from the child’s current primary residence to a residence outside the borders of this State that is more than 25 miles from the current primary residence. (h) “Religious upbringing” means the choice of religion or denomination of a religion, religious schooling, religious training, or participation in religious customs or practices. (i) “Restriction of parenting time” means any limitation or condition placed on parenting time, including supervision. (j) “Right of first refusal” has the meaning provided in subsection ____ of Section ____ of this Act. (k) “Significant decision-making” means deciding issues of long-term importance in the life of a child. (l) “Step-parent” means a person married to a child’s parent, including a person married to the child’s parent immediately prior to the parent’s death. (m) “Supervision” means the presence of a third party during a parent’s exercise of parenting time.
Section ____. Jurisdiction; commencement of proceeding. (a) A proceeding for allocation of parental responsibilities with respect to a child is commenced in the Family Relationships Center: (1) By filing a petition for dissolution of marriage or partnership in which there are minor children, or actions to establish parental relationship with the Family Relationships Centers.
(2) by filing a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities with respect to the child in the county in which the child resides; (3) by a person other than a parent, by filing a petition for allocation of parental responsibilities in the county in which the child is permanently resident or found, but only if he or she is not in the physical custody of one of his or her parents; (4) by a step-parent, by filing a petition, if all of the following circumstances are met: (A) the parent having the majority of parenting time is deceased or is disabled and cannot perform the duties of a parent to the child; (B) the step-parent provided for the care, control, and welfare of the child prior to the initiation of proceedings for allocation of parental responsibilities; (C) the child wishes to live with the step-parent; and (D) it is alleged to be in the best interests and welfare of the child to live with the step-parent as provided in Section ____ of this Act; or (5) when one of the parents is deceased, by a grandparent who is a parent or step-parent of a deceased parent, by filing a petition, if one or more of the following existed at the time of the parent’s death: (A) the surviving parent had been absent from the marital abode for more than one month without the spouse knowing his or her whereabouts; (B) the surviving parent was in State or federal custody; or (C) the surviving parent had: (i) received supervision for or been convicted of any violation of Section of the Penal Code, directed towards the deceased parent or the child; or (ii) received supervision or been convicted of violating an order of protection entered under Section 6200 ff. of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act for the protection of the deceased parent or the child. (c) When a proceeding for allocation of parental responsibilities is commenced, the party commencing the action must forthwith serve a written notice of the time and date of the first meeting with the Family Relationships Centers and a copy of the petition on the child’s parent, guardian, person currently allocated parental responsibilities and any person with a pending request for allocation of parental responsibilities with respect to the child.
Section _____. Allocation of parental responsibilities: decision-making. (a) Generally. The aim of all parenting plans shall be to allocate decision-making responsibilities according to the child’s best interests. Nothing in this Act requires that each parent have allocated decision-making responsibilities. (b) Allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities. If the parents agree in writing on an allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities, as defined below, that agreement if approved by the Center shall be deemed and filed in the dissolution or parental relationship action as an order of the court. If the parents are referred to court as intractable high-conflict, the court shall consider as follows those significant issues including, without limitation, the following: (1) Education, including the choice of schools and tutors. (2) Health, including all decisions relating to the medical, dental, and psychological needs of the child and to the treatments arising or resulting from those needs. (3) Religion, subject to the following provisions: (A) A court shall allocate decision-making responsibility for the child’s religious upbringing in accordance with any express or implied agreement between the parents. (B) A court shall consider evidence of the parents’ past conduct as to the child’s religious upbringing in allocating decision-making responsibilities consistent with demonstrated past conduct in the absence of an express or implied agreement between the parents. (C) A court shall not allocate any aspect of the child’s religious upbringing if it determines that the parents do not or did not have an express or implied agreement for such religious upbringing or that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate a course of conduct regarding the child’s religious upbringing that could serve as a basis for any such order. (4) Extracurricular activities. (c) Determination of child’s best interests. In determining the child’s best interests for purposes of allocating significant decision-making responsibilities, a court shall consider all relevant factors, including, without limitation, the following: (1) the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to decision-making; (2) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community; (3) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (4) the ability of the parents to cooperate to make decisions, or the level of conflict between the parties that may affect their ability to share decision-making; (5) the level of each parent’s participation in past significant decision-making with respect to the child; (6) any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to decision- making with respect to the child; (7) the wishes of the parents; (8) the child’s needs; (9) the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement; (10) whether a restriction on decision-making is appropriate under Section ____; (11) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child; (12) the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child; (13) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household; (14) whether one of the parents is a sex offender, and if so, the exact nature of the offense and what, if any, treatment in which the parent has successfully participated; and (15) any other factor that a court expressly finds to be relevant. (d) A parent shall have sole responsibility for making routine decisions with respect to the child and for emergency decisions affecting the child’s health and safety during that parent’s parenting time.
Section _____ . Allocation of parental responsibilities: parenting time. (a) Best interests. A court, if called upon to make the decision, shall allocate parenting time according to the child’s best interests. (b) Allocation of parenting time. The parents’ mutually-agreed and approved written parenting plan shall be the court order. If a court must allocate parenting time, it may place restrictions on parenting time as defined in Section ____ above, and described in Section _____, if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent’s exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. In determining the child’s best interests for purposes of allocating parenting time, a court shall consider all relevant factors, including, without limitation, the following: (1) the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time; (2) the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time; (3) the amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth; (4) any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect to the child; (5) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests; (6) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community; (7) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (8) the child’s needs; (9) the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement; (10) whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate; (11) the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child or other member of the child’s household; (12) the willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs; (13) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child; (14) the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household; (15) whether one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so, the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment the offender has successfully participated in; the parties are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this paragraph ; (16) the terms of a parent’s military family-care plan that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed; and (17) any other factor that a court expressly finds to be relevant. (c) In allocating parenting time, a court shall not consider conduct of a parent that does not affect that parent’s relationship to the child. (d) Upon motion, a court may allow a parent who is deployed or who has orders to be deployed as a member of the United States Armed Forces to designate a person known to the child to exercise reasonable substitute visitation on behalf of the deployed parent, if the court determines that substitute visitation is in the best interests of the child. In determining whether substitute visitation is in the best interests of the child, the court shall consider all of the relevant factors listed in subsection (b) of this Section and apply those factors to the person designated as a substitute for the deployed parent for visitation purposes. Visitation orders entered under this subsection are subject to subsections (e) and (f) of Section ____ and subsections (c) and (d) of Section ____. (e) If the street address of a parent is not identified pursuant to Section ____ of this Act, the court shall require the parties to identify reasonable alternative arrangements for parenting time by the other parent including, but not limited to, parenting time of the minor child at the residence of another person or at a local public or private facility.
Section _____. Parenting time by parents not allocated significant decision-making responsibilities. (a) A parent who has established parentage under the laws of this State and who is not granted significant decision-making responsibilities for a child is entitled to reasonable parenting time with the child, subject to subsections (d) and (e) of Section 603.10 of this Act, unless a court finds, after a hearing, that the parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development. The order setting forth parenting time shall be in the child’s best interests pursuant to the factors set forth in subsection (b) of Section ____ of this Act. (b) A court may modify an order granting or denying parenting time pursuant to Section _____ of this Act. The court may restrict parenting time, and modify an order restricting parenting time, pursuant to Section _____ of this Act. (c) If the street address of the parent allocated parental responsibilities is not identified, pursuant to Section 6200 ff. of this Act, the court shall require the parties to identify reasonable alternative arrangements for parenting time by a parent not allocated parental responsibilities, including but not limited to parenting time of the minor child at the residence of another person or at a local public or private facility.
Section _____. Visitation by certain non-parents. (a) As used in this Section: (1) “electronic communication” means time that a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, or step-parent spends with a child during which the child is not in the person’s actual physical custody, but which is facilitated by the use of communication tools such as the telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferencing or other wired or wireless technologies via the Internet, or another medium of communication; (2) “sibling” means a brother or sister either of the whole blood or the half blood, stepbrother, or stepsister of the minor child; (3) “step-parent” means a person married to a child’s parent, including a person married to the child’s parent immediately prior to the parent’s death; and (4) “visitation” means in-person time spent between a child and the child’s grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, step-parent, or any person designated under subsection (d) of Section _____. In appropriate circumstances, visitation may include electronic communication under conditions and at times determined by the court. (b) General provisions. (1) An appropriate person, as identified in subsection (c) of this Section, may bring an action in circuit court by petition, or by filing a petition in a pending dissolution proceeding or any other proceeding that involves parental responsibilities or visitation issues regarding the child, requesting visitation with the child pursuant to this Section.

Custody!

March 23rd, 2016

Custody!  What an ugly word. It provokes images of a criminal arrest. “Take the perp into custody.” And visitation? How insulting is that to be “awarded visitation” with your own child? Those are awful terms that by themselves create tension, dissention, abstention and an environment of conflict. Divorce is hard enough without adding pain and insult to the process.
Which spouse would take care of the kids had never been an issue before Governor Ronald Reagan signed the California Family Law Act of 1969, ushering in the first no-fault divorce in America. (The first no-fault in the modern world was enacted in 1917 as part of the Russian revolution.) But the Family Law Commission responsible for devising no-fault divorce said, “We’re not going to deal with child custody and child support. We’re going to make this a non-adversary process.”
And yet the California family law summons says, in a prominent box, “you have been sued.”  Continuing, the use of the words guaranteed to stir emotions, “custody” and “visitation,” along with modifiers “sole” as a choice, is hardly likely to promote the idea of non-adversariness; quite the opposite.  This is a vestige of former religious control of families.
All other states eventually adopted their own versions of “no-fault,” the last being New York in 2010. And each still retains litigation as the default process of ending a marriage and determining parenting rights and obligations between the adults.

California Divorce Reform 4.0

February 23rd, 2015

Once again, the state of California is contemplating improving the family law system.  In 1966 Governor Brown The First appointed a Family Law Commission which resulted in no-fault divorce, a concept in the wind elsewhere also.  The commission omitted child support and child custody, and said it wanted to take family law out of the adversary system.  However, the summons for a petition to dissolve a marriage has a caution in a box under your name: “You are being sued.”

Next was Family Court 2000 commenced in 1996, “A Proposal to Restructure California’s Forum For the Resolution of Family Related Conflict.”  The committee said, “the adversary system tends to exacerbate the already strained relationship of the parties…One of the undeniable truths in family law is that the negative impact of the family breakup upon children is directly proportional to the amount of conflict which exists between the parents.” The result of this committee’s work was more accommodation for people representing themselves.

Then in 2008, the Judicial Council appointed The Elkins Task Force.  So many people wanted to speak to the task force that a special day for the public was added to the schedule.  For seven hours, 33 women and two men addressed their issues with family law.  All were in regard to children.  More emphasis on the right to testify was the chief result of this task force’s work.  Fourteen year olds were cited as being able to testify, although there never had been a rule for children of any specific age being not allowed to testify.

Now the Senate Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Hanna-Beth Jackson,  is asking “stakeholders” for opinions as to how to improve family law.  A few more deck chairs will be rearranged.

You can’t solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it.
-Albert Einstein

Essential elements of mediation

March 24th, 2013

Essential elements of mediation are two:

WILLINGNESS TO DISAGREE
WILLINGNESS TO AGREE

“Willingness to disagree” might seem a no-brainer. After all, if you were not disagreeing, why would you want a mediator? However, disagreement can be very painful. People feel tension with conflict, and conflict in personal matters can be especially painful. Conflict over the children, conflict over the house, conflict over child support, conflict over alimony–OUCH!

A good mediator will not try to avoid the discomfort and the messiness of conflict. If you avoid the conflict, you will avoid a clear resolution of your life issues. You will avoid your obligations to yourself, your self-determination.

Surprisingly, the ability and the willingness to express, to articulate, your disagreement –to tell the other just why you disagree– opens up better possibilities for agreement.

You must bring yourself to have a willingness to stand up for yourself. The mediator cannot do that for you. The mediator can encourage, support you, keep the other party from irrational attacks. But it is your life.

A stalemate is better than an unfair agreement that favors one person at the expense of the other. It is safer to disagree if one has doubts. Be sure to take time to consult financial advisors, lawyers, parents, and friends before signing a final agreement.

WILLINGNESS TO AGREE

Well, golly, why else would a person go to a mediator if one were not willing to come to an agreement? Could one be using mediation just as a tactic to drag out the divorce process? Some people cannot tolerate the thought that the ex will not be suffering enough. Some just hate it that the ex will get on with life just fine without “me.”

In the longest-running mediation I had– one couple that first came once a week, then twice a week– it seemed to me he was avoiding closure. So I arranged for us to meet with their marriage therapist (whom they had seen for seven years) to conclude the process. Husband signed. Then wife started an objection to signing. These people, I came to think, were addicted to conflict.

The adversary process does not allow the possibility of mutual understanding. Airing of grievances is so important to future peace of mind, and is essential to clear the air for mutual parenting of children.

Better Ways for Couples and Families

March 11th, 2013

Mediated and collaborative law divorces are the wave of the future. I attended two events last week for lawyers, psychologists and financial planners who work to assist women and men who have decided to end their marriages or partnerships to do so without the traumas that a litigated divorce engenders.

The first was sponsored by Collaborative Divorce Solution of Orange County, www.cdsoc.com who offer to “provide you with a team of uniquely trained professionals. The team consists of non-adversarial lawyers, divorce coaches, a financial consultant and (if there are children) a child specialist who will assist you in your negotiated divorce settlement. The team will help you make well informed decisions as you go through the collaborative process and complete your divorce.

The second was a roundtable luncheon for South Coast Collaborative Professionals, a quarterly series organized by attorney and mediator Terri Breer who also does collaborative divorce. www.southcoastcollaborativeprofessionals.com .

Mediation differs from collaborative divorce in that the couple engages outside professionals, such as financial advisors or parenting plan advisors, or consulting for legal advice, as needed, rather than engaging a team at the start.

Which process is better depends on the individual preferences of the couple entering into a non-litigated divorce. Either is far superior to the litigation process, and both can be completed in far less time that a litigated court process — currently averaging two years in Orange County.

LOVE, HONOR AND …WHAT?

March 4th, 2013

Love, honor and be financially responsible, that’s what. When you say “I do,” you agree to obligations of “mutual respect, fidelity and support” toward each other.

No one, even in writing their own vows, ever says, “and be financially responsible to you.” National Public Radio reported that 87% of married people admit to lying to their spouses about what they spend. The report included really funny instances of cover-ups.

But you owe your spouse, by law, a fiduciary duty, a duty of “highest good faith and fair dealing.” Who knew? Usually you don’t learn that until you are in the midst of a divorce when you are obliged, as part of that fiduciary obligation, to disclose in writing to your spouse all your assets, all your debts, all your income and all your expenses, including anything held in someone else’s name. You cannot get a divorce unless you declare in writing under penalty of perjury you have done that.

And there can be stiff penalties for concealment. One woman did not tell about her lottery winnings. The judge did not just divide that money, he gave it all to the deceived husband.

Lawyers used to think the obligation ended when you separated, so it was ok to lie, cheat and hide whatever you could get away with. Legislation has specified that the obligation does not end until all property is identified, valued and divided.

And during marriage, a spouse is entitled to access to the financial records of the other spouse’s business and information “affecting any transaction which concerns the community property.

Is that more of a partnership than you expected?

You Can Do Your Own Divorce–With My Help

April 18th, 2012

A woman in total confusion with her divorce consulted me. She had incurred $11,000 in attorney fees and the divorce was going in circles. Her petition and the response were filed in March a year ago.

First consultation with me was March 19 this year. Today she walked out of court a free woman. Today’s court date was for a trial setting conference, but I had guided her through all the necessary paperwork, and she was prepared for a trial, down to the required two addressed, stamped envelopes.

So when the judge ordered her and husband to go downstairs to mediation, she had everything lined up, understood her case thouroughly, had the judgment forms at the ready. She got her 401k, the support she wanted, husband to pay for the QDRO to divide his pension, name restored–everything she hoped for!

She had spent about four hours with me, some hours at home sorting her files from her lawyer according to my directions, and four hours at the court today with the mediator. And it is finished at last!

She said the self-help office at the court was great, and the mediator was very good.

Had she not be so totally prepared today, she would have had to take another day off work to finish with a trial.

On signing the judgment, Judge Millard cautioned her to not dance and sing her way out of the courtroom, but to please walk sedately.

A Safe Place for Family Solutions

March 12th, 2012

Come to my open house to discover the safe surroundings of a mediator’s office instead of a cold courthouse for resolving family and intimate partner problems.

Come March 22 between 4:00 p. m. and 7:00 p. m. We are located at 149 West Whiting Avenue in downtown Fullerton.

Here we can work through all family issues in a peaceful, private setting. You can take your time to evaluate all your options, to delve into values and possibilities, to plan your future with some certainty. You can try out variations of parenting plans to decide what works best for your children.

Part of the process of divorce often includes blame, anger, hostility and guilt. What is important for people in divorce, according to judicial surveys, is to be able to tell their stories, and to have a fair process. Mediation is the answer to both needs.

As a family lawyer and mediator in Fullerton for more than 25 years, I offer private, guided decision-making for couples, domestic partners or unmarried parents with domestic issues.

Whether you need assistance negotiating a premarital agreement, mediation to help you stay married or guidance through the divorce process, I have the expertise and experience to help you plan your future.

I mediate divorces to be filed in the counties of Riverside, San Bernardino. Los Angeles and Orange.

I have helped couples settle all issues such as identification, characterization, valuation and division of all assets and debts, parenting plans and assuring physical needs of children–away from courthouse pressure.

Civilize Family Law Now!

February 29th, 2012

CIVILIZE FAMILY LAW NOW !

Can we act to make the maddening, the stressing, the enraging process of divorce more sensible, more civilized so fewer people are killed? Maybe.

First, replace “custody” and “visitation” from family law codes with “parenting plans.” Fourteen other states have already done so, but the California legislature rejected this change in 1989. This would also require a change in the forms for requesting divorce which now force a parent to as for “custody” and give the other “visitation.”

Second, separate parenting plans from property and support issues. The divorce process would be that when a person with children files a petition for dissolution of marriage, both parents are forthwith called in and assisted in writing up a parenting plan. Every court currently has mediation departments than can be adapted to this work. The people who are not capable of doing this would be assigned to an appropriate team of professionals who will work to achieve the best possible results on behalf of the children.

Third, parenting plans must be apart from child support. Presently, in California, the more time the higher earning spouse has with the children, the less that parent pays in child support. Or, conversely, the less time, the more money the other parent receives. This is a formula for induced conflict. This is not a formula for sensible parenting. What is good for the child’s life, not the parent’s, must be the motivation for a parenting plan.

It has been known for years that this divorce system damages people, especially children. In 2008, the California branch of an international and interdisciplinary organization of judges, psychologists, lawyers and others, The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, declared the treatment of children in family courts a “public health crisis.”

Since then, 12 other family-court related organizations have signed on to this resolution. The board of the California chapter declared, “there is a clear and present danger to the public health of the children of this State based on our society’s failure to adequately address the impact of child custody proceedings upon children as a chronic, system-wide, statewide, public health crisis which impacts the previous, current and future generations of California’s most precious resource–its children.”

But no one has yet done anything about systemic changes. “You can’t solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it,” said Albert Einstein. Well, duh! Obviously.
February 28, 2012

Divorce Lawyers, Attorneys and Mediation

January 24th, 2012

The business of divorce is undergoing drastic changes. About 70% of people are doing their divorces without lawyers. Divorce attorneys are now calling themselves mediators.
If you are looking for a mediator/lawyer, be sure to check credentials, such as mediation training. There are no legal requirements for calling oneself a mediator.
Basic divorce mediation calls for 40 hours of training.
Ask how long a person has been mediating. But a new mediator with good training should not be rejected.
Ask how many divorce mediations the attorney has completed.
Meet with more than one mediating attorney before choosing the one you feel comfortable with for your divorce.


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