Twitter Facebook Myspace

Using Court As A Last Resort: Advocacy Without Adversaries

By Jan Frankel Schau and Ronald Supancic

Just as you were getting used to the concept of Arbitration and Mediation as the common alternatives for resolving legal disputes, along comes “Collaborative Law.” Is it the talisman of future dispute resolution in America?

“Collaborative Law” is being widely used, particularly in Family Law settings globally. In fact, in many European countries, the Court system is only the last resort after all other so-called “Appropriate Dispute Resolution” alternatives are fully exploited. Like any new system, it will undoubtedly be met with some resistance from the Courts and the Bar. This article will explore the concept of “collaborative law” and other “appropriate” dispute resolution processes applicable to the civil case in Los Angeles County .

Ideally, most civil disputes could be resolved, (as they sometimes are in the family law arena) around the kitchen table. That is, the parties sit down together, break bread and make peace. They work out their disputes without the need for outside intervention. This is the first step in “Appropriate Dispute Resolution” – an earnest attempt for the parties to meet and resolve their differences informally.

Failing that, parties could and should retain a neutral dispute facilitator or manager: someone whom both parties could agree to hire to oversee collection and exchange of all the necessary facts in order to fairly evaluate and resolve the dispute. This individual would oversee depositions, collect documents and screen them for confidentiality claims, and keep the parties on a schedule for responding to one another’s requests and demands. This approach is not entirely novel: under the California Civil Code all new actions for defects in real estate construction by a Homeowner’s Association require retaining and using a Dispute Facilitator before filing a lawsuit.

Once the facts have been fully submitted and explored, a “conventional” mediation might be appropriate. There, each side would be able to present their version of the incident or claim, based upon the stipulated facts and exchanged evidence, and a neutral intermediary could actively engage the two sides in collaborating towards a resolution.

Read more…

What women need to know about divorce

The Second Saturday workshop was developed by WIFE, the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, founded in 1988. It is their mission is to empower women to succeed and prosper.  WIFE is dedicated to providing women with information and education during life transitions and their quest for financial independence.

The Second Saturday Workshop is held the second Saturday of each month, and is designed to help divorced and divorcing women take the next step in their life, no matter where they are in the process of untying the knot.  The workshop deals with the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce in a logical, yet compassionate way.  With the guidance of trained professionals, workshop participants gain greater understanding of the confusing divorce process.

Second Saturday is a great opportunity for women anywhere in the divorce process. The next Second Saturday workshop is scheduled for Saturday, June 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Speakers will include attorney Robert Borsky, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Irene Smith and marriage and family therapist Rosalinda O’Neill.  To register for the event, or if you’d like more information, email Info@TheLawCollaborative.com.

The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Seven

Alec Baldwin wrote a book last year called A Promise To Ourselves, decrying “the corrupt California divorce industry” (his words).  He describes a nightmare divorce that lasted eight years and cost over three million dollars, after a ten-year marriage to Kim Basinger.   That is the seventh option:  Litigation.

A few years ago there was a case all over the newspapers.  A short marriage; a two-year-old child.  Dad was voluntarily giving Mom $50,000 a month in child support, but the mother wasn’t satisfied.  Mother wanted $350,000 a month in child support for the two-year-old.  Why?  Because Dad could afford it.

The couple spent over a million dollars – each – on the Order to Show Cause Hearing.  At the end of the day, after hearing all of the evidence and testimony, after concord jets and race horses and all the other evidence put in for a two-year-old child, the judge raised the support from $50,000 a month to $60,000 a month.   A hundred thousand for a million.  That’s litigation, straight up, all the way.

The good news is that you have options.  You don’t have to spend your life’s savings on legal fees or spend years fighting in court.  It’s your money, it’s your family, it’s your choice.

Option 1:  The Kitchen Table
Option 2:  Mediation
Option 3:  Collaborative Divorce
Option 4:  Arbitration
Option 5:  Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation
Option 6:  Rent-A-Judge
Option 7: Litigation

The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Four

The fourth option for divorce is Arbitration, which is quite different from our first three options.  The Kitchen Table Divorce is casual, creative, quick and inexpensive.  Mediation is a cooperative effort between individuals to reach a mutual agreement based on consensus and compromise.  Collaborative Divorce provides you with a team of professionals that rally and support you, ensuring that all your needs are met.  Though Arbitration is similar to mediation, it is more like litigation in that the parties present their respective positions, evidence, testimony and witnesses to a trial of fact.

Arbitration is a settlement technique in which a third party reviews the case and imposes a decision that is legally binding for both sides.  The arbitrator may be a retired judge, an experienced trial lawyer, or some other professional selected from a panel of competent arbitrators, such as the American Arbitration Association.  Arbitration can be either voluntary or mandatory and can be either binding or non-binding.  The principal distinction between mediation and arbitration is that whereas a mediator will try to help the parties find a middle ground on which to compromise, the (non-binding) arbitrator remains totally removed from the settlement process and will only give a determination of liability.

Arbitration is most commonly used for the resolution of commercial disputes, but it is desirable in divorce cases when agreement cannot be reached but the parties still wish to save the costs and expenses of litigating through the usual judicial system, which has built-in delays and attendant increased costs.  The Los Angeles County Superior Court sponsors an arbitration program and a “Rent-A-Judge program wherein retired Superior Court judges are available as arbitrators, or will sit as judges on a private basis.  But we’ll talk more about Rent-A-Judge in a later post.

Option 1:  The Kitchen Table
Option 2:  Mediation
Option 3:  Collaborative Divorce
Option 4:  Arbitration
Option 5:  Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation
Option 6:  Rent-A-Judge
Option 7: Litigation

The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Two

Number two on the list of divorce options is Mediation. You’ve probably heard of mediation. It’s when the couple sits down with a neutral mediator who helps them negotiate the terms of their divorce. The mediator is not an advocate, cannot give legal advice, and ought to advise you to seek independent advice from a lawyer so that you can be sure you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.

The great thing about a mediator is that they can present options, alternatives, and different scenarios.  There’s creativity in mediation.  A mediator will invite you to decide how your divorce is handled and then will help you draw up a deal called a Memorandum of Understanding. Once you have your Memorandum of Understanding, you can take it to an attorney if you want to, or you can have it filed with the Superior Court. If the mediator you hire happens to be a lawyer, you can have your mediator draw up the agreement and file it in court for you.

Interesting Fact: In Los Angeles, the court actually favors consensual dispute resolution. If you come in with a mediation or a collaboration, you go to the top of the list with regard to processing and entering judgments, whereas litigious cases are going to wait six to twelve weeks for the clerks to get to them, because they’re so backed up and under staffed.

Option 1:  The Kitchen Table
Option 2:  Mediation
Option 3:  Collaborative Divorce
Option 4:  Arbitration
Option 5:  Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation
Option 6:  Rent-A-Judge
Option 7: Litigation