Purpose-driven: Going to Court isn’t the ONLY way to get a divorce.
In fact, it’s probably the WORST.
You have choices. Get informed.
Marriage is grand. Divorce? A hundred grand. Few decisions in this world are worse than being a willing participant in a long, toxic, dragged-out divorce which bankrupts both parties and ruins innocent children involved.
“A DIVORCE PROCEEDING culminating in trial represents a failure of our legal system.” A Nevada family law judge, David A. Hardy, wrote that in a 2009 Nevada Law Journal article.
Unlike traditional civil law, nobody wins in family law. In a car accident, there is liability: someone is at fault. In criminal cases, someone is guilty or not guilty. In 1969, Ronald Reagan passed no-fault divorce in California. Proof of one party’s wrong-doing is no longer necessary to achieve divorce; alleging “irreconcilable differences” is sufficient. In family law, parties who previously built a life together are now dissolving their relationship, figuring out what to do with their children and assets. Their emotions are raw, and the the pain of losing a life partner is frequently the temporary blindfold obstructing otherwise good judgment.
During this breakdown, one party (frequently BOTH), see themselves as victims, and the other side as evil. In the 20 years I have practiced family law, I can tell you one thing – in the majority of cases, no one is evil. Good people don’t marry bad people. Maybe something, or someone, has changed. But at the end of the day, the relationship has ended, the law doesn’t care who is at fault, and it is necessary to figure out what to do next.
I believe in most cases, given the correct information and provided a guide who knows the law, the parties can reach a settlement agreement regarding their children and assets on their own, without the costly intervention of court. This is why I firmly believe in divorce mediation. I also believe that while everyone seeks attorneys for guidance, as a solution to their problems, the truth is – many times, unscrupulous attorneys create additional problems, capitalizing on petty conflict and preying on fear. Another reason to choose mediation!
In family law, trust is broken. One party (frequently BOTH), feel hopeless and unable to move on because of what has been done to them. The lack of trust opens them up to petty disputes which subtract from the main goal, which is to be able to repair the breach and move on in a healthy way.
Remember this on your journey: marriage and divorce aren’t just legal issues. They are personal decisions with important legal consequences. Knowing family law is the bare minimum requirement of being a good divorce lawyer. An excellent and effective lawyer not only teaches you the law, but gives you options for your separation or divorce.
My job as your divorce attorney or mediator is to help you move on from this stage of your life to the next in the healthiest, most informed way possible. What matters MORE than your family? When issues arise in this area, they inflict the greatest pain. I know the law; I try hard to understand your needs; and I do my best to achieve the best results for you and your family. This is my purpose as your mediator or lawyer. I am proud of my work, and I strive to never take my clients’ trust for granted.
When you hire a divorce lawyer, you are hiring us to help you get a divorce. What does that mean? Very simply put, at the end of this lengthy legal process, is a Divorce Judgment, pronouncing you single.
But that is not all.
Right now, you are on the internet researching divorce. You are searching for guideline support, and how much you have to pay (or receive); googling what’s community property and what’s not. You are probably looking for a “pitbull” who will fight for you and your children – trying to find the top-notch attorney out there who has the best strategy to WIN.
What you will eventually realize is that the law is the easy part. You may have already gone to court and felt “stung” by the unfairness of the “system”. You may already have a “pitbull” for a lawyer, but you realize that no matter how much you’ve “won”, you’re merely losing even more in the battles that ensue.
That is because divorce isn’t just about the law. Divorce is about hurt feelings and revenge. It’s about pain and fear. It’s about achieving a new “normal” in life – all of which LAW cannot address.
You Have a Choice
Hiring a lawyer and going to court is NOT the only way to get a divorce. It doesn’t have to be about “winning” or “losing”, which defines litigation. The truth is nobody ever “wins” in court. It usually comes at great costs (and not just financial).
In California, you have several options for divorce.
Mediation is when you and your ex hire a neutral third party to help you settle your case. You can be self-represented, or have attorneys, and still choose mediation. The mediator and attorneys can be as involved as you want them to be. You are in control. Almost 100% of the time, the WORST mediated outcome is better than the BEST litigated outcome. This is because in litigation, someone has to lose. Frequently, you go to Court, you BOTH lose because neither of you got the result you wanted, and you each spent over $25,000 – $100,000 each in attorneys’ fees, and have lingering hatred, stress, and other health and emotional problems. Incidentally, almost 90% of family law cases settle without going to trial anyway – so isn’t an attempt at resolving before all this money is spent at least worth a shot?
Mediation is confidential, as opposed to litigation, which is public.
Mediation is an option worth exploring, even if you and your spouse are barely talking to each other. Conflict is not a bar to settlement. A trained mediator, alone or with the help of a Mental Health Professional, can help you and your spouse better understand each other, for the ultimate goal of reaching an agreement. Read more about Mediation here.
Collaborative law is the “conscious uncoupling” made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow last year. It is a process whereby you and your spouse assemble a team comprised of attorneys, mental health professionals, and financials, premised on your pledge NOT to go to court. When your team is assembled, everyone vows to work hard to settle this case. In fact, if the case falls out of the collaborative process, your team, pursuant to their pledge, will NOT help you litigate. It is this promise not to litigate that is the cornerstone of the collaborative process. It encourages all parties to work hard to reach a workable settlement agreement. Read more about Collaborative Law here.
Limited Scope Representation
If you cannot afford to hire an attorney to handle your entire divorce, you can hire an attorney in “limited scope”, or on an “as-needed” basis (aka “unbundled legal services”), to perform specific tasks which will help you during your divorce. For example, you can hire us to ghostwrite your papers. Or for representation at one court appearance. Or as a consulting attorney while you are in mediation.
This is a good option if you wish to control your legal fees – you choose to hire a lawyer for as much or as little as you wish to help you. Read more about Limited Scope Representation here.
Litigation is the traditional approach to handling legal disputes. In litigation, you and your opponent file your legal briefs containing law supporting your arguments, and the presiding Judge issues a decision. Because family law is more personal, more private, and more fragile than civil law, the traditional approach of litigation is frequently incompatible to resolve disputes in Family Law.
In addition, winning the battle doesn’t win the war in family law. Temporary orders are frequently modified prior to Judgment. Even after Judgment is entered, post-Judgment modifications abound.
To select which option is right for you and your ex, please call the Law and Mediation Offices of Kelly Chang to schedule an in-office consult. (626) 765-5767.
Kelly Chang Rickert founded the Law and Mediation Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation. She is a Certified Family Law Specialist. Her offices are located in Pasadena and Los Angeles.
If you have any further questions or need additional information about The Purpose-Driven Divorce or other services, please do not hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (626) 765-5767.