Alternatives to Court

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Many couples are able to reach agreement on at least a few of their issues on their own. Because a judge can never know about your relationship - as a couple and as a family - as well as you know yourselves, it often makes sense to work out as many issues as you can out of court.  In most cases, resolving your disputes outside of court saves time, money, and a lot of the stress associated with making such big changes in your life.

There are a number of ways that people can consider trying to reach agreements when they cannot do it all themselves. For example, people can consider:


In mediation, an impartial person (the mediator) helps people reach an agreement they can both accept. The mediator helps people talk the issues through in a way where it is often easier to settle the dispute themselves. Mediators do not make decisions. Agreements can only be reached if everyone agrees.

To find a mediator in your area, you can:

    • Check your local telephone directory (most have a section for mediation),

    • Contact a community organization,

    • Contact your local Bar Association,

    • Contact the local court to see if they have a mediation panel.

Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce process, you and your spouse or domestic partner negotiate an agreement with professional help. You each hire specially trained collaborative lawyers who advise and assist you in negotiating the settlement agreement.

You meet separately with your own lawyer. The lawyers and both clients also meet together regularly. Sometimes, you and your spouse or domestic partner can bring in other people to help you, like child custody specialists or accountants, to help you settle your case without having to go in front of a judge in a contested case.

For a collaborative divorce, both spouses or domestic partners and their lawyers usually sign a contract in which they agree they will not go to court. If the parties cannot reach a settlement and end up having to go to court, the lawyers agree to withdraw from the case. If that happens, you would have to get a new lawyer or represent yourself.

There are many collaborative law resources on the Internet. Do an Internet search for “collaborative law in California’ and you will find information and resources to find a lawyer who provides collaborative law representation. You can also call your local bar association and find out if there are any “collaborative law” groups in your county.

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