Pasadena Divorce Attorney

Going through a divorce can be a stressful and scary process. Most people think of divorce and envision judges, court dates, lawyers, paperwork, and expensive fees. The good news is there is no “one size fits all” when getting a divorce. While some couples feel betrayed, angry, and hurt, leading to a breakdown in communication, other couples can agree on every decision affecting the end of the marriage, like child custody, support, and dividing assets. Most couples, however, find themselves somewhere in between.

Thankfully, there are several paths a divorcing couple can take to terminate their marital status in California, with the assistance of a family law attorney: (1) Mediation (2) Collaboration and (3) Litigation. Each of these processes is  discussed below.

Getting to a Final Judgment

California is a “no fault” divorce state. That means, that if you have “irreconcilable differences,” you can get a divorce. You do not have to give the court any other reason.  Your partner does not have to agree to the divorce.  If one spouse wants a divorce and takes the necessary steps to file and move the divorce along, a court will terminate their marital status. To file for divorce in the state of California, a party must have lived in California for at least six months and lived in the county where you plan to file for at least three months prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (or Judgment for short) is the legal document that ends a marriage. In California, a divorce becomes final when a judge signs the Judgment and a Notice of Entry of Judgment is entered in the court records.  The Judgment usually includes a written contract or agreement which resolves:
  • Child custody, parenting time and agreements related to the children;
  • Child support;
  • Spousal or partner support;
  • The division of property; and
  • Payment of debts.

Mediation, Collaboration, and Litigation are all processes used by parties to resolve these issues.  Agreements obtained through the settlement process or court orders issued by a judge in ligitation become part of the final judgment of divorce. No matter which process you use to resolve your issues, a divorce only becomes final when it is signed by a Judge and entered into the court records.  The process you select to take you through your divorce to obtain that final judgment will determine how long your divorce will take to complete and the stress level you will encounter along the way.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Parties who are empowered to control the process of their divorce through cooperation and good communication experience more satisfactory outcomes as they end their marriages. Divorce mediation is a way to resolve property or custody disputes outside a courtroom setting. In mediation the only people that have decision making power are the people involved in the dispute. This is different from litigation where a judge makes all the decisions.

In divorce mediation, the mediator helps each person understand the other sides interests by faciltating discussions between a couple.  Mediators are professionals who have training in dispute resolutions. In the family law area, mediators are often lawyers who have many years of experience in family law litigation.  These attorney/mediators have a deep understanding of the stress and strain litigation imposes on divorcing couples.  Using their knowledge of the court system and family law, they help couples discuss important issues like child custody, support, and the division of property and come to agreements.

Divorce mediation usually takes less time than going through the litigation process. If the parties come to a settlement, they are encouraged to meet with a consulting attorney to review the agreement from mediation before signing. Once both parties approve the final agreement, it is included in the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and sent to the court for filing.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce is another approach divorcing couples use to finalize a divorce. Both parties engage attorneys and other professionals to guide them through the divorce. Collaborative law focuses on a team approach to reach final resolution through problem solving and negotiation. Divorce professionals support and guide the parties as they tailor a settlement solution that works best for them. Collaborative law removes the tension and stress of litigation. Parties are emotionally supported and provided with the information they need to to make the best decisions for their family. 

There are many benefits in having a collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce is usually less expensive than litigation and takes less time.  Some litgated cases can take several years to finalize because of an over-burdened court system.  A single court appearance can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees andand costs.  These are dollars many parties might need for their retirement or for their children. 

A collaborative divorce is also different from mediation because there is no neutral mediator who oversees the settlement process. Instead, collaborative divorce focuses on an entire team working towards one goal: negotiating a resolution. In a collaborative divorce, the team includes: two collaboratively trained lawyers, two divorce coaches, and one financial specialist. There may also be a child specialist and other processionals for specific issues.  This team of professionals can provide the divorcing couple with a communication toolbox that will help them resolve issues that arise after the divorce is finalized, which is especially important when there are children in the marriage.

What is Litigation?

Sometimes, divorce mediation or collaboration may not be options. Perhaps one partner is being pushed, threatened, or bullied into reaching an agreement. Or perhaps, the parties simply cannot agree on major issues. In these cases, a judge is needed to decide on custody and visitation issues, child support, spousal support, the division of property, and any other outstanding issues that pertain to the couple.

Although an attorney is not required to go to court, it is extremely helpful to have your own advocate when involved in a litigated family law proceeding. Since litigation is usually contentious, you have an advantage when represented by a lawyer who understands your legal rights and how to fight for them.  A good legal advocate tells your story to the court so that the Judge understands your side of the case.

One of the most important differences between mediation, collaboration and litigation is the amount of stress involved. Litigation is based on an adversarial system which often pits spouses against each other and leaves them with no option but to fight for everything on the table. It may leave each spouse feeling helpless and unsatisfied, especially if they do not agree with the judge’s decision. While there are times when litigation is necessary, the long-term benefits of using mediation and collaboration can be well worth the try.

An Experienced Advocate by Your Side

If you are considering a divorce from your spouse, experienced family law attorney Patricia Rigdon can help. Patricia practices entirely in the area of family law. She works with divorcing couples to resolve their divorce, paternity and family conflicts through litigation, mediation and collaborative family law.

To set up a consultation, call our office today. CALL 626-405-0006