Mediation is a helpful alternative to litigation for some couples. Mediation is best suited for couples who retain a fairly high level of confidence in their ability to understand their financial situation and to trust and compromise with their partner to achieve a fair financial settlement that works for both of them.
I was one of the first family lawyers in the Bay Area to include mediation in my practice, starting in the early 1980's. I have completed both introductory and advanced mediation training workshops, and continue to attend continuing education seminars on mediation issues. For couples who are considering mediation but who arenít sure if the mediation setting is best for them, I offer a brief 20-minute free consultation solely for the purpose of discussing the mediation process. This gives couples the opportunity to experience meeting together with me to see if it is an environment that is likely to work for them.
When clients are in mediation, they usually also have a family law attorney (called a mediation consultant or reviewing attorney) working with them individually to give information, advice and feedback throughout the mediation process, and to review any written agreements that are prepared in mediation. A large part of my practice involves serving as a mediation consultant for clients who are working with a family law mediator. The value of a mediation consultant is that it gives clients a safe place to ask sensitive questions, to work on proposals or responses to proposals, to get a second opinion, and to consider alternative ways to settle issues. Mediation consulting is a very flexible role where I may be consulted only minimally for review of mediated draft agreements, or more extensively throughout the mediation process.
Litigation and Negotiated Settlements
Most family law cases settle without a trial; however, sometimes parties need to have a judge resolve disputes that they simply cannot settle between themselves. I believe that in most (but not all) cases, two parties working together in a business-like way can have the best divorce, and conserve precious economic resources for their own use, rather than spending those resources on lawyers.
When a judge is needed to make a decision, some couples elect to have their case heard by a private judge, which can be a more efficient and private way of resolving disputes, particularly where the issues are complex. I represent clients in the public Superior Court in two counties: Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. If a case is before a private judge, I am available to represent clients in all of the Bay Area counties. Private judges are usually family law specialists who prefer to serve as judges, or retired judges now in private practice.
Couples who are planning to marry sometimes want to have a premarital agreement in order to define how their financial lives will be organized after marriage. I have prepared hundreds of premarital agreements over the course of my career. Additionally, I consult with clients who are planning to get married to advise as to whether a premarital agreement makes sense in their situation, as these agreements are not always needed.
Married couples sometimes request a postmarital agreement to define, clarify, or recharacterize their financial situation after marriage. For example, parties may wish to change the character of property from separate to community or vice versa, or to define their respective financial responsibilities for debts or assets. I have also prepared many postmarital agreements.
For couples who are considering separation but would still like to work on maintaining their marriage, I can also help with the preparation of a trial separation agreement. For couples who are domestic partners, I can assist with the preparation of agreements that define their financial and/or parenting responsibilities in the relationship.
I have a special interest in reconciliation after separation and the preparation of careful reconciliation agreements that protect each personís individual financial concerns while trying to foster the healing of the marriage relationship.
I have volunteered in the local courts as a settlement conference judge for many years and have special training in conducting settlement discussions. I am available to assist couples who would like to have an extended, confidential private settlement conference with their attorneys present. If you are interested in scheduling a private settlement conference, please consult with your spouse and I can provide both of you and your attorneys with additional information about that process.
In 2011, I completed training in collaborative law and can now offer collaborative law as another non-adversarial alternative to traditional family law. For more information about collaborative law and how it works, I recommend that you visit the website of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.