Get Answers at Divorce Options Workshop Saturday, May 7

Find answers to your difficult questions at this free workshop

(SAN DIEGO) – San Diegans who are struggling with the difficult choices of a divorce have found the place to get their answers: the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego Divorce Options workshops.

The next Divorce Options in San Diego takes place on Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Scripps Ranch Civic Association Community Center, 11885 Cypress Canyon Road (corner of Scripps Poway Parkway and Cypress Canyon, two miles east of Interstate 15).

Workshops take place the first Saturday of every month. Seminar leaders help people in a diverse range of situations and are able to take any questions. Divorce is difficult and stressful even under the best of circumstances. It can be especially hard if you have children or economic difficulties. Divorce affects people from all walks of life, and no two situations are alike.It is possible despite challenges to preserve the emotional and financial resources of the family while respecting everyone’s needs during a divorce.

For additional information or to RSVP, call Divorce Options at (858) 472-4022 or email at sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

Led by volunteer attorneys, financial specialists, and mental health professionals who are members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, the workshop will cover the full range of choices couples have as they contemplate divorce, focusing on the non-adversarial, out-of-court options.

Divorce Options provides unbiased information about self-representation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigated divorce. The workshop deals with the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce in an informational and compassionate small group setting. There is NO solicitation of business.

Family with dogThe Divorce Options program welcomes anyone thinking about divorce or other relationship transitions including co-habitating couples with children or LGBT couples looking for a process aware and respectful of their unique needs. Divorce Options offers useful information adaptable to a wide variety of family circumstances.

“We could not be more pleased by the response to our workshops,” said Dan Martin, family law attorney and Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member. “The Divorce Options program gives us an opportunity to help people become more knowledgeable about the resources they can draw on to plan an effective transition that respects the needs and interests of all family members. Taking time to become more knowledgeable can go a long way to ease the anxiety about your divorce, and allows you to take control of your future,” said Martin.

Topics include:

  • Litigation, mediation and collaboration – the risks and the benefits of each process
  • Legal, financial, psychological and social issues of divorce
  • How to talk about divorce with your children
  • Guidance from divorce experts

New Technology Opens California Court System Access to All

Screen shot of the innovative California Courts app.

by Susan L Rapp, CFL-S

California courts, including Superior Courts handling divorce, support, and child custody matters, have been severely impacted by state budget cuts. This has resulted in a reduction

Susan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorney

Susan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorney

in family court personnel, reduced hours for filings, lengthy waits for divorce judgments to be processed, and delays in child support wage assignments being issued. Family law litigants are sometimes required to have a hearing without a court reporter or to provide a reporter at their own expense. Delays in obtaining hearing dates compound a divorcing couple’s financial and/or emotional distress particularly if there are pressing issues that cannot be resolved without court intervention.

It is often stated justice delayed is justice denied. While I lament the impact the budget cuts are having on our California judicial system, I am heartened by the judicial system’s significant, but not yet universal, adoption of the internet as a resource for litigants, attorneys, the courts, and the general public.

Computers were just replacing typewriters when I first began practicing law. There was no internet. Legal research required access to a well-equipped law library. Reported appellate cases, statutory provisions, and law review articles were found in printed volumes you hoped would be on the shelf when needed.

Given what we had to work with then, it is exciting to see a wide range of information, pleadings, and documents related to the courts and judicial process readily and inexpensively accessible using various websites and apps. Let me share a few of my favorites.

Screen shot of the Judicial Council of California website self-help section.

Screen shot of the Judicial Council of California website self-help section.

Judicial Council of California Website

The Judicial Council of California is the policy making body of the California courts. Its website has an excellent “self-help” section containing a vast amount of information. Specific pleadings that need to be completed and filed with the court regarding a particular legal matter are identified. The mandatory and discretionary Judicial Council pleading forms for family law cases (as well as civil and probate) are available in auto-fill format at the website. These forms can be printed for signing and filing once completed. The site even has videos designed to walk a litigant through completing certain form pleadings. The site is particularly valuable to litigants who cannot afford an attorney or choose to be self-represented.

Every county in California including San Diego County has a comprehensive courts website.

Every county in California including San Diego County has a comprehensive courts website.

San Diego County Superior Court Website

The Superior Court of every county in California has a website accessible by entering “[County name] Superior Court website” into the Google search box. Our San Diego Superior Court family court website includes links to the state and local rules of court, courtroom judicial assignments and telephone numbers to court clerks and various administrative offices, hearing calendars, a video designed to familiarize parents with the Family Court Services mediation process that is required when there are child custody or visitation issues, Judicial Council pleadings forms, and an index of cases filed in the San Diego Superior Court during the last several decades. The websites of the Superior Court of various other counties contain detailed information regarding the nature, date and outcome of court proceedings occurring in a particular case, and a link for ordering conformed copies of pleadings and orders in the court file.

Screen shot of the innovative California Courts app.

Screen shot of the innovative California Courts app.

California Courts App

The “California Courts” app is available through the iTunes store for $2.99. This app pulls information into a single location from a number of different websites. This app is particularly useful to practicing attorneys but is also a great resource for anyone wanting to become more familiar with the workings and work product of the California judicial system.

The app provides quick access to all published opinions of the California Supreme Court and the California Courts of Appeal. You can use this app to access information at the State Bar of California website pertaining to attorneys, including information related to when a particular attorney became licensed, law school attended, and whether the attorney has been the subject of any disciplinary proceedings. You can search for attorneys within a particular county designated by the State Bar of California as certified specialists in a particular area, such as family law.

Besides assisting those involved in legal proceedings to maneuver through the court system, the low-or-no cost and ease of access to information available to everyone via the internet bodes well for our democracy. The vast amount of information allows citizens to become educated about the law, their legal rights and the recourse available through the courts when those rights are infringed.

I would love to see civics and government teachers and their students become familiar with and take advantage of the educational resources available through websites and apps like those mentioned. I am hopeful adequate funding will soon be restored to the California courts to ensure litigants have their day in court in a timely, efficient, and effective manner, so that our judicial system, designed to enforce the rule of law upon which our system is premised, will continue to receive the respect it justly deserves.

Collaborating From Afar On Collaborative Divorce Cases

Long distance Collaborative Practice can work effectively with the right team and approach.

Long distance Collaborative Practice can work effectively with the right team and approach.

by Meredith G. Lewis, CLS-F, CDFA

In most Collaborative Divorce cases, the parties and professional team members reside and work in the same city, and are able to have in person meetings throughout the process. What if a situation arises when one of the parties, or even one of the chosen professional team members, lives in another city, state or country? Is a Collaborative Divorce case even possible under this scenario? Depending on the circumstances of the case, it is absolutely possible.

Based on the success of a recent Collaborative case, my colleagues and team members Shawn Weber, CLS-F, Anna Addleman, CPA, CDFA, and Robert A. Simon, Ph.D will offer tips in our upcoming presentation titled “Collaborating From Afar: Strategies For Overcoming Obstacles in Long Distance Collaborative Cases” at the Collaborative Practice California (CP Cal) “Celebration XI” conferencein Redwood City, California in late April.

(L to R) Anna Addleman, Shawn Weber, Robert Simon, and Meredith Lewis will discuss long distance Collaborative Cases at the upcoming Collaborative Practice California Celebration XI Conference.

(L to R) Anna Addleman, Shawn Weber, Robert Simon, and Meredith Lewis will discuss long distance Collaborative Cases at the upcoming Collaborative Practice California Celebration XI Conference.

With the availability of technology, if a party or team member is not local, he or she can still attend Collaborative Divorce meetings and be completely involved in the process. We had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Collaborative case where one of the parties resides outside of the United States. Though the team and the parties have faced some challenges with the process, it has worked well, and has enabled the case to proceed using the Collaborative Process without requiring the spouse who lives in another country to travel to San Diego.

Our team has developed several requirements for assessing whether your long distance Collaborative Divorce case can be successful. Note, however, that these are based on our experience with only one case and, therefore, these criteria are evolving.

  • Use of Technology: The professional team and the party who resides outside of the area needs to be familiar with the necessary communication technology to be utilized. There are several programs such as GoToMeeting, WebEx or Citrix which allow a person to appear remotely at a meeting.
  • Ability to Cooperate: The parties have a reasonable level of mutual respect for one another or have the ability to communicate.
  • Professional Teamwork: The professional team must be cohesive and flexible.

There are also ethical dilemmas that should be addressed by the team the Collaborative Team should address:

  • Is there an advantage or disadvantage with one party appearing remotely?
  • Are there power imbalances that would make such a process ineffective?
  • Is it better to have the party participating remotely have a local mental health professional as a coach, or one who can attend the meeting in person?

Just as not all family law cases are appropriate for the Collaborative process, not all Collaborative Divorce cases are appropriate to be conducted remotely. Deciding the appropriateness requires a detailed review of the situation by the potential Collaborative Divorce team, and the willingness of the parties to understand and accept the benefits and drawbacks of the remote model. However, geography alone does not necessarily have to be a bar to a successful Collaborative Divorce case.

Concerned whether your long distance divorce can be resolved using the Collaborative Process model? Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego at 858-472-4022 to discuss your questions and schedule a consultation. Or attend one of our free “Divorce Options” seminars the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Scripps Ranch Civic Association Community Center. To reserve your space, email sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com