Collaborative Divorce Method Mirrors Reality, Replacing Fear With Relief

by Meredith G. Lewis, Esq
Certified Legal Specialist-Family Law
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

For the first several years of my family law practice, I represented clients who were looking to the judicial system to make decisions regarding their children, finances and property.  These clients felt it appropriate to provide a judge who didn’t personally know anything about them with complete control over their future and that of their family.

A release of such control never seemed natural to me.

As I slowly transitioned my practice to only Alternate Dispute Resolution (“ADR”), I saw a much higher rate of satisfaction with the dissolution process among my clients.  Until 2013 my ADR practice focused mostly on mediation. At the suggestion of my friend and colleague  Shawn Weber, CFLS, I took the Collaborative training.

The training showed me that the Collaborative process and its outcome better reflected reality.  In the artificial environment of a courtroom, a judge is limited in his or her decisions by the Family Code and case law.  However, these code sections and court opinions often do not allow a judge to mirror reality.

I instantly realized during my first Collaborative case that it is a process which understands the needs of the parties.  The key moment of this realization was during the meeting addressing the issue of spousal support. Instead of plugging in numbers into a computer program to come up with an artificial support payment, we reviewed in detail each individual’s monthly budget, and allocated the combined net income appropriately.

This process insured each spouse’s necessary expenses were met, and even allowed some discretionary expenses to be covered.  The spousal support number was based on reality, and each person walked away from the meeting feeling confident he or she could financially survive post dissolution.

Best of all, their fear about the future was replaced by a sense of relief, which resulted in having control over how their lives would progress.

The team approach of the Collaborative dissolution was an invaluable tool for working with this family. As in any case, each had their own attorney for legal advice, but both also had the benefit of a financial expert providing knowledge and insight, and a mental health professional to address their emotions during the process. These are two key components which are often missing from the traditional divorce process.

The ultimate agreement and outcome of the case was one that in fact mirrored reality, allowing each individual to have control of his or her future – control that was never handed over to the impersonal judicial system.

Nine Holiday Tips For Divorced Moms, Dads, and Kids

Family Christmas Fun Divorces

Family Christmas Fun DivorcesFamily holidays are held up to impossible standards by the media and our memories. Gatherings, gifts, meals and events are all expected to be picture perfect. Who could possibly live up to these standards?

Add the realities of separation and divorce and the holidays become that much more difficult. As families start wrestling with custody and visitation schedules, winter vacations and even gift-giving, the phones start ringing off the hook in family law offices all over the country.

Most attorneys do not put rushing into court to file emergency legal documents at the last minute during the holiday season at the top of their wish list. Courts are busy. It’s never a good time to ask the legal system to do the thinking for you.

Members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego encourage you to think ahead. Consider these tips provided by attorney member Myra Fleischer so you can enjoy your holiday season with minimum stress for you and your children. Bonus: you’ll avoid the added financial expense of legal bills.


Four Tips for Making Divorce Easier on You and Your Family

by Myra Chack Fleischer, CLF-S, Fleischer & Associates

Making the decision to get divorced is never easy. If you have been there, done that, no matter when you file you know it can be consuming and is usually the result of a thought processing lasting weeks, months, even years. If there are children involved, it is even more gut wrenching.

This is why our group so strongly recommends the collaborative divorce process to mitigate the impact to your children and your family as a whole.

But once you have crossed that bridge in your mind, heart and soul, now is the time to be ruthlessly practical. Even if you choose collaborative divorce, you must also prepare yourself and your children. This is not selfish. This is healthy, this is smart and this is in your long-term best interests.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed, and there is a lot to do. As a family law attorney with experience representing hundred and hundreds of divorcing clients, there are some priorities you need to address BEFORE you break the bad news, hire an attorney, file any paperwork, or decide to avoid the court system entirely. This advice applies equally to men and women, straight or gay.

Gavel and Wedding Rings

  •  Make sure you get copies of all your financial records.

This includes bank statements, investment and retirement accounts, credit cards, loans and any other debts. You will also be able to quickly tell and later prove if there are significant changes or movement of assets, and this may help you make the decision about whether collaborative divorce is right for you.

  • Make sure you have a source of funds if you do not work outside the home.

Create a financial strategy with your attorney or a divorce financial planner before any formal filing for divorce.

  • Make sure you disclose anything damaging about you and your situation to your attorney.

The last person you want to be blindsided by any misbehavior or skeletons in your closet is your attorney. He or she cannot help you to mitigate the impact if he or she knows nothing about it. Sure, it can be some embarrassing stuff to admit to extramarital affairs, criminal acts, struggles with your physical or mental health, or tweeting racy photos.

But believe me, divorce attorneys, divorce financial planners and divorce coaches have heard it all and then some. We are not shockable, and we will not think less of you. Professionals involved with divorce proceedings are committed to confidentiality. Most of it can be handled. It’s entirely possible that by getting these issues acknowledged and out of the way, the healing process can begin and a collaborative divorce may be possible. But if not, it’s better to learn this early in the divorce process.

  • Listen to professional advice.

If your attorney, divorce financial planner or divorce coach tells you something or asks you to do something, there is a reason for it. Usually it is to protect your interests and make things easier (and maybe less costly) for you and your family in the long run. We know how to engage the legal system to your best advantage, and we have plenty of experience that tells us what works and what does not work. Don’t ruin the good counsel you are getting by ignoring it.



KPBS-TV Interview: Cuts to San Diego County Courts Are Affecting Families

Attorney Shawn Weber of Brave Weber & Mack and a member of CFLG San Diego appeared on KPBS Evening Edition with anchor Peggy Pico on Monday, December 3 for an interview about the impact of state court system budget cutbacks in the family law courts, and how individuals with family law matters could be affected. Weber encouraged people to give more consideration to seeking alternatives such as collaborative methods rather than pursuing matters in the courts. Please watch the interview here.

KPBS Radio Interview: San Diego County Court budget cuts will affect family law cases

CFLG San Diego member Shawn Weber, attorney with Brave, Weber & Mack, discussed Shawn Weber and Maureen Cavanaughthe impact of recent budget cutbacks to San Diego County’s family law courts on KPBS Radio’s “Midday Edition” with host Maureen Cavanaugh on Monday, December 3. Weber explained changes affecting court operations, and how this might negatively affect individuals with family law matters. Weber urged listeners to consider alternatives to going to court, such as collaborative law or mediation. Please listen to the interview at this link.