Orange County Divorce Mediation and Law Blog

The benefits of a collaborative divorce

Some couples going through divorce in California might want to consider a collaborative approach. A collaborative divorce involves each spouse having a separate attorney but working together to reach an agreement instead of going to court. If negotiations fail and the couple must go to court, neither attorney is permitted to participate further in the case.

There are several agreements that are generally part of a collaborative divorce agreement. Both parties must agree to good faith disclosures of all information, and neither should take advantage of an error on the other's part. In addition, both spouses should agree to behave respectfully toward one another and protect children from any fallout as much as possible. Spouses should also agree to use the same experts. This will be helpful if there is an item that must be appraised. Otherwise, the divorce process will get bogged down by each spouse bringing in an appraiser. The ultimate goal is to work toward an agreement that benefits both of parties.

Why mediation might be a good choice for child custody disputes

Some California child custody and support matters are handled through an alternative dispute resolution procedure called mediation. This may allow people to reach agreements for child custody, parenting plans, visitation, child support and other issues.

In mediation, both parties meet with a neutral third party who is skilled in helping people to resolve their disputes. The mediator facilitates the discussion and tries to help people to reach agreements. If the mediation is successful, the accords that result will become court orders. Since people reach these agreements without going through potentially contentious litigation processes, they may be likelier to adhere to them and to be happier with the results.

The advantages of mediation

Those who are going through a divorce in California may believe that litigation is the only way to end their marriages. However, mediation can be a less stressful and more productive alternative. Mediation is less stressful because the goal is for the parties to work together to create a settlement that works for everyone. The conversation is guided by a mediator who will strive to keep the conversation objective and civil.

In most cases, settling a divorce through mediation takes less time than litigation. Typically, mediation will lead to a settlement in less than 10 weeks. With litigation, it could take months or years before a final ruling is issued. In addition to saving time, mediation is generally less expensive than going to court. On average, a person can expect to save 40 to 60 percent.

About joint legal custody

Joint legal custody may be the custody arrangement courts in California assign to parents. Parents who have this type of custody share with the other parent the legal right to contribute to decision-making regarding significant issues that pertain to their child. This means that they will be making major decisions regarding matters related to healthcare, education and religion.

It is important for parents to be aware that legal custody is distinct from physical custody; parents who share legal custody may not always share physical custody. When parents are granted joint legal custody by the court, they should not automatically assume that they will also be given joint physical custody. Arrangements in which the children live the majority of the time with one parent and regularly visit the other, even though both parents have legal custody, are very common.

When bird nesting can be successful

California couples may have noticed a new trend in how parents raise their children after a divorce. Instead of the child splitting time at each parent's home, the parents split time at the family home. This benefits the child as it provides a sense of stability during an otherwise uncertain time. However, this may not work well for all parents.

Those who can't afford a place to stay could be forced to live on a couch or in other situations where they don't have a lot of privacy. Alternatively, they could be forced to spend money on an alternate residence that will be left vacant at times. If parents don't have similar schedules or goals when it comes to maintaining the home, it could create another conflict that needs to be resolved. However, it could be worthwhile for individuals who are waiting for the right time to sell or vacate a family home or apartment.

How parents can help their children through divorce

There are certain things parents in California can do to make their divorce less difficult for their children as well as things they can avoid. For example, parents should reassure children that the divorce is not their fault. They should encourage a good relationship with the other parent and talk to the child without offering an opinion if the child is negative about that parent. Neither parent should badmouth the other.

Parents should try to be consistent with their household rules and appear united in front of the children. However, if there is any parental conflict, children should be kept out of it. Parents should also avoid sharing details of the divorce with their children. They should monitor their child for signs of depression and might ask teachers or friends about the child's welfare. Younger children in particular might not speak about being upset but may act out. In general, parents should try to help children continue their lives much as they were before the divorce.

Custody basics for divorcing parents

When there is a dispute about the role of unmarried or divorcing parents in the lives of children, the family law court system is usually asked to determine the respective rights of everyone involved. The rights of California parents to spend time with their children are called custodial rights. There are some basic assumptions incorporated into laws and judicial philosophies regarding the amount of time each parent is allowed to spend with children. Depending on the specifics of a situation, a judge may award sole, partial or joint custody of children.

Most jurisdictions begin with the assumption that each parent should be fully incorporated into the lives of children. Parents are also required to help financially support children pursuant to formulas enacted under state laws. Parents having equal time with children split equally between them are said to have joint custody. For logistical purposes, even in joint custody situations, a child is likely to spend more time with one parent than the other. The parent having the most time with a child is called the primary residential parent.

Courts judge parents seeking child custody on 4 basic factors

Although family courts in California take unique circumstances into account when reviewing child custody petitions, four basic guidelines form the basis for parental evaluation. These are positive environment, previous involvement, present participation and personal character.

A positive living environment generally arises when a parent has the financial means to provide shelter, clothing, food, education and health care. Red flags, like allegations of abuse that resulted in an investigation by law enforcement or child protective services, would give a judge pause before awarding custody.

Shared parenting makes children happier

Divorcing California parents are often terribly conflicted and confused by the choices put before them regarding custody disputes.

When lawyers, judges, and mediators put forth the idea of shared parenting, it is sometimes rejected immediately and without consideration. This is particularly true in high conflict situations. An increasing body of evidence is showing that parents may be doing a disservice to their children by not at least considering shared parenting. 

Choices in child custody arrangements

The term "child custody" actually refers to two different types of custody. The parent with legal custody is able to make decisions about the child's welfare, including religion health care and education. The child lives with the parent who has physical custody. California parents may have sole physical and legal custody or joint physical and legal custody or some combination of the two. Joint legal custody is fairly common.

When parents share physical custody, the child often alternates between their homes, spending every few days or each week with one or the other parent. Another arrangement is called bird's nest custody and involves the children continuing to live in the family home while the parents take turns living there.

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