Articles Posted in Collaborative Divorce

Until now, the law in California regarding a child’s ability to address the court in his or her parents’ custody case has been very limited, and rarely are children able to testify. Courts have typically heard the child’s perspective through reports, or from third parties, such as the court-appointed mediators or sometimes therapists.

The California legislature has approved amendments to this process under Senate Bill AB 1050. The new law, which amends California Family Code §3042 is effective January 1, 2012, modifies the rules about children speaking to the court and give children a greater voice in their custody preferences.

“If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation,” states Amendment (a) of AB 1050.

Across the country, state courts face severe budget cuts that threaten access to justice for many and California is no exception. California state legislators have cut $350 million from the state court budget, with more cuts certain to follow. Local court will lose $135 million in the fiscal year that began July 1 and another $170 million next year from an overall budget of more than $3 billion.

In Santa Clara County, it means a loss of $6.8 million this year and perhaps more than double that amount next year. San Mateo County’s courts will take at least a $2.7 million hit this year, while Alameda County’s court system will be cut by more than $6.7 million. Contra Costa County’s courts will absorb more than $3 million in cuts and will likewise be forced to cut even more from next year’s budget.

For those considering divorce, be prepared. Twenty-five of San Francisco’s 63 Superior court chambers have been closed; two hundred of 480 employees will be laid off. “It will take a year and a half to get a divorce in San Francisco and to get a child custody order. If you file suit, we won’t do anything with your case for five years,” according to San Francisco Superior Court spokesperson Ann Donlan. That can be disastrous if the matter concerns custody of children, visitation, or many other sensitive issues.

Divorce is one of life’s biggest and most painful stressors and traumas and far too often those involved carry the weight, the pain, the blame, the hurt and the anger around with them for years, long after the divorce itself.

Dr. Fred Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project defines forgiveness as follows: to forgive is to gibe up all hope for a better past. If you are stuck in regret or anger over the past you have less energy available for your life today, and are in some ways compromising your future by being defensive and carrying around some unhappiness from the past.

Forgiveness is about healing. There is a distinction between justice, reconciliation, condoning and forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean you condone what was done, nor does it mean you have to reconcile with or like the person who did it. It is fine to say, “This was such a dreadful act that I must end my relationship with them.” And it doesn’t mean you don’t seek justice, if warranted. These are separate from the inner healing that occurs with forgiveness, which means that you don’t take what happened as just personal, but that you see it as a part of the bigger, ongoing human experience of hurt, resolution, conflict and negotiation.

In July of 2011, an obviously angry and unhappy 48 year old wife from Garden Grove in southern California whose husband of 16 months had recently filed for divorce cut off her 60 year old husband’s penis and then tossed it into the garbage disposal.

According to the police, Catherine Kieu Becker made her husband a delicious and unbeknownst to the husband, poison laced dinner and served it to him.

As the dinner (poison) kicked in, the husband felt sick and went to lie down. Shortly thereafter he lost consciousness and Becker tied his arms and legs to the bed with a rope and stripped him naked. She took a 10-inch kitchen knife and began sawing away at her husband’s penis, according to police.

Potential Client: Good morning, my wife who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area has decided she wants a divorce and has retained an attorney. I received a letter from the attorney stating that my wife is interested in the Collaborative Divorce model and that to use that model I would have to retain a Collaborative Attorney also. But I have done some investigation and have several questions, the first of which is, where is the “zealous advocacy” in the Collaborative Process?

Me: If you are looking for a process where the attorney uses any and all means to achieve the best possible outcome for you at the expense of your wife and family then Collaborative is probably not for you. A Collaborative attorney understands that you have important needs and interests and the goal of the process is to meet those needs and interests, but at the same time other family members have needs and interests too. Participants in the Collaborative process must care not only about the outcome for them, but also the outcome for their spouse and children. Advocacy in the Collaborative model is about making sure you are heard and understood, and helping you ensure that your most important needs and interests are met, and helping you and your wife craft a durable, mutually agreeable long-term agreement that works for both.

Potential Client: Well, what kinds of strategies and tactics are used to wear down the other party and/or to stall the process so they give in and I maximize my gain in the process.