by Leslee J. Newman, CFL-S, Family Law Attorney
1. Self-Representation (“Pro-Per”)
Both parties may consult with attorneys, but decide to represent themselves in or out of court. Both parties are ultimately responsible for the agreements and paperwork that goes to the court for filing including the final Judgment.
2. One-Party Representation
One party is represented by an attorney and the other is not. Generally, the party who has the attorney is responsible for drafting the paperwork, and the unrepresented spouse would get advice as to what he or she wants included in the final Judgment.
3. Both Spouses Have Representation
Both spouses have their own litigation counsel, and try to settle parts of the case through settlement discussion. If they are unable to settle some or all of the issues, the case goes to court for a judge to make the decisions for the spouses.
Both spouses retain the same mediator who acts as their neutral facilitator and does not represent either party. Depending on the style of the mediator, and whether or not the mediator is an attorney, the spouses may have the benefit of being educated as to the law, available options, recommendations, and suggestions, etc. If the mediator is an attorney, there is the added advantage of accurate drafting of the court forms, and the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Because the mediator is a neutral party, the mediator encourages both spouses to consult and review the Judgment with other attorneys before signing. There is also a confidentiality privilege in the California Evidence Code, called the mediation privilege, which can help to protect the privacy of the mediation process. If the spouses are able to settle all of the issues of their case through mediation, they do not have any court appearances.
5. Collaborative Practice
The Collaborative Process features an integrated team of professionals. Each spouse retains their own Collaborative lawyer, and a divorce coach who is a mental health professional assisting with the communication, the emotion of the divorce, and helping to regulate the interaction between the parties. The neutral professionals on the team are a financial specialist (forensic or financial planner), and a child specialist, if there are minor children or adult children still living with the parents.
Through the Collaborative Process, the spouses and their professional team enter into a written agreement with the understanding that if the collaborative process breaks down before the entry of the Judgment or completion of the case, then the professional team, including the attorneys, are disqualified from going to court and continuing on the case. This process usually includes the privilege of confidentiality in the written stipulation to begin the collaborative case.
6. Cooperative Process
The cooperative process begins with an informal agreement between the spouses and their attorneys not to go to court, but to conduct settlement discussion and face to face meetings to settle the issues of the case. Unlike collaborative practice, however, the spouses and their attorneys are not disqualified from going to court if there are any issues that cannot be settled out of court.