Collaborative divorce is a cheaper, more friendly option than litigation and usually creates better and longer-lasting resolutions than litigation, which can last years and be very expensive. Focus on an attorney with reasonable mediation rates, solid unbiased ethics, excellent credentials and intelligence, an efficient manner to help expedite agreements, and a good knowledge of family law. You may also each hire an attorney to represent each of you as individuals, since the attorney-mediator will represent both of you as a neutral 3d party, and not individually represent either of you. Your attorney will provide you guidance on what the law considers fair re: property sharing and custody issues.
Seek an efficient and unbiased therapist if you have kids.
This will help your kids speak about their needs with a hopefully unbiased professional. You will use such information to determine how to best support those needs in any agreement you create with your spouse. Remember that kids need both parents to thrive, and parents need to cooperate and support each other to be excellent parents. Have the therapist write a custody evaluation and provide a copy to the attorney.
Create a fair stipulated agreement with the mediator attorney.
Your mediator-attorney will create a very specific stipulated agreement for you and your spouse, with various attachments concerning property assets, child custody evaluations, and any other relevant documents. You will both sign this agreement after you carefully review it, alone or with your private attorneys.
Go to court to turn your agreement into a court order.
No agreement or contract re: support or custody is legally valid unless it's turned into a signed court order. File a Petition for Dissolution, along with a Stipulated Agreement and a Proposed Order based on that Agreement for the judge to sign. Hopefully, if you've done everything right, the judge may agree with the proposed order and sign it. Make sure to have the mediator attorney with you in court. If you did not do a good job, the judge may order you into further mediation with court-appointed mediators and/or therapists - which is not always the best case scenario for multiple reasons. This could complicate matters a lot. So do it right with a good, professional, and caring mediator-attorney.
Make any changes in the future, if necessary.
If there are any changes that need to be made to the signed court order in the future, you can always re-stipulate to a new agreement via the same method as above and bring that to court via a Motion for an Order to Show Cause, with the stipulation and new proposed order attached.
Additional resources provided by the author
My law firm provides top-tier litigation and collaborative divorce mediation for working class families by offering affordable rates, very ethical service, and efficient handling of Family, Property, Business, and Criminal Defense litigation, transactions, and mediation. You can learn more via my law firm's website at www.PrometheusLaw.Blogspot.com or by calling me at 510-910-3198. I have law offices in Santa Cruz, Campbell, Redwood City, Oakland, and San Francisco, CA. Prometheus: A Social Justice Law Firm. Dr. Aly Ebrahimzadeh, Esq.