Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
THE LAW OFFICES OF CATHLEEN E. NORTON
OPTIONS FOR GETTING A DIVORCE IN CALIFORNIA
If you and your spouse have an amicable relationship and can agree on custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of the community assets and debts, then you may be able obtain a divorce without the assistance of an attorney. In such case, you will be acting “in pro per,” meaning that you will be representing yourself in court.
You will be expected to follow the rules of evidence, and proper legal procedure, but it is entirely possible to obtain a Final Judgment by yourself when the issues are not complex and the parties are not contentious. Please see our Do-It-Yourself Section for more information.
2. ATTORNEY REPRESENTATION
If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to resolve issues of custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of the community assets and debts, then you may need to hire an attorney to represent you at all stages in the divorce.
An attorney will advise you of your legal rights and will educate you about the process. An attorney will analyze the particular facts of your situation, and together, you will devise a case strategy individually tailored for your situation. Your attorney will work with opposing counsel (or the other party, if in pro per) and negotiate settlement if possible. If it is clear that settlement is not possible, then your attorney will litigate the matter to trial.
3. CONSULTING ATTORNEY/LIMITED SCOPE REPRESENTATION
In some instances, you may want to hire an attorney to consult with you about your legal rights, or represent you on a limited scope basis. The advantage to this approach is that it will cost you less than hiring an attorney on a full-service basis. If you are willing to do much of your own “homework” but want the benefits of an attorney to consult with you on an as-needed basis, then this may be the best option for you. An attorney hired as a consultant or on a limited scope basis may review pleadings, analyze and help you strategize your case, and advise you of your legal rights.
4. COLLABORATIVE LAW
In a collaborative law model, each party hires an attorney and agrees to resolve the dispute without going to court. The attorneys and their respective clients all sign an agreement in which it is agreed that the parties will cooperate in good faith, voluntarily disclose relevant information, and attempt to resolve their dispute without court intervention. If one party later decides to litigate the matter in court, then the collaborative lawyers all must withdraw from the case and the clients will have to hire new attorneys.
5. PRIVATE MEDIATION
Mediation is a process in which the parties hire a mediator to facilitate settlement of all issues. The mediator may or may not be an attorney. If you and your spouse can agree, then mediation can be a non-adversarial process of negotiating settlement. However, since the mediator is a neutral third party, you may want to hire an attorney of your own to advise you of your legal rights and/or review any negotiated agreements before signing any final documents.