Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution Options in Sonoma County

Helping Resolve Disputes for Over 15 Years

Are you struggling to come to terms with how to go about getting divorced? You’ve heard of litigation, mediation, collaborative law, and unbundled services. What does it all mean? Which is best for you? The Family Law Offices of Carol A. Gorenberg offers all of these alternatives, and can help you decide which road to take.

If you and your partner are not likely to be able to agree on anything, and need an authority figure to make decisions for you, you may be most comfortable with LITIGATION. But if you think that you have the potential to work things out and make compromises, then you may be happier with Mediation or Collaborative Law. If money is an issue, you’ll want to consider some of the less costly approaches, such as using Unbundled Services or Mediation. If you think that the fairest result is likely to be a creative one that no one else has ever thought of before, then Collaborative may be your best option.

At your initial consultation with our attorney, we’ll go over the facts of your situation, talk about your goals, and decide what legal issues need to be resolved. We’ll also talk about what is the best dispute resolution process for you with your particular partner. Our attorney has successfully completed cases using all of these modes of dispute resolution.

If you know from the start that mediation is your choice, Carol Gorenberg can help you in one of two ways. She is trained as a mediator, and can meet with you and your partner together as the neutral to help you resolve your case. Or, if you are interested in mediation, but want an attorney to be your back-up helper to understand the law and your alternatives, or to recommend a mediator whose style will fit with yours, Carol can be your Consulting Attorney. In this capacity, she’ll evaluate your case and propose one or more mediators for you to interview, who are likely to be a good fit for your case.

Litigation Attorney in Santa Rosa

LITIGATION is the traditional means of resolving disputes in court. It has been developed over centuries to resolve disagreements ranging from who is at fault for a dog bite or a car accident, to dividing up an estate after someone dies when the heirs disagree about what was meant by the will. Litigation requires that both parties present evidence in a certain manner and the judge (there is no jury in family law cases in California) is the “finder of fact.” The judge decides who is more believable, who has the best evidence, and then applies the law to those facts, to answer the question at hand. This means of resolving disputes can be very difficult and expensive when personal matters are at issue, such as: How will we share responsibilities for the children? How much money will change hands each month and for how long? How do we divided the property accumulated over the course of the marriage? The benefits of this method is that it relies heavily on the great mass of social rules we call THE LAW, and the judge is responsible for deciding how to apply it to your situation. Since no two situations are identical, the judge is guided not just by the laws that have been written by legislators in Sacramento, but also by cases that have been decided over the years by higher courts. A major part of the attorneys’ jobs is to direct the judge to the law that will favor the position of their own clients.

Alternative Dispute Resolution May Be For You

MEDIATION is an alternative that grew up in the 1970’s. At its most basic, mediation is really a conversation between the two divorcing people, helped by a neutral mediator, who isn’t a decision-maker, but is there to guide you and your spouse to make compromises leading to decisions you both can accept. The mediator should know the law, and will encourage you to decide what the issues are, gather relevant information, consider your values and needs, and have a peaceful exchange of ideas. Since there is usually not one “right” decision, you aren’t asking a judge who doesn’t know you, to make such personal decisions that will affect your lives. You both accept the responsibility of working toward a solution, with the assistance of the mediator to take you through the process.

If you know from the start that mediation is your choice, Carol Gorenberg can help you in one of two ways. She is trained as a mediator, and can meet with you and your partner together as the neutral to help you resolve your case. Or, if you are interested in mediation, but want an attorney to be your back-up helper to understand the law and your alternatives, or to recommend a mediator whose style will fit with yours, Carol can be your Consulting Attorney. In this capacity, she’ll evaluate your case and propose one or more mediators for you to interview, who are likely to be a good fit for your case.

COLLABORATIVE LAW is a third approach, which takes elements from both litigation and mediation. Like litigation, you each have your own lawyer, who is there for you alone: to educate you, help you develop ideas, and speak for you when you cannot find the words. And like mediation, there is no judge making the decisions, just you and your spouse reaching compromises you both can live with. In Collaborative Law, you and your spouse each have your own attorney, but you agree at the outset that neither attorney will take the case to court. You may bring in other professionals who can lend their expertise, such as a child psychologist or a mortgage expert, to help you generate ideas and understand the impact of the alternatives you are considering. You will have a series of meetings, at which the Collaborative Attorneys will guide you through the decision-making process, help you sort out the issues, and come up with solutions in a business-like way. Collaborative law has some safety measures to keep you negotiating, when compromise seems difficult: Both attorneys must withdraw if either party decides to put an issue before the court; the offers that are made in the Collaborative process cannot be used later in a court proceeding against you; and other professionals can help either as neutrals or for each of the parties, to resolve communication issues that are standing in the way of progress.

Choose Just the Services You Need

UNBUNDLED SERVICES offers a fourth way to approach the process of divorcing. If you decide that litigation is the path to take, but you cannot afford a full-service lawyer, or if your issues are rather simple but you would like a lawyer to review and help you with certain steps along the way, you can hire a lawyer to provide “a la carte” services. Our attorney would not be representing you, but might help you by explaining the law on an issue, preparing papers for court, writing up an agreement, or perhaps coming to speak for you at a single hearing. Our attorney can ensure that you present valid, legal arguments to the court so the judge gives weight to your position. We’ll help you focus your written statement so your goals are clear and your reasoning sound. With unbundled services, you choose when and how you want the attorney to assist you, while you maintain responsibility for handling your case. People who choose this option often also use the services of the FAMILY LAW FACILITATOR. The facilitator’s office is at the courthouse, and is there to help self-represented people get through the process of getting a divorce or family law orders, by explaining the legal process and helping prepare the required forms (“pleadings”).

Let Us Help Navigate You Through the Divorce Process

Hiring an attorney to help you through the legal minefield is one of the most important decisions you will make. Our Santa Rosa family law attorney has more than 15 years of experience and has a proven track record of helping parents and spouses end their legal relationships with a minimum of conflict. The staff at the Family Law Offices of Carol A. Gorenberg is compassionate, knowledgeable, and courteous, and will help you through this difficult process. If you would like to schedule an appointment to meet with Carol, please contact our office at (707) 523-1810.