Our available services include:
- Cooperative Divorce Representation with both parties using CDP members to work together to effectuate fair and prompt resolution of family law matters.
- Case management services with CDP members serving as case managers appointed by stipulation in litigation matters to help move cases forward without undue litigation.
- Neutral settlement services for complex matters.
- Discovery management.
CDP attorneys have noticed a trend of increasing litigation costs and delay in family law matters while observing an increasing wish by clients to find an alternative that is less costly, polarizing, and time consuming. The Cooperative Divorce Project has been established to address these concerns. The process developed in no way jeopardizes a client’s private and very personal alliance with her/his attorney, who at all times will retain that alliance while knowing that he or she is dealing with another attorney sharing the goal of cooperative and reduced conflict.
Almost all family law cases ultimately are settled by agreements reached between the parties with the assistance of their attorneys and/or a settlement/mediation environment. We believe that many protracted and expensive cases can be resolved by experienced attorneys at an earlier point in time, before the parties have become polarized and entrenched in litigation positions that have consumed emotional and financial resources.
Our goal is to create an environment that will enable our clients to move through the divorce process in a way that will maximize mutual respect by utilizing the knowledge and skills of lawyers working cooperatively to find and craft solutions as early as possible. This process takes into account each party’s right to full and complete due diligence and each party’s right to a pace consistent with their respective ability to cope with the divorce and assimilate the information needed to make a sound decision.
A Cooperative Divorce will begin by each party's agreeing to use her or his best efforts to abide by guiding principles intended to create a stable foundation to support the working through of the issues related to the divorce. These guiding principles may include, for example,
(1) Stability, which pertains to financial and/or co-parenting stability. This may require that each client agree to use whatever augmentive help may be necessary to achieve this, e.g., sequenced and gradual work towards interim support rather than sudden and unilaterally determined financial changes and/or a co-parenting mediator or counselor to support the children’s transition if applicable.
(2) Civility, which pertains to how our clients conduct themselves throughout the dissolution. This includes mutual respect and understanding by each client of the other’s particular different challenges in moving forward with this process. Civility also may include well-boundaried communication that does not involve either in direct one-on-one discussions related to the substance or mechanics of their dissolution. This would not preclude conversations regarding their children’s welfare or logistics of co-parenting, if applicable.
(3) Funding, which pertains to each party’s access to funds to pay professionals relied upon by either for advice in her/his dissolution.
(4) Information, which pertains to the free flow of documents and information related to our clients’ assets and liabilities. This could include business or partnership interests, if applicable. This also could include access to answers to questions that may arise after reviewing or in connection with understanding documents/financial information.
(5) Privacy, which pertains to the protection of any information related to a business or partnership, if applicable. Parties would agree to a confidentiality agreement related to a company’s business records.
There may be other or different examples of guiding principles to enable a stable floor that would facilitate a respectful and thoughtful interchange of information and ideas free of posturing and unnecessary conflict. The goal is to contain rather than create conflict for our clients. This could foster an environment more likely to ameliorate some of the emotional fall-out from a divorce while enhancing every party’s right to full and complete disclosure and a pathway for healthy and deliberative decisions in an alliance with each party’s attorney.
CDP lawyers are allied with our respective client’s interests. We will maintain that alliance while frankly and privately advising our clients and cooperatively dealing with the other party’s attorney. We believe this is possible if everyone ascribes to a set of threshold guiding principles that will create the stability needed for reduced conflict and thus a thoughtful and respectful process towards finding mutually agreed solutions.
Our shared goal is the resolution of conflict rather than the creation of additional problems at a time that is fraught with challenges for each of our clients.
CDP attorneys are available to act as Case Managers either by voluntary stipulation of the Parties and their attorneys or by stipulation pursuant to a Court Order under Family Code Sections 2450 and 2451. Case Management under these Family Code sections is referred to as a Family Centered Case Resolution Plan (FCCRP).
Case Management primarily originated through the creative and practical thinking of Justice Donald B. King, Ret., during his years as an Appellate Court Justice. He offered free case management services during the 1990s in an effort to establish a more personal process whereby conflict could be reduced, litigation could be contained, and a divorce could be procedurally adapted to the individual needs of the Parties. Upon his retirement from the Appellate Court, Justice King actively functioned as a Case Manager in numerous cases through the auspices of the American Arbitration Association until approximately 2012.
Case management of issues other than professional fees was purely voluntary until new legislation went into effect in 2013. CDP attorneys have many years of experience working within the rubric of the services enumerated under the new statutes enabling FCCRP, that include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Early neutral case evaluation;
- Alternative Dispute Resolution;
- Discovery limitations;
- Conference calls to review case status, encourage cooperation, streamline discovery, or resolve impasses caused by conflicts between the Parties or their counsel;
- Modifications of statutory procedural requirements upon stipulation;
- Appointment of joint expert witnesses, except when within the statutory exceptions; and,
- Bifurcation, i.e., separating out an issue for resolution that needs to be solved in order to facilitate the settlement of the case or terminating the marriage prior to resolution of the financial or other issues.
Case Management is intended to provide personal supervision of a case’s progress with the hope that the case manager will provide some shelter from the risk of open-ended conflict or stultifying impasse. The services of a CDP Case Manager may include any or all of the above as well as additional services, as needed or stipulated by the Parties and their counsel.
Case Management expressly preserves the Parties’ due process rights and rights of review. A FCCRP is not intended to substitute the Case Manager for the Judge as the ultimate trier of fact if the Case Manager is a CDP attorney. The CDP lawyer may make orders only to the extent permitted by the Stipulation. Enlarging the scope of services from an attorney Case Manager to Private Judge only may be done by Stipulation and with the prior consent of the Case Managing attorney.
All CDP attorneys have been through Case Management Training by Justice Donald B. King, Ret. We believe this training will enhance the CDP attorney’s ability to effectively act as a Case Manager, enabling application of the many years of skill and experience acquired by Justice King and passed on CDP lawyers through his training.
CDP attorneys bring a depth of experience to providing a broad range of neutral settlement services. We are available to supervise and run settlement conferences. CDP members may be hired alone to provide settlement services or as a panel to provide multiple sources of input for settlement.
We are able to assist in settling cases that are financially uncomplicated but emotionally complex. We are able to assist in settling cases that are financially complicated that may include issues such as valuation and division of non-liquid business interests, corporate structures, third-party interests, tax issues, regulatory restrictions, equity grants, or venture capital, as examples.
There is a range of issues that may be a part of a family law case too numerous to fully enumerate, but most probably familiar to our members because of the depth of experience each has in this field of practice. Challenges posed by complex issues embedded within the financial issues of a case can jeopardize hard-wrought settlements or generate complicated post-judgment proceedings. All of the CDP attorneys who provide neutral settlement services maintain active and sophisticated law practices, enabling knowledge that current and thinking that is elastic. Each has specialized in family law for more than twenty years. Each brings direct experience with complex matters to every settlement session. The goal of CDP attorneys is to assist in a settlement that will remain settled.
A CDP attorney may be hired by agreement or appointment by the Court to oversee and implement the formal fact-finding process commonly described as Discovery. CDP attorneys can help contain conflict in evidence-intensive cases where there are disputes or questions surrounding the discovery of information.
Family law proceedings sometimes require formal discovery. A CDP attorney will be an effective discovery manager, because of each CDP attorney’s many years of experience with discovery procedure and content. This will facilitate the implementation of an efficient discovery plan – one designed to minimize or “cut through” conflict, meet the needs of the parties, serve the rights of due diligence and fiduciary duties, and expedite movement through the litigation.
CDP attorneys bring a depth of family law experience, litigation “know-how”, and familiarity with the applicable codes and cases to discovery management. CDP providers will help avoid needless and costly discovery disputes before they materialize or expeditiously resolve those conflicts that do materialize, as discovery managers serving by agreement or referral under CCP Section 638 and Rule of Court 3.901-910.
Contact CDP, The Cooperative Divorce Project, through Our Attorneys.