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October 31, 2011

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Part 1 in an ongoing series by David Kuroda- COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW – THE LATEST THING IN DIVORCE ACCORDING TO THE MOVIE “JUNO” – Roy Disney and Robin Williams Chose Collaborative Divorce, Jamie and Frank McCourt Did Not


Collaborative Divorce is gaining the public’s attention. From being mentioned in the movie “Juno,” as the “latest way of getting divorce,” more prominent couples are choosing Collaborative Divorce. Marshall Zolla and Fred Glassman, representing Patricia Disney and Forrest “Woody” Mosten, representing Roy Disney, settled the entire divorce without the divorce details being mentioned on the “ET,” Entertainment Tonight or TMZ. Robin Williams, represented by Patsy Ostroy, and his wife, represented by Madeleine Simborg – another high profile divorce are able to work out terms of their dissolution, privately, respectfully, fairly. Contrast that with damage to the family in the case of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. In his book, A Promise to Ourselves, A Journey Through Fatherhood ad Divorce, Baldwin writes a scathing account of his divorce, including harsh accounts of his lawyers and the court system. He does offer some good advice for persons contemplating divorce.

In a recent high conflict parenting group I was leading, one of the parents said “I read a really good book.” He had just read Alec Baldwin’s book. The book confirmed many of his own experiences and in a strange way, he felt validated by what he read in “A Promise to Ourselves…” It’s a sad commentary when a parent finds solace in a book that is so critical of family law.

Collaborative Divorce offers a far better way of ending marriages.

This exciting new developments in family law is collaborative law, divorce without court (Family Code §2013). The cornerstone of the approach is the stipulation the parties and attorneys sign, eliminating court as an option. The parties sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement which commits the parties to: 1) Participate in good faith to reach a negotiated settlement that addresses both party’s interests and

concerns; 2) Each party makes full disclosure to his or her attorney and the other party of all pacts pertinent to their case; 3) The parties communicate respectfully and constructively with each other to settle their case; and 4)  Neither parties nor their attorneys will use the court to resolve disputes during the collaborative law process, and if a party decides to withdraws from the process, the attorneys will withdraw and help their respective clients make an economical and orderly transfer to new attorneys. With the removal of the threat of “going to court,” parties and attorneys hold a series of four-way meetings to work out the dissolution. Of course, parties can’t sign away their right to go to court, but it is understood that if the parties elect to go to court, their attorneys withdraw and are prohibited from representing them.

 “No other area of law calls upon you, as an attorney, to invest as much time, energy, talent, patience and emotional support as does family law. You daily appear as an advocate in an emotionally charged atmosphere requiring you to keep your objectivity intact and your skills sharp. By attending this Symposium, you are enhancing your knowledge in this critical area of the law and thereby assisting the court in its mission. The Court commends your service to the families of this community.”

Marjorie Steinberg, Supervising Judge, Family Law Departments, 2009 Family Law Symposium, Family Law Reference Book

It is the emotional support aspect of the divorce that seems to drain the energy of family law attorneys. It is the attorney who seems to bear the brunt of the angry client. The attorney hears it all: The court, the judicial system, the unfavorable evaluation, the high costs, and the unfaithful parent. Many attorneys are attracted to collaborative law and excited about the prospects of practices that don’t require trials, hearings and depositions.


Mr. Kuroda is the former Division Chief, Family Court Services, Superior Court of Los Angeles and directed the Mediation and Conciliation Service, the first and largest court mediation program in the nation. In his 18 years with the Superior Court.

In addition to directing the program, he has personally provided mediation services to over 8,000 families, and has made presentations on collaborative divorce, mediation and divorce to numerous groups of attorneys and mental health professionals. He is a member of A Better Divorce, LAWCDP, the LA Collaborative Family Law Association, and CDRC. He serves on the Family Law Executive Committee, LA County Bar Association. He was recognized by the National Association of Social Workers, NASW, California, with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003; he was honored for his contributions to help establish Collaborative Divorce by Collaborative Practice California; in 2007 with the George Nickel Award, California Social Welfare Archives.

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