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Leaving Litigation for Collaborative Divorce and Mediation: Child Custody Issues in California Divorce

May 30, 2013
Click the photo to visit David's website

Click the photo to visit David’s website

This is the third in a multi-part series by A Better Divorce member David Kuroda, LCSW Division Chief, Mediation and Conciliation Service Superior Court of Los Angeles (ret.) titled CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES: AVOIDING TRIAL, RESPONSES TO THE UNPRECEDENTED REDUCTIONS IN COURT FUNDING – A BILLIONAIRE CHOOSES COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE.  The article is one of 16 in the family reference materials of The Family Law Symposium, the major family law event for attorneys in So. California.   Read Part One Here. Read Part Two Here.

LAWYERS LEAVING LITIGATION PRACTICES FOR COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE AND MEDIATION

Seldom did a week go by that I didn’t get a call from an attorney, asking about employment as a mediator with the court. Litigation in family law is tough on attorneys. A surprisingly high number, nearly 40%, of attorneys surveyed said they would have chosen a different profession had they know what lawyers actually did, five years after law school.

In recent years, I’ve heard a number of attorneys proudly announce they no longer litigate cases; their days at the courthouse are over; they will only provide mediation and collaborative divorce. The badge of honor for family law attorneys is increasingly being given to those who resolve cases, not to those who “only win.” Prominent attorneys have left big law firms to focus on collaborative divorce and mediation. Other high profile firms are expanding the range of their services to include Collaborative Divorce. The recession has been reducing the number of dissolutions, and the harsh realities of the economy may nudge people to seek less expensive means of getting divorced.

ALTERNATE MEANS LESS DESIRABLE; HOW ABOUT CONSENSUAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION (CDR)?

Alternate has a hallow ring to it. Commuters cringe when we hear traffic advisories telling us about “alternate” routes. We prefer being on the main highway. During competitions, those not selected for the team are often listed as “alternates,” in case the winners can’t participate. In family law, only a small percentage of cases actually require a trial. It may be more accurate to describe the trials as final alternatives, and elevate other ways of resolving cases as dispute resolution, eliminating the word “alternate.”

The State Bar has approved the change in the ADR committee to the ADR/CDR Committee. Under the leadership of Fern Salka and Wendy Landes, the Consensual Dispute Resolution (CDR) committee has continued to advocate for resolving disputes outside the courtroom. Wendy recently resigned after many years serving as the co-chair. A little over a month ago, Wendy lost her battle for cancer; she is no longer with us, but the family law community will always remember her as one of our best. She was replaced by Sharon Kianfar, from the Law and Mediation Office of Heidi Tuffias.

Last year the State Bar of California Family Law Section ADR/CDR (Alternative Dispute Resolution/Consensual Dispute Resolution) Standing Committee (South), the LACBA Center for Civic Mediation, and LACBA Family Law Section put on a program, “The Next Decade in Family Law Dispute Resolution: Creating Opportunities in Challenging Times.” The program was held at the Pepperdine School of Law and drew attendees from all over Southern California.

Also last year, a program on “Divorce Options” was presented in Playa Vista and Redondo Beach. The free program was offered to the public at no charge as a way of educating the community about divorce in these difficult times. The program was sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Family Law Section, A Better Divorce (A group of collaborative divorce professionals), the South Bay Bar Association, the Santa Monica Bar Association and the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association. The program recalled the Divorce Seminars that were sponsored by the Court and the Los Angeles County Bar Association, along with community agencies and local bar associations. The programs not only provided information about ways of getting divorce, the image of the courts and attorneys was enhanced.

David 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, he was responsible for the district courts, the PACT and Contemnors’ Programs, Divorce Seminars, and Visitation Monitors. Under his leadership, the service set high standards for the mediation service and other innovative programs serving children and families of divorce.

He has served on numerous committees with the Judicial Council, Los Angeles County Bar Executive Committee, Family Law Section, and has collaborated on numerous programs with the bar associations of the South Bay, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, and Long Beach. He’s the past vice-president of A Better Divorce: A group of collaborative professionals; he also serves as vice-president of the California Social Welfare Archives., on he advisory board of the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association, and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) California Chapter and with the George Nickel Award by the California Social Welfare Archives, USC.

In addition to directing the program, he has personally provided mediation services to over 7,000 families from the working poor to the wealthy and famous, including high profile cases and movie producers. Virtually all parents, whatever their backgrounds, love their children, and with some guidance, have been able to work together, even after divorce. Mr. Kuroda has provided training for graduate students from USC, and has taught professionals child custody mediation.

Always consult a professional in your area.

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