Our Work

The primary task of the Project is to develop a comprehensive non-adversary fair process, and show the comparable costs to the people of California of a rational process versus the obsolete litigation process of family law. Preliminary thoughts for a rational fair process (caution – a special process will be needed for abusive persons and their spouses and children):

1. Wife and/or husband decides divorce is inevitable. One or both make an appointment with the Family Services Center which will provide them with an outline of all possible matters to be considered in dividing their family, and the guidelines for decision-making on each issue.

2. The couple will make reservations for a public meeting, one to be held once a week, where a family relationship facilitator will hand out all forms that need to be filled out, and explain the process of divorce. People will be encouraged to talk to each other so they can share common problems, perhaps form their own divorce groups.

3. Each will then on her own time answer a detailed questionnaire designed to determine whether the couple should be assigned to a mediation process or to an arbitration process. Domestic Violence matters will have special handling. Assistance for each person in his primary language shall be provided as needed. Each questionnaire shall be reviewed by a facilitator before a person signs and files it. These questionnaires shall be confidential.

4. The answers will be reviewed by a triage committee which will assign the family to mediation or arbitration and domestic violence proceedings as appropriate. No case involving domestic violence, verbal abuse or other intimidation on the part of one party toward the other will be assigned to mediation. Rules of confidentiality shall apply to the mediation process.

5. Each party shall fill out detailed statements listing all known assets, whether separate, community or quasi-community (meaning located in another state); all income and sources of income; education, training and work experience; and all assets and debts. Most of this is required by present law. Each party will be assigned an assistant, one speaking his primary language, to assist in completing these statements.

6. Either wife or husband may then file a petition to dissolve the marriage.

7. The couple will be assigned an arbitrator or mediator. Each family will have two mediators or arbitrators, one for issues regarding parenting plans, one for property and support issues. Mediators and arbitrators shall have appropriate training and experience in their respective areas.

8. If the couple has children, a stable parenting plan shall be established immediately, and this may be revised and improved in later sessions.

9. Both arbitrators and mediators will have a rotating panel of experts available for appraisals and forensic accounting, and for questions regarding parenting plans as necessary. Each party may without stated cause reject the first expert assigned. The second or subsequent expert may be rejected upon cause, the determination of which shall be assigned to a hearing officer.

10. Each party may be assisted by an advocate in the arbitration process. The arbitrator may assign a particular issue to an evidentiary hearing officer. A party may request an evidentiary hearing on a particular issue, and that request for a hearing shall be granted or denied by a three-person panel.

11. When agreements or decisions on all issues have been reached, reduced to a writing signed by the parties and their mediators or arbitrators, the terms of those agreements or decisions shall be written as a judgment by a trained clerk, reviewed by a hearing officer, and the dissolution of the marriage granted.

12. Qualification and appointment of hearing officers is a question to be determined. All panels shall have at least one woman and one man as members.

13. The above procedures, adapted as appropriate, shall apply to all other domestic relations matters as currently assigned to “Family Law.”

14. The amount of fees charged to each couple shall be based upon the net worth of the parties and the services required to completely resolve the case. Payment of the fees may be assigned to either or both parties upon consideration of relative incomes, separate property and degree of cooperation in the process by each of them.

15. If the parties fail to agree to payment of fees in mediation, or if a party objects to the fee payment orders of an arbitrator, the fee dispute shall be assigned to a three-person arbitration panel which shall consider the recommendation of the arbitrator.

16. A system for review of the effectiveness and fairness of the mediators and arbitrators shall be established. Any review panel shall include two non-employees of this system, one man and one woman. NOTHING IN SUCH A PLAN WOULD PREVENT PEOPLE FROM CHOOSING THEIR OWN PRIVATE MEDIATORS OR ARBITRATORS. But no one should be forced into a private system. And no legally binding decisions can be made by a judicial officer except upon application for an evidentiary hearing and that application being approved.

Our Principles

Some Thoughts