Collaborative divorce comes to Nevada County |

Collaborative divorce comes to Nevada County

I have been practicing family law in Nevada County since 1980, and I can attest that traditional litigated divorces with custody battles, court appearances and increasing animosity between the parties are difficult to watch.

Parents who still must raise their children together are unable to look at each other, much less talk to each other. Those of us working in the field know that the courtroom is not the best place to resolve the custody and financial issues of a divorce. Everyone suffers in the process, particularly young families with children.

Tired of seeing the damage caused by ongoing arguments and litigation surrounding divorces, a local group of like-minded attorneys, mental health professionals, financial advisors and child specialists have formed the Nevada County Collaborative Divorce Practice Group. This group supports efforts to help divorcing couples resolve their issues without going to court.

Members of the group are independent professionals who act as a team to assist parties in resolving the issues of their divorce respectfully and with honor. Those who have used the process find they can actually remain friends with their former spouses.

It works like this: The parties, their lawyers, mental health and financial advisors sign a pledge not to litigate in court. If either party backs out, all of the professionals must resign. All of the discussions remain confidential as settlement negotiations and may not be used in family court. None of the professionals involved may be called as witnesses in family court.

One complaint we hear from opponents is that forcing the professionals to bow out if negotiations fall apart makes no sense. However, it is the collaborative commitment that makes the process work. If a couple does decide to go to court, even though they must find new counsel, they will be far ahead in the process because they can take the discovery part of the case with them.

The collaborative movement is gaining momentum nationally and internationally. In January 2007, California became the third state, behind Texas and North Carolina, to incorporate collaborative law into its state statutes in the family law section. To learn more, visit

Janet Harley has practiced law in Nevada City since 1980. She is a mediator and professional trainer in collaborative law and mediation.

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