Exploring Alternatives To Traditional Divorce Litigation

Many attorneys do their clients a disservice by failing to explore alternatives to litigation. This is especially true when those alternatives may require an attorney to refer the client elsewhere.

"There is more than one way to divorce a spouse. Regrettably, attorneys rarely explore alternatives outside their own field of expertise." Mark Ressa, founder of Bay Area Divorce.

At Bay Area Divorce in San Ramon, California, we know that not all couples seeking divorce benefit from litigation. You might be better off mediating your divorce, resolving it through collaborative nonadversarial strategies, working with a private judge or even staying married for legal purposes only. There are alternatives to divorce litigation, and it is important to be aware of and understand the differences among these options as a first step to any divorce.


Mediation is perhaps the best-known alternative to litigating your divorce. Mediation is an approach that lets the parties maintain control of the outcome. The only people making decisions in mediation are those involved in the divorce, unlike in arbitration or litigation where a judge or an arbiter makes the final decision.

Mediation typically consists of several joint meetings between spouses, lasting several hours each. During those meetings, you and your spouse discuss the issues which need to be resolved in your case. The mediator is there to facilitate the discussion, assist with communication, provide information and suggestions, and use their specialized training to assist the two of you to resolve your differences. At the conclusion, the mediator prepares an agreement which is agreeable to both parties and in the best interests of any children involved. Mediation is not for everyone. If there is an unequal balance of power in your relationship, mediation may not be appropriate.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is a way of practicing law whereby the attorneys for both of the parties in a family law dispute agree to assist them in resolving conflict using cooperative strategies rather than adversarial techniques and litigation. At Bay Area divorce, we rarely recommend collaborative divorce. We no longer find this to be a cost-effective or practical strategy in most situations due to changing requirements and methods of practice. This does not, however, mean that you have to take your case to trial. We always explore every avenue to resolve our clients' cases effectively and successfully outside of court.

Private Judge

At one time, private judges were available only to the extremely wealthy. At Bay Area Divorce, we offer private judging to provide confidential, expeditious and efficient divorce resolutions. Private judges are typically retired judges or neutral attorneys. Not all lawyers can serve as private judges; they must be appointed by the court in which you would have tried your case before a public judge. Our founding attorney, Mark Ressa, offers private judge services in divorce and family law cases, providing you an opportunity for a faster, cost-effective and more private legal process.

Marital Plans (Contracts Guiding Marriage)

Are you ready to end your marriage but not ready for divorce? Maybe a part of you wants to stay together for your children's sake or for religious reasons, but you know that your marriage is not working. Founder of Bay Area Divorce, Board-Certified Family Law Specialist* Mark Ressa, is helping people redefine their marriages through marital plans. A marital plan is a contract through which you can set a new framework for your marriage. Similar to a pre- or postnuptial agreement, a marital plan allows you to set the terms of your own relationship instead of leaving matters to state law. The most common marital plan is called a parenting plan, stipulating the terms of the relationship to raise and nurture children. If you are interested in redefining the terms of your marriage, instead of ending it altogether, a marital plan may be the answer. For more information on creating a marital plan, contact our law office and consider reading "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels," by therapist Susan Pease Gadoua and journalist Vicki Larson.

Learn More | Schedule A Confidential Consultation

To discuss divorce alternatives with one of our experienced lawyers, call 925-328-0103 or send us this online form and schedule a confidential legal consultation.

*Mark Ressa is a Certified Legal Specialist in Family Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California.