Stephen H. Sulmeyer, Hon. Verna A. Adams, and Hon. Beverly Wood

This article describes a court-connected alternative dispute resolution program, the Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference. The key feature of this program is the participation of two volunteer panelists, one a family law attorney and the other a mental health professional experienced in parenting disputes, who assist the judicial officer in working with the parties and their attorneys (if any) to reach a resolution of their parenting dispute. Significantly, in addition to addressing the parties’ legal issues, the panelists also address the parties’ psychological and emotional issues relevant to the dispute on an as-needed basis. Findings from six years of experience with the program are discussed, including evidence of high satisfaction with the program, a high rate of settlement, a decrease in relitigation, and a concomitant savings of scarce judicial resources.


My Wife Had an Affair—Do I Have to Pay Her Alimony When We Divorce?

Your feelings around your spouse’s infidelity are natural, understandable and important. Feelings of hurt, anger, betrayal, shock, rage, and grief are to be expected when one’s partner has been unfaithful. Your feelings around the affair, whatever they may be, are in the room while we are negotiating, and we have to acknowledge and deal with them if the negotiations are to go smoothly. Your feelings are important to you—so if we ignore your feelings, you will feel like something vital to you is not being addressed.

At the same time, because California is a no-fault state, it is important to remember that it is not the purpose of legal solutions to remedy emotional wrongs. When it comes to spousal support, also called alimony, the law is concerned with questions such as the recipient’s need and the payor’s ability to pay, not whether the recipient deserves support on account of his or her past behavior. That is not to say that your feelings about the affair are not important. Rather, it is a question of how and where to deal with those feelings.

Our approach to dispute resolution in a divorce provides you and your spouse a safe place in which you can voice your feelings and feel heard by the other. By addressing your feelings directly, you and your spouse create the possibility of an emotional resolution—whether that is an explanation, an apology, forgiveness, or just being heard—something the law cannot provide. In this way all of your concerns—legal, financial, and emotional can be meaningfully addressed.