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.

Fall 2014 Trainings

Stephen H. Sulmeyer, JD, PhD will be presenting at various integrative mediation training sessions this fall, including at the Integrative Mediation Bay Area’s Basic & Intermediate Integrative Mediation Training 2014 on November 7 and at the local Sonoma chapter meeting of the National Association of Social Workers on October 10. You can learn more about Stephen’s upcoming trainings and other events in the events listing.

Getting Started

STEPHEN H. SULMEYER, J.D., Ph.D. is a lawyer, clinical psychologist, mediator and collaborative coach in Marin County, California. As a mediator, Steve combines his legal, business, and psychological sophistication to help individuals and organizations resolve disputes, enhance personal and organizational excellence, and harmonize their innermost values with their worldly aspirations. His unique background enables him to assist parties to identify and work with, rather than shy away from, the underlying psychological obstacles that are often the real barriers to the resolution of conflicts.

Please explore the information provided in this website to learn more about mediation, collaborative practice and clinical psychology. You can also view a collection of videos with Stephen’s recent interviews.

To learn more about Stephen and his services, or to schedule a preliminary consultation, please contact us.