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Watch the videos below to see clips from Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law Series on To watch the full interview, click here.

Should I choose collaborative divorce over traditional divorce?

Which model you choose depends on each client and what their particular needs are. So there are pros and cons to each model. Collaborative is a great approach especially if you need to feel supported in the process or maybe you’re the spouse that needs information like you have not really been the one in the know during the marriage. It’s going to be a process that’s more expensive than say for example, mediation where you just have one lawyer who’s not representing either party but is acting as a neutral to try to facilitate and agreement. Where you have a power imbalance that process isn’t the best one. Litigation is usually the least favorite because you give up control of your case, basically, a third party will be deciding what is going to happen with respect to custody, support, and your property division if you’re unable to agree.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a model for handling divorce that avoids going to court entirely. Everything is managed through a series of team meetings. In this process, each client has an attorney and a coach who is a mental health professional trained in collaborative law. These professionals offer support both emotionally and legally. Additionally, other team members are brought into the meetings as needed, such as a child specialist for custody issues or a financial expert for specific financial matters. The ultimate goal is to reach a marital settlement agreement, which serves as the final judgment in the divorce, outlining property division, support, and custody arrangements.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What are the potential disadvantages of collaborative divorce?

There aren’t a lot of disadvantages it really there really are more advantages than disadvantages however one of the disadvantages is what I call disqualification so if for some reason the case fails and the parties are unable to reach agreement or it fails for some other reason one party decides they don’t want to do it anymore then you can’t use any of those Professionals in litigation that would ensue after if collaborative fails or you can’t use any of the uh information from any of the other team members that have provided information so it’s very similar to what happens in mediation you can’t have the mediator then be used in court you similarly in collaborative all the professionals are disqualified from uh being used in any way in the litigation which would follow the only other downside sometimes I see is scheduling because everything’s done in a team format in the in a in meetings uh face-to-face meetings and so it’s sometimes difficult scheduling that many Professionals in the parties for a meeting but what I like to do is at the very first meeting set out at least six meetings for the future and then if we don’t need them we can you know cancel them so that we don’t get into that problem of you know having difficulty in scheduling and and delays as a result of that but those are really the only two downsides to collaborative.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What is the cost of a collaborative divorce compared to a regular divorce?

Um I will say on in most cases it’s usually cheaper however collaborative is front a front-loaded process and what I mean by that is that you’re paying retainers for your professionals as they start whereas in litigation you’re usually paying only your attorney to start and then you’re hiring people as you go through the process so you know hiring you know experts or uh people for valuation and that type of thing and it gets more and more expensive as you get to trial so while you’re frontloading it it uh in collaborative um you it usually ends up being a lot less expensive because you’re the result is you’re ending up in an agreement what’s called a marital settlement agreement is the end result of the collaborative process and that is basically a contract between the parties that addresses all issues in their divorce including you know custody of their children child and spouse support and property division in Sacramento we are working right now on a new program to try to make collaborative law more accessible to everyone and so we are working on different models of the process to try to create um packages of of the process which would allow more people to be able to to you know engage in the process.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What is collaborative divorce?

So collaborative divorce is a method for going through the divorce process without going to court it provides for the parties themselves empowers them to create their own decisions and and to direct the process rather than the process being controlled by a third party like a judge or by the attorneys who uh oftentimes are controlling the process in litigation.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What are the advantages of collaborative law?

Well first of all the key components to a collaborative divorce are that the parties are in control of the process and the decisions that um end up being the resolution in the process it’s a completely confidential process so as it differs from litigation you’re not in court with everybody hearing your issues and it’s in a supportive team environment so each party still has their own lawyer to support them in the process they also have a mental health professional that is there to support them in the process with being able to communicate their needs and interests and also help them with any roadblocks that they might be having in the process and then other team members are brought into that process into that supportive environment based on the needs of the particular parties or the case so for example usually there’s a financial person that’s brought into the process who will hand What’s called the disclosures which are required in all family law cases and handle those or you know you might need a business valuation so you might bring in a team member who would handle that or you might need to have a retirement valued or you might need to have a house appraised so you might bring in different in uh team members to address uh a particular need of the team or of the parties at you know during the process there’s also what called a child specialist who’s brought in as a team member who handles um issues that the parties may be having around their children and it’s very different than what happens in litigation where if the parties can’t agree they’re going to a mental health professional who’s usually making a recommendation to the court as to what’s in the best interest of the children again parties giving up control about you know how to handle um what’s best for their own children in the collaborative process the child specialist comes in meets with the child separately meets with the parents separately and then brings information back to the team on what’s in the best interest of the children and and what’s happening with them developmentally uh how they’re experiencing the divorce and it’s just a really great piece of information for the parties then who sometimes for the first time are hearing about things needs that their kids have that they have had no clue beforehand and then bringing that information back and instead of making a recommendation about well based on this information this is what I recommend is best you know for a parenting plan the information is brought back and then there’s a discussion had and then the parties themselves um with the support of the team come up with a plan that’s best for their children and so these types of agreements that come from this process tend to be much more um long-lasting and satisfactory to the parties because they’re creating their own Solutions with the assistance of professionals who are all trained in their specific areas so everybody’s working at their most efficient level.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

Can you tell us about a memorable collaborative divorce case you handled?

Well I’ve had a lot of them um and in each each case is so different but I do have one that just warms my heart and it was a case where at the end of the case the parties it was the final day and every every everybody was signing and the parties actually wanted to make a statement to each other um with gratitude of you know all the things that they were grateful for from the marriage and to wish wish each other well um as they move forward in the new phase of their lives and that was just a really a beautiful thing and very validating for for me as a collaborative professional about you know why I do this work and why I’m passionate about it it preserves relationships.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What advice do you have for people considering a collaborative approach to their divorce?

I would advise them to learn about it um and to consider it and to see if it’s the right fit and one place to start is to attend a class called divorce options and that’s an online class that’s uh put on by the Sacramento collaborative divorce group you can just go to their website and you can see a listing of the classes they’re put on uh one Saturday a month usually um 9 to 11 or 12 um it’s done by a panel of collaborative professionals so there will be a lawyer a financial person and a mental health Prof professional who will present on it they won’t just present on collaborative but they’ll talk about the other options for going through a divorce as well and also provide substantive information about divorce itself and the type of issues that you know need to be dealt with as you’re going through that process it’s completely free and it just provides a really good background and um you know it goes through pros and cons and a lot more detail than I am and so I really recommend that people um you know take that course and then determine whether or not it’s a good fit for them they may want to take another step as part of that uh as part of that training there are handouts that are mailed to parties that give uh more in-depth information about collaborative including a list of collaborative attorneys who are willing to do a half-hour free consultation with anybody who has attended the class to get more information about collaborative or just to discuss whether or not their family might be a good fit for the process.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

What is your experience in handling collaborative law cases?

First of all I’ve been doing family law for 35 years been practicing exclusively family law and so I have a lot of experience there and I am also a certified family law specialist but I’ve been involved in collaborative law and supporting it and passionate about it since the since the mid90s before people really knew what collaborative law was we started a little group in Sacramento called the collabor of negotiation group and it was just uh at that time lawyers who were trying to to do family law in a Kinder more transparent way with integrity and and and openness and that evolved uh to what it is today which is really a a a solid framework which is backed by statutory law and I was involved in that statutory law in both the writing of it and the the creation of it which legitimized collaborative law in California so we actually have a a statute that actually legitimizes it in addition to that I am the President of the Sacramento collaborative Practice Group and also I am uh involved with the cpal which is the state-based collaborative Practice Group and the iacp which is the international collaborative Practice Group so I’m really passionate about it I’ve been doing collaborative cases for a long time and I’m constant L looking for ways to improve the process for parties and make it more satisfactory and efficient for them and uh for their families.

From Mary's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on

Through the years, Ms. Molinaro has worked with clients in California during their most stressful family times.  

"Mary makes you feel like you’re her only client. With each successful hearing (most notably a landmark court ruling in my favor), I was filled with renewed hope."


- Jane

"Ms. Molinaro is a fighter for her clients’ rights. When you meet her in her office, she is pleasant and sweet; but in court, she is professional, quick and a powerful adversary."


- Child Custody Client

"Mary Molinaro and her paralegal, Mashanda, handled my divorce and I could not have been more pleased... She produces amazing results and I am happy to have had her representing me."


- Leah B.

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