Judith A. Kaluzny, Mediator & Lawyer

Guided Divorce and Parenting Plans Through Mediation

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Firm Overview

I began practicing law in 1976 when the "no fault" system was just three years old, courthouse mediation for "custody" was being developed, and an awareness of domestic violence was growing. I was part of a consortium convened by Alice Oxman in Los Angeles in 1989-90 to develop protocols to deal with domestic violence in court mediation departments.

At first, I had a great many divorce cases involving domestic violence. Now, there is a program at the court to assist people in obtaining restraining orders. In 1986, a friend, Mildred Daley Pagelow, a sociologist, had taken training for divorce mediation, and she asked me to be her attorney consultant. I began learning mediation through this sort of internship. I liked it, and began taking training myself. I have over 60 hours of mediation training, as well as continuing education through the Southern California Mediation Association.

My focus is on problem-solving. I guide people through the processes required to obtain court orders or judgments when needed for a family law or divorce matter.

I consult with people who are doing their own legal work, as well as assisting people through negotiation and mediation. I have been listed with "How to Do Your Own Divorce in California," Nolo Press, for many years.

Most often, couples who reach an agreement for identifying, valuing and dividing their property and debts, and have worked out plans for parenting their children (termed "custody and visitation" by the courts), will ask me to take care of their legal paperwork to file with the court, and I do that also.

Example cases

In one divorce mediation, the parents, both doctors, reviewed their parenting plan with their 15 year-old daughter. She objected to being told which parent she had to be with and when. So I helped mom and dad devise a plan whereby they would alternately be responsible for their daughter during their agreed times, no matter whose house the child chose to remain in. That way, the parents were able to plan for their separate free time, as well as assuring the child was appropriately supervised.

After the second session, another couple was too high-conflict for mediation, and I informed them of this. Their marriage counselor telephoned me and said they just had to continue in mediation. They came in every week, then twice a week. I finally obtained closure with the help of their therapist. The couple behaved as if they were addicted to conflict.

A key element of divorce mediation is knowing when to tell the wife or husband that he or she needs to consult with a divorce lawyer to best evaluate a particular part of the contemplated settlement. On one occasion, the husband needed independent advice as to whether a piece of real estate he claimed was separate had an element of community, as wife claimed.

A "free consultation" with a lawyer had led him to believe it was entirely separate property. After he consulted with a family law lawyer, for which he paid the appropriate fee, he acknowledged that his wife had an interest, and they reached a full property settlement to complete their divorce through mediation.

Another couple owned a house and a small trucking business. Husband was willing to sign over the house to wife, and she was willing to sign over the business to him, but she wondered if the trucking business might be worth more than the house. I said a forensic appraiser could tell them the value of the business at a cost (then) of at least $3,500. They hesitated to spend that amount of money for an appraisal. I suggested wife consult with a family law lawyer to decide if an appraisal was warranted. She did so, and they completed their divorce property settlement without an appraisal of the business.

As a neutral third party in divorce mediation, I do not give legal advice to either husband or wife.

Main Office

Main
149 West Whiting Avenue
Fullerton  CA  92832

Phone
  • (714) 441-2355

Fees

Free Initial Consultation?

I offer an initial consultation at no charge to explain the mediation and divorce process, fees and costs, and to help decide if mediation is the appropriate way for a couple to obtain a divorce.

Services Offered For Fixed Fees?

My rate for mediation is $250 an hour for each session. My rate for preparing all the court forms, including service of process and a judgment, is $1,900 for a divorce with children and a parenting plan.

Hourly Rates

I sometimes consult with people for less than my hourly rate of $250.

Office Information

Office Hours

We are available by appointment, including evenings and occasionally on Saturday mornings.

Emergency After Hours

No

How did your firm decide on the primary area of practice(s)?

When I graduated from law school, I was in the first full-time class at Western State University College of Law in Fullerton. At that time, there was no job placement assistance. I had not been able to be a law clerk as many fellow-students had been because I was taking care of my children.

An acquaintance offered me the use of space in her office. Women at that time were looking for women lawyers. They started calling me. I did three civil rights cases and found that a sole practitioner could not do that. I did one or two criminal cases, and I did not feel comfortable with this area of law. But I could relate to family problems and divorce.

What is your firm's point of view regarding clients educating themselves on legal issues?

From the beginning, I have said to clients, "It is your life. I am here as a tool to help you with what you need, not to make decisions for you." I am an advocate for "informed consent."

Is your firm willing to review documents prepared by clients?

Typically, people find the documents needed to process a divorce too complicated to deal with themselves.

On many occasions I have coached people in preparing documents for court hearings. Usually people consult me before they begin, rather than asking for a review after they have prepared the documents.

Is your firm willing to coach clients who want to represent themselves?

As mentioned above, I am a good coach.

Judith A. Kaluzny

My chief previous employment was raising seven children. I also wrote for The Menomonee Falls News and The Milwaukee Journal, did some promotion work for Sears Roebuck and Co., and inspected floor tile one summer at Johns-Manville. I also taught two semesters of Criminal Law at California State University Fullerton.

"My life in the law," said Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, "has not been logic; it has been experience." The adaptability and problem-solving skills developed in coping with a large, active, intelligent bunch of kids is a big plus in my work as a lawyer. I was also part of establishing a public alternative school-a choice, not a shunting-off-where I learned coping with the official rules. I was an original member of the board of directors of the Women's Transitional Living Center, the third shelter for battered women in this state and country. We worked through establishing an effective program, dealing with employees, and coping with government bureaucracy.

Another experience was leading the Rolling Hills School PTA in a drive to change a city of Fullerton decision to extend a road through our nearby regional park. We were successful after months of work and strategizing.

I am good at dealing with people without making judgments about them or what they do. I look to be effective. What I learned from my clients over the years is that "Being right does not get you what you want; being effective does."

Personal interests:

Personally, I am interested in being healthy and strong. I am interested in my children and their varied fields-cosmology. I am interested in my city government, bicycle shop, developmental psychology, translating in Germany, evolutionary biology, professional recruiting. I am interested in learning more Spanish because my youngest is getting married and working in Bogota, Colombia. I also grow tomatoes and peppers, Surinam cherries, apricots, peaches, apples, pomelos, plums and limes. And I use all these fruits in various concoctions, or give them away, or both. I am very interested in completing the no-fault divorce reform by taking family law out of the adversary system. To work on that, I have established the Safe and Sane Divorce Project.

License
  • Bar Number: 71402
    California , 1976
Education
  • Western State University College of Law
    Juris Doctor , 1976
    Fullerton, CA
    Maintained my family while attending law school full-time.
  • Western State
    Bachelor of Science , 1975
    Fullerton, CA
  • Pepperdine University Law School
    Orange County College of Trial Advocacy , 1979
    Orange County, CA

* Nolo has confirmed that every member attorney has a valid license and is in good standing with the state agency that licenses lawyers. Any past disbarments and suspensions (with possible exceptions for minor violations or nonpayment of dues, in our discretion) will be indicated accordingly in the badge. Member attorneys are required to notify Nolo immediately if they become the subject of any disciplinary action by any state licensing agency.

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