San Luis Obispo Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a way to resolve your dispute without going to trial. Not only can avoiding the costs of court save you money, it can also reduce your stress, increase satisfaction and allow the parties to take ownership of the outcome. Particularly in cases involving children, ADR can help you resolve your issues amicably and maintain the co-parenting relationship for your children.

I am Robbi Rizzo, Attorney at Law, and I am dedicated to providing compassionate and effective legal services to families going through a divorce, custody dispute or other family law matter. As a San Luis Obispo family law attorney who is committed to alternative dispute resolution, I can help you understand your options and work with you to explore every avenue to achieve your goals.

To discuss your case, contact my law office online or call 805-762-4766 (toll free at 877-209-7353) to schedule a consultation.


In mediation, a neutral third party helps you and the other party reach an agreement. The mediator will not make the decision for you. Instead, you retain control over the decisions that will affect your future.

Some of the types of mediation available in family law matters are:

  • Custody mediation
  • Private (attorney) mediation
  • Court-facilitated mediation

In all cases, mediation is protected by privilege and confidentiality rules. In general, discussions during mediation may not be brought up outside of mediation. These protections are in place to encourage open communication and a high degree of cooperation by reducing the fear that what you say will be used against you.


In family law, the most common use of arbitration is a referral from the court to non-binding or binding arbitration to resolve low-value property issues, such as household furnishings. The court charges a fee of $250, which is generally split equally between the parties.

The parties are provided the names of three private attorneys from a panel of attorneys who provide this service for the court and each of the parties has the opportunity to object to a particular attorney before one of the three is selected to arbitrate the matter. Each party presents to the attorney arbitrator their side of the story and the attorney arbitrator makes a decision on the issue.

Arbitration can save you the time and cost of trial on issues that may be a sticking point, but do not warrant significant fees.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is a relatively new and specific type of practice in which both parties are represented by attorneys and everyone (both parties and both attorneys) signs an agreement up front that sets out parameters for cooperation and emphasizes a commitment to resolving disputes without going to court. In fact, if negotiations break down and the matter must go to court, the parties will generally need to retain new attorneys, as one of the common terms of a collaborative law agreement is that the attorneys are precluded from representing the parties in litigation.

Trained professionals, such as accountants and therapists, are generally retained jointly to reduce costs and assist in developing open information and plans. Use of this approach in divorces is growing rapidly. However, the formal structure is not currently common in San Luis Obispo County.

The Cooperative Approach

The “cooperative approach” is a more informal version of collaborative law that I regularly employ to assist my clients in resolving disputes in a respectful manner that avoids the cost and stress of court battles and preserves ongoing relationships. There are times when court intervention is necessary, but more often, with guidance from a cooperative attorney, parties are able to set aside emotions and focus on creating reasonable solutions that achieve common goals. Your rights are protected by having legal representation and, in keeping fees down, you are able to direct limited funds to more important uses, such as your children’s educations.

You also limit interactions that are likely to fuel animosity, facilitating the process of transitioning to a healthy, post-divorce co-parenting relationship. Parties without minor children also benefit from the cooperative approach by resolving financial issues without time-consuming and costly discovery, and by keeping more of the parties’ financial details private.

Contact Robbi Rizzo, Attorney At Law, For Reasonable Solutions Through A Respectful Process

Contact my office online or call 805-762-4766 (toll free at 877-209-7353) to schedule a consultation in Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo to discuss whether alternative dispute resolution might be appropriate in your case..

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