Participants can work with a mediator as an alternative to litigation. A mediator is a neutral trained facilitator who works with both parties. However, a mediator does not represent either party, and therefore cannot offer legal advice. The mediator helps them develop methods for better communication and work toward an agreement that will ultimately be accepted by the court. The mediatorcan also prepare a written legal agreement that will fit the court's requirements. Mediation can provide the tools to obtain a divorce, and to build a post-divorce relationship that will minimize the need for litigation in the future.
Often, parties choose to seek legal advice from our office when they are working with a mediator elsewhere. How much assistance and consultation are needed before an agreement is signed depends on the client.
- Some clients choose coaching and preparation sessions with our attorneys and/or an accountant before certain mediation sessions so that the client is informed of the legal and tax ramifications.
- Some clients come for a review of the proposed agreement and/or to have their financial statement prepared.
- Some people choose to have counsel attend sessions with a mediator, so that there can be on-the-spot legal advice available.
Many clients settle their divorces through meetings between counsel and the parties. After the exchange of financial documents and other information important to the case, one or more meetings identify the areas where there is agreement, and clarify where the parties differ. If proposals or more information can resolve the disputes, the lawyers prepare a written agreement and financial statements. If one or more issues remain, they are presented to the court which will resolve them.
Collaborative divorce is a special form of negotiation. It is for couples who are willing and able to work toward trust, and want to preserve good communication. The parties and their lawyers pledge to be transparent in exchanging information and proposals, and make every effort to resolve the matter outside of court. All participants try to offer creative suggestions in a relaxed atmosphere of cooperation. The process often takes at least as long as litigation, and is time intensive. Because of the careful focus on issues of personal importance and the time investment, it is often as ore more expensive than litigation. The attorneys assist the parties in presenting the agreement to the court.
Often a case will turn quickly to litigation: there may be a need for immediate support, or the other party is disposing of assets, or there exists an inability to co-parent cooperatively. A spouse may not accept the idea of divorce, or may be unwilling to engage in good-faith negotiations. Sometimes there is a history of or potential for violence and the need for a restraining order.
The approach to litigation needs to be tailored to the client’s goals, cost constraints and the complexity of the matter. Many cases settle before trial, but our lawyers treat every case as if it will be tried, preparing carefully in accordance with the client’s budget and the demands of the case.
Our firm also welcomes, and has the experience to handle, modification of existing divorce decrees, interstate custody and support matters, disputes regarding custody, visitation, child support and alimony, college contribution, paternity adjudication and support, and pre-marital agreements. We have criminal expertise, and handle domestic abuse orders and allegations of child abuse.