Family Law, Estate planning & probate - Practice Areas
Change of Domicile
Enforcement of Court Orders
Spousal Support / Alimony
Marital Property Law
Wills & Pour-over Wills
Powers of Attorney
Patient Care Advocate
Post Divorce Modification
Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)
Mediation is about resolving issues so that each spouse may end the marriage amicably in the most cost effective method possible. Working with a neutral third party, the couple can effectively stay focused on the issues at hand with ground rules. This may help avoid the arguing, name-calling and the overall painful process that is often associated with a breakup. Mediators can assist with child custody and parenting time, child support, retirement, distribution of property, as well as any other conflict resolution necessary. Mediation is confidential. Mediators must remain neutral and do not "represent" either party and cannot prepare the court pleadings. Rather, a mediator assists with developing ideas, problem solving, and obtaining agreements that satisfy both parties.
Collaborative law is a newer, alternative legal process allowing couples who have decided to separate or divorce to work with their lawyers and other professionals to avoid traditional litigation. Settlements are formulated that best meet the specific needs of each spouse and their children without the underlying threat of contested court hearings. This process begins when both parties sign a contractual agreement known as a participation agreement. The participation agreement means that all members of the team will work toward settlement because the attorneys must withdraw if the collaborative process is terminated to begin court proceedings. Therefore, there is a good faith effort to work together, promote disclosure and share costs of helpful resources such as financial experts, mental health professionals, appraisers, and other experts.
Whether it is with or without attorney assistance, we always recommend that family law issues be settled by agreement rather than a court trial. However, we understand that sometimes circumstances arise that make litigation inevitable. In such instances, we will advocate for your rights and make sure you are prepared for trial. Even on the day of trial, family law cases still have the option to settle especially when organized and prepared for trial to help negotiate the best terms available. It is important to take the following into consideration prior to moving forward with trial or an evidentiary hearing:
Time - The divorce process may take six to twelve months before a trial date is scheduled by the Court. It may take another three to six months to complete the trial hearings. The Judge may need another month or two to finalize an Opinion and then schedule entry of a Judgment to finalize the divorce. This prolonged court process may interfere with employment because it is very time consuming. Each court hearing may be scheduled for a couple hours each day until completed.
Money - On average, litigation costs typically exceed $10,000 to $35,000 per person. Attorney fees are billed by the hour which adds up quickly due to preparation, long meetings, correspondence, travel time and waiting at Court.
Stress - It is a very painful and stressful process to have the entire marriage examined under a microscope in a public court setting. Friends, family, neighbors, and anyone that knows intimate details about each party may be required to testify. Social media, phone calls, text messages, and all kinds of financial evidence may be submitted to Court and will become part of the public record. The trial process is exhausting both physically and mentally. Many events during the relationship may be misconstrued and every little detail may be amplified. Nothing will stop the trial unless there is a signed written agreement on all issues or a verbal agreement is placed on the Court record. Litigation typically continues after the trial is completed due to enforcement issues over parenting time conflicts, property disputes, and support modification.
Alternative dispute resolution methods should be considered before committing to evidentiary hearings with a third party decision. Trial should be the last resort when pending issues cannot be resolved directly through negotiations, meetings, mediation, shared neutral experts, collaboration, teamwork and determining reasonable solutions that everyone can live with to respectfully move forward and have closure.