Divorce & Family Law Alternatives
Traditional / Litigation Divorce
Similar to all other civil litigation, the traditional process for family law matters is an adversarial proceeding. Under this model, the parties and counsel engage in formal, adversarial litigation of the issues that may likely conclude in judicial orders. Nevertheless, almost all family law disputes are settled prior to a trial or the issuance of a judgment by the court.
The most significant hallmark of the traditional model is that it provides ongoing oversight and intervention by the court. Both parties have access to interim orders and/or can seek penalties should either party act in contravention of those orders. Furthermore, there are certain deadlines and/or protections that either party may seek that are may not be as readily available in the alternative dispute resolution processes. The traditional model can serve the parties well as it offers clear structure, concrete steps and specific time frames in which to address the contested issues. There are certain cases in which the parties will be unable to reach an accord and the court will be compelled to enter orders demarcating each party’s respective rights, obligations for support, and allocation of assets and liabilities. In such event, we will work diligently to seek a judgment in your favor by advancing your personal interests, arguing the legal issues, and passionately advocating your position before the court.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Models (ADR)
As an alternative to traditional litigation, various models have been developed to provide greater personalization and flexibility. Both Mediation and the Collaborative Divorce process are designed to empower the parties to work cooperatively to reach an amicable resolution, without the need for judicial intervention. In order for ADR to be successful, both parties need to be committed to the process and to resolving their differences outside of the courtroom.
In the event that the parties are unable to forge an agreement on any particular issue, it may be worthwhile to obtain the opinion of experts or other third party specialists. In order to be most cost-effective and productive, the parties may choose to jointly retain an independent expert to provide an unbiased opinion on, rather than engage in a battle of the experts.
While no guarantees can be made that any alternative dispute resolution process is less expensive than the traditional litigation model, it is our belief that participation in any such cooperative approach yields better long-term results. Experience has shown that agreements negotiated through Mediation of the Collaborative Divorce process are more comprehensive, personalized, enduring and far less likely to result in post-judgment motions.
In mediation, the parties work cooperatively with one neutral professional (either an attorney or mental health professional) to assist them in resolving their differences. As a mediator, we act as a facilitator and professional resource. During 3-way sessions, we explore the scope of relevant topics to be addressed, identify areas of agreement, narrow the issues in contention, and suggest potential means of resolution. We will provide referrals should there be a need to involve other professionals, whether related to financial advice, business valuation or mental health assistance. Once an agreement has been forged, we will draft all of the applicable documents, review them together, address any questions, and assist you in adopting the agreement as a court order in an uncontested divorce proceeding.
The selection of a mediator is a key decision in the process. There is a continuum of mediation styles, ranging from evaluative to purely facilitative. As such, the mediator’s practice style should be carefully considered by you prior to engagement to ensure that his/her particular approach will meet your needs and expectations.
In the Collaborative Divorce process, each party retains independent and collaboratively-trained counsel to assist in navigating their family matters outside the court system. Distinguishing itself from mediation, each party has his or her own personal counsel throughout the process to act as a professional resource and advise them as to possible outcomes should the matter be litigated. Contrary to the litigation model, however, the parties’ attorneys commit to working cooperatively with one another to help you engage in problem-solving techniques and develop mutually agreed-upon resolutions. Through 4-way meetings, the parties and their respective counsel work together to establish the appropriate protocol and productively address their issues in contention.
A major tenant of true Collaborative Divorce is the parties written agreement that should either side invoke his/her right to unilaterally seek orders from the court, both counsel will be deemed to have withdrawn by contract and both parties will need to obtain new counsel. While this aspect of the ADR process is one of the mainstays that make it successful, there are times when we will deviate from this model upon agreement.
For more information, please visit www.CollaborativeDivorceCT.com.
We also act as review counsel for parties that are engaged in mediation or otherwise wish to have an independent and objective assessment of proposed settlement terms. In our role as a consultant, we provide an opinion as to the overall viability of the settlement structure, assess provisions that may subsequently prove problematic, ensure that one realizes the ramifications of any particular parameters, offer potential clarifications as to ambiguous terms, provide alternatives to consider, and reflect on the likelihood of any court decision to provide insight as to any issues not yet settled. Most importantly, our role is to ensure that the terms of any proposed settlement accurately reflects the parties’ intentions, and are drafted appropriately. While always acting in a limited role, our representation can range from substantive input to the terms upon which one might be willing to agree, to mere review of an agreement that has already been made and ensuring that our client understands the same. The timing of our initial involvement likely dictates the role in which we are involved in this role.
Although many parties are desirous of negotiating the parameters of their divorce between themselves, most clients still wish to consult with legal counsel to ensure that their agreement is reasonable and/or to identify any potential pitfalls and/or oversights. We are available to help lead you through this process on an ad-hoc basis. Our unbundled services provides an a la carte menu for our clients that they may utilize in their discretion, including, but not limited to, consultation as to reasonable settlement parameters, negotiating various provisions, drafting/review of the requisite paperwork for their dissolution, and review of the proposed provisions to ensure that he/she has considered, understands and consents to the terms as provided therein.
As many parties are independently able to settle all issues that are pertinent to their particular family circumstances, there might also be some reluctance to ensure that they might adequately be able to prepare all of the requisite forms for the actual dissolution proceedings. We can help by assisting you in preparing the necessary paperwork to ensure that it is an acceptable format, and helping to educate you as to what you can anticipate in the formal legal proceedings.