There are many benefits to settling a family law dispute as opposed to having a judge make a decision at the conclusion of a contested trial. A settlement avoids the costs of litigation and it affords parties the opportunity to have a more direct impact on the outcome. Settlements also allow parties to strike deals, the terms of which a judge may not otherwise have the power to order. For example, parties may agree that one spouse will reside in the marital home for a period of five years from the date of their divorce; a court would not have the authority to order such an outcome absent the parties’ agreement.
When I meet clients at initial consultations, rarely if ever is anyone familiar with the collaborative law process. Collaborative law is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and is focused on doing what is best for the collective family. Parties work toward resolving issues in meetings with collaboratively trained professionals, whether financial neutrals, mental health professionals working as coaches and assisting with parenting plans, and attorneys. Particularly when children are involved, one of the many benefits of the collaborative process is that parents strengthen their communication skills and focus on communicating their goals and objectives in a business-like manner, rather than to place blame and refer to the past. During the collaborative process, parties are encouraged to generate options together, and ultimately it is the parties who steer the outcome, rather than the professionals.
Isn’t it comforting to think that you may actually have some control, particularly in these unprecedented times? Now more than ever, clients should consider the collaborative process as a way to navigate their family law dispute. As of the date of writing this article, our state courts are generally closed except for limited purposes, so filing a complaint for divorce will not yield any hearings in the near future. To the extent that you and your spouse wish to make progress on any issues relative to children and/or property, the collaborative process, albeit via videoconferencing, will allow you to do so, all outside of court. As many are worried about job stability and finances in the midst of this pandemic, the collaborative process affords parties the opportunity to consider what is best for the family together, which may include taking advantage of some of the economic benefits afforded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”). Finally, unlike litigation which administratively sets a timeline of future court dates and deadlines that can be difficult to modify, the collaborative process runs on a timeline that is completely set by the parties. It may be that you and your spouse are open to scheduling meetings in relatively quick succession, accomplish tasks in the interim, and promptly resolve the issues at hand. Alternatively, it may mean that you and your spouse need more time in between meetings, whether because of limited resources, work or child care obligations, or a need to work with a financial neutral or collaborative coach on a parenting plan. No matter the reason, the collaborative process allows parties to work at a pace that works best for your family.
If you are in need of legal advice and wish to consider the collaborative process, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give me a call at 410.659.1325 to set up an initial consultation.
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