Once your marriage or relationship is headed for divorce, separation or a custody determination, one of the most important decisions you will make is choosing the most appropriate process based on your circumstances to get you and your family to a final resolution. You have a number of choices as to how to proceed including Litigation, Mediation or Collaborative Family Law.
Litigation: Litigation is the traditional path most people think of when deciding to separate. In many instances, litigation is commenced by the filing of a complaint, after which the attorneys for the parties will guide the process through the court system. Litigation often leads to settlement involving mediation and/or negotiations. If a matter does not settle, a judge will render a decision after a trial.
Mediation: Mediation is a confidential process in which a neutral professional (usually an attorney), meets with both parties to discuss and address all of their issues. Because the process is confidential, clients are better able to openly talk about their concerns, ask questions, and discuss settlement options. The mediator facilitates communication, the exchange of information and negotiations. The parties can have their own lawyers present or they can participate on their own. Many mediation clients engage lawyers to provide advice as needed, but not necessarily to attend the mediation sessions. When mediation concludes, the mediator prepares a Memorandum of Understanding setting forth the parties’ agreement, which can then be converted to a binding settlement agreement.
Collaborative Family Law: In Collaborative Family Law, clients hire lawyers for the express purpose of settling the case without litigation. Although each client has his/her own lawyer to advocate for their interests, both of the clients and both of the lawyers together sign a Participation Agreement, by which all agree to work cooperatively, provide full disclosure of information, and to not initiate litigation. This process is a very real investment in making every effort to work together for the best interests of everyone in the family. Like mediation, Collaborative Family Law is a confidential process.
In Mediation and Collaborative Family Law, couples are able to fashion agreements tailored to meet the individual needs of their families. There are no court orders or schedules that require submissions to a judge, court appearances, or trials. Meetings are held when it is convenient, and the clients determine the timetable for working through the issues. Once an agreement is reached, parties sign a binding settlement agreement, and the formal divorce process can be filed and concluded within a matter of weeks.
Mediation and Collaborative Family Law are not options in all cases. Litigation is needed in some circumstances such as an uncooperative spouse, hidden assets, or abuse. In choosing the right process for your family, speak to someone who is knowledgeable about these options so you can make an informed choice about the most appropriate way to proceed. The experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Shimalla, Wechsler, Lepp & D’Onofrio, LLP are here to assist you in all of your family law matters, including all manner of divorce, custody, support, domestic violence. Please visit our website or contact us to schedule a consultation.
Resolving your divorce is a complicated process. A trained family law attorney can guide you through the complexities.