I often get calls from potential clients who are interested in hiring an attorney to represent them in a divorce case or a legal matter involving family law. In the last few years, I've decided to limit my practice in family law to two processes: mediation and collaborative law. Today, I’ll describe those two processes.
Mediation is a process that involves at least two parties who have a dispute and engage a neutral third party to help them seek a resolution to the conflict or dispute. The neutral third party has specialized training and education that may assist the parties in identifying their interests and needs and potentially discover a resolution that should maximize the benefits to the parties. For example, the two parties may have conflicting ideas as to which parent should “have custody” of a child. A mediator may be able to work with both parties to determine what their work schedules are, what activities the children and parents enjoy, and what emotional needs the child may have in order to craft a custodial arrangement that will best serve the family. Mediation is employed in many types of disputes, ranging from labor contracts, to professional sports, to international conflicts to workplace disagreements. In mediation, both parties may have attorneys, or they may decide to proceed pro se, or without attorneys.
Collaborative law provides another way to address legal problems more holistically. In collaborative law, both parties retain attorneys, just as they often do in litigation. However, both the attorneys are not only trained as lawyers, but have additional training in negotiation and in alternative dispute resolution. This additional training creates the opportunity for a process that is more tailored to the needs of each family and generally less expensive than conventional litigation. In collaborative divorce, the parties may also meet with a financial neutral or divorce coach to explore financial and emotional issues to work for resolution of the legal issues posed in the divorce case. While this approach may, at first blush, appear more expensive and time consuming than filing a divorce and proceeding through litigation, it usually is far less expensive, faster and less emotionally destructive than a contested divorce case.
Both of these processes have many advantages over conventional litigation. They tend to be faster, less expensive, and best of all, both keep the decision making in the hands of the parties who have to live with the decision. If you'd like more information on mediation or collaborative law, you'll find more resources on this website, or you may contact me to arrange for a consultation or receive further information.