January is a popular month to file for divorce. Why? For many of us, the new year is a time to reevaluate our lives and decide to make changes. Some may have waited or tried to make a marriage work for some time and the new year seems like a good opportunity to go ahead and pursue divorce. Others may have wanted to wait until after Christmas to plan for a divorce. Some people postpone divorce into the new year for economic or tax reasons. Whatever the basis, if you are considering divorce in 2017, what should you do? File with the court?
Not yet! You should at least consider your procedural options for divorce before filing or pursuing litigation. In other words, once you file a complaint or petition for divorce with the court, you have begun to pursue litigation—the process of divorce that allows the judge to decide the outcome. While that is one place to start, others options may be more economical and better for your family. They can often reduce the time for your divorce to be final. The two things you may want to consider before filing for divorce are mediation and collaborative law.
In mediation, you and your spouse will work with a specially trained person, a mediator, to figure out what options are available and create the best financial and parenting plan to carry you into the future. Often, families can create those plans in 1 or 2 sessions and then file for the divorce and proceed to the final uncontested hearing. If you select an attorney-mediator, that person can also provide you with legal information to help you make decisions that will shape your future.
You can use mediation even when you hire attorneys, or you can use mediation and then file for you without hiring lawyers. Some people have an attorney review their agreement but then go to court without attorneys.
If you have already filed for divorce, the court might require you to attend mediation and will select a mediator for you. If the court has not selected a mediator, even if you file, you can contact a mediator to help you reach an agreement on these important decisions.
Other people want to have a lawyer with them during negotiations. Those folks would benefit from collaborative law. In collaborative law, each person hires a specially trained collaborative lawyer. The parties then meet with their lawyers in 4-way meetings to create an agreement. Once the parents reach the agreement, they file for divorce. In collaborative law, parties may choose to hire a financial neutral (often at a lower hourly rate than lawyers!) to help maximize the funds available to the family.
When the parties have a serious conflict, collaborative law often provides the best solution. In those situations, a conflict coach is added to the team (often at a lower hourly rate than lawyers!) to help minimize that conflict by addressing the parties needs and interests. In situations involving children, the parties can select a child specialist to help them maximize meeting the child’s needs. This process allows for the parties to remain “in charge” of their family and their choices.
If your new year's resolution includes taking charge of your life and proceeding towards a divorce, mediation and collaborative law provide the opportunity for both.
Still have questions? Here are some opportunities to have them answered!
REGISTER FOR A FREE INFORMATION SESSION. If you are interested in learning more about divorce law, mediation or collaborative law, click here to sign up for a free seminar when you can meet with me and have your questions answered.
SCHEDULE A FREE 15 MINUTE CONSULTATION. If you and the other parties would like to schedule a private fifteen minute meeting with me to learn more about mediation and collaborative law, email me (along with both parties name and the desired location) and I will provide you with the next available appointment.
.CALL OUR OFFICE FOR FREE INFORMATION. I am often in mediation, in court or with clients and it's difficult to talk on the phone. However, I do set aside one hour per week (on most weeks) to be available to answer general legal questions. If you would like to ask a question, please feel free to call my office on Monday evenings from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at this special toll free number: 866-291-8644.
If you have decided that divorce is the right thing for you and your family—please take some time to consider what your objectives are and how you will reach them!