We handle complex divorce cases, including complaints for divorce, discovery, separation agreements, marital settlement agreements, child custody, child support, alimony, adultery, real estate, retirement accounts, stocks and stock options, business investments, attorney and expert witness fees, fees, domestic violence and protective orders.
We usually try to settle cases first.
Traditional negotiations are where one attorney makes a settlement offer and the other responds. The attorneys go back and forth with offer and counteroffer. Concessions and compromises are made on each side until an agreement is struck or not as the case may be.
Negotiation may proceed side by side with litigation.
Negotiation may be by telephone, correspondence or face to face meetings. There is a science to negotiation. All of our attorneys are skilled negotiators.
A neutral third party, trained in special mediation techniques, will meet with the parties together and try to resolve their disputes. A mediator does not represent either party. The mediator will guide the discussions, explore and offer options, explain the law, and facilitate an agreement.
Mediation sessions are usually two or three hours long in the mediator’s office or conference room. The first meeting may be an orientation and the second meeting might be an exchange of financial information.
Once you have reached an agreement, it will not be final or binding until it is in writing and signed by both parties. In mediation you are not required to sign the agreement if you do not like it. The mediator will probably recommend that you have a lawyer review the agreement before you sign. Once you do sign, the agreement will be binding and can be enforced by the court.
Both parties must agree to mediation. Mediation is less costly than a trial and the parties can control the outcome rather than a judge. It is also faster than litigation.
The court may require mediation or you can hire your own private mediator.
Collaborative law allows everyone to concentrate on settling the case and not litigation. That is because each party hires a lawyer trained in collaborative law and everyone signs a participation agreement that requires both lawyers to withdraw if the case does not settle and goes to litigation.
There are a series of four-way meetings among the parties and the lawyers. Everyone participates in the meetings. Instead of communicating through lawyers, everyone can talk face to face to all the participants at the meetings.
Full and early disclosure of all financial issues is another element of collaborative law. Instead of hiring competing experts to value assets or make custody assessments, the parties agree on one expert.
In a traditional litigated divorce, the only issues are financial and legal. Collaborative lawyers are allowed to consider long term issues as well such as preserving the relationship for the future.
You each have to hire and pay a lawyer, but you will probably save money as compared to litigation. You control the outcome of your divorce and the collaborative law process is faster than litigation. It differs from mediation in that each party has a lawyer representing their individual interests in the four way meetings.
If the parties reach an impasse and they do not want to suffer the costs and time to litigate, another way to resolve a dispute is to submit it to an arbitrator for a binding or non-binding decision.
Lawyers, retired judges or any other agreed upon party can be an arbitrator. Each party presents their case to the arbitrator and the arbitrator makes a decision.
You can agree on the rules for the arbitration. You can present testimony, have the lawyers argue or just submit documents. You can limit the issues the arbitrator needs to decide if you can agree on other issues or you give the arbitrator brackets for a decision (such as alimony has to be between three and five years).
Arbitration is usually faster and less costly than a trial.
If you cannot agree with your spouse on all issues, then a judge will hold a trial and listen to both of you and your witnesses and then make a decision.
The divorce case is started by filing a lawsuit at the courthouse once you have grounds for divorce and meet the residency requirements. Then the lawsuit is served on your spouse who must answer it. There is a period of discovery and a trial where the judge listens to testimony and other evidence in order to resolve your case.
The issues in divorce cases can include:
- custody of children and visitation with and access to children
- child support
- spousal support (alimony)
- equitable distribution of marital property, including real estate, bank accounts, retirement funds and other assets and debts.
- grounds for divorce
- responsibility for attorney’s fees and other costs
The parties to the divorce can settle all of these issues by agreement without going to court. Or they can decline to settle and leave it up to the judge.
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