Many family disputes, including those involving divorce, child custody, child support, marital property, elder care, and probate issues, can be resolved without going to court. In Massachusetts, there has been a greater focus on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods such:
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third-party acts as a facilitator to assist the parties in resolving a dispute. The role of the mediator is generally to facilitate communication between the parties and to assist them in focusing on the real issues of the dispute, instead of finger pointing and name-calling, and to generate viable options for settlement.
- Efficient resolution of disputes
- Reduced anxiety and emotional stress
- Increased confidentiality and privacy
- Reduced cost
- Participant control over the results
“Collaborative” is not just another word for “friendly.” It ‘s a different approach from traditional divorce litigation and is designed to make the process cooperative, not combative. With a Collaborative Law Divorce, each side has a lawyer to act as an advisor and negotiator, and a divorce coach intricately involved in the process. The goal is to help the participants take control of the process and resolve the issues in a respectful manner so everyone can move forward once the issues are settled. Collaborative law is also helpful in resolving family disputes such as caring for elders, will contests and shared property disagreements.
The use of Collaborative law for divorce is based on 3 principles:
1. A pledge not to go to court. At the outset the parties and lawyers sign an agreement that they will not go to court to settle their differences. Instead of spending costly hours preparing for trial, the lawyers help the parties reach settlement with informal and private meetings.
To ensure that everyone uses their best efforts to settle, the agreement states that if one side decides to stop negotiating and go to court, the lawyers must withdraw, and the parties must hire new lawyers. This removes the use of litigation as a weapon during the process.
2. An honest exchange of information by both spouses. Collaborative law requires cooperation and respect. The parties provide each other with all information needed to work toward settlement. That way, discussions become more productive and an agreement is reached more easily. Unlike court, there’s no need for sneaky tactics to force the other side to do something. The parties also jointly hire professionals such as CPA’s, real estate appraisers, etc.
3. A solution that takes into account the highest priorities of the spouses and the children. You may cease being spouses, but you don’t stop being worthy human beings. And if you have children, you’ll be parents forever.
If you choose the collaborative approach, your spouse must also hire a lawyer who’s committed to the process and who has had training. The best way for your spouse to find a trained collaborative attorney is to go to the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council site. Berid & Schutzbank can also provide a short list of knowledgeable and skilled collaborative attorneys for your spouse to consider.
Maybe your divorce isn’t complicated, and you’re confident enough to go it alone. Maybe you can’t afford or don’t want to pay for full scale representation. Whatever the case, you may just want some advice or help as you handle your own divorce.
Our firm offers partial (sometimes called “unbundled”) divorce services and limited representation. You can hire us to do specific tasks, and you do the rest.
Partial services include:
- advice on the law and strategy
- legal research
- letter writing
- drafting or reviewing court documents
- ongoing coaching while you represent yourself
- review settlement options
Limited representation has only recently been allowed in Massachusetts. Limited representation is where the attorney only goes to court for particular hearings and does not file an appearance for the entire case. This enables clients who cannot afford full representation to have legal representation at certain hearings where the client wants such assistance.
Limited representation includes:
- Temporary motion hearings
- Case management conference
- Pre-trial conferences
- Review hearings
- Post trial hearings
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Contact our law firm for a confidential consultation about your family law related matter.