Discussing the very important differences.

Your case may be a candidate for a collaborative or cooperative divorce. This approach is team-based. Besides the parties and their lawyers, the team may include a financial advisor, a child therapist, and collaborative coaches.

A collaborative divorce has more rules than a cooperative divorce, and is therefore not usually favored.  All involved must agree the information used in the collaborative process cannot be used in an adversarial process: in other words, if the team approach fails, and the case goes to litigation, the team members cannot be forced to testify in court. In fact, if the parties become adversarial, or fail to work honestly and in good faith, the attorneys are mandated to withdraw from representation.

A cooperative divorce is used when the parties can agree on joint experts and the free flow of information.  If the cooperative effort breaks down the parties don't have to start over with new experts and attorneys.

Under either approach, the process begins when the spouses each meet with their respective attorneys.  The two attorneys talk, outlining their understanding of issues that the spouses need to work through, and an agreement among the parties and the attorneys will be  formalized during the process. If there are a lot of issues (such as property or child custody), the parties may decide to retain coaches to help them with their emotional needs, and to streamline the procedure. This is especially critical to help the parties learn to effectively communicate during, and after, the divorce process.

Sometimes there is considerable property, or complicated investments and the parties may decide to hire a financial coach. Or if children are involved, a child therapist should be hired.

There will be several sessions between attorneys and the parties, and between the parties and the specialists. The financial coach will have received the necessary information, and the child therapist will have met with the children, the parents, and any other necessary people. The parties will receive the information, and emotional support, they need to reach a settlement.

Although more specialists are involved in the beginning, the outcome will be fairer and less expensive than achieved after a lengthy, acrimonious and expensive court battle. The parties will have learned to work together post-divorce, the children’s needs will have been addressed and the property has been divided with the future in mind. The Collaborative/ Cooperative Law approaches don't  work in every situation. They are best  suited  for couples who have equal negotiating power and strongly believe that, with the right information, they can come to an agreement.

Mediation In Family Law

Mediation in the majority of family law cases takes place after attorneys are hired, a divorce or modification has been filed and court proceedings have commenced. The parties and their attorneys attend the mediation session, generally a “full day,” that can last more than the eight hours allotted. The attorney’s hourly rates can range from $200 to $500+ an hour. The mediator will charge a fee ranging from $600 to $1,000 per party. A day of mediation can easily cost close to $5,000. There is a much less expensive alternative to this method and can be done with minimum attorney involvement.

This method is also known as Early Intervention Mediation, and may not include attorneys during the sessions. It is done either before or shortly after a divorce is filed. Here, an attorney/mediator meets with the parties in joint sessions (or a series of joint sessions) where they assist each party in communicating their interests, needs and goals to each other, facilitates negotiations between them and drafts a written agreement. The issues to be resolved include custody, possession and access, support of children and property division. The sessions are generally two hours long and several sessions may be required before an agreement is reached on all disputed issues. In between sessions, the parties will consult with their attorney and/or financial professional, if any. At the end of the process, an enforceable settlement agreement is prepared. An attorney for one of the parties then prepares the necessary court documents to finalize the uncontested divorce. While it is possible that only one attorney is needed to finalize the divorce, each party should seek the advice of counsel. This process is far less costly to each party because of minimum attorney involvement.

For couples contemplating divorce, or parents contemplating modification of a prior court order, mediation is an alternative process for resolving disputed issues and is often required by the court.

Hammerle Finley Law Firm has represented clients for more than 35 years inside and outside the courtroom. We provide effective, strategic, and cost-effective legal counsel so that our clients can focus on what matters most to them.

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