When it comes to resolving your divorce or other family law challenges, you have some options regarding HOW your case will get resolved. In a big-picture sense, consider whether you want to maintain more control over decision making (mediation, negotiaition), or turn decision making over to someone else (such as a judge). Unfortunately, if the other involved party refuses to participate in alternatives, this decision may be made for you and you most likely end up in court. It is usually best to discuss these options early on with your spouse or the other involved party whenever possible. Futhermore, some (but not most) situations are just not a good fit for dispute resolution methods. For example, the presence of domestic violence can make mediation a poor option.
Adversarial or a Cooperative Approach?
How you resolve your case matters, and the experience will feel different depending on the process and the professional(s) you work with.
You may be surprised to learn that only a small percentage of Massachusetts divorce cases require a trial (under 5%), and that there are no juries in the Massachusetts probate and family courts. Trials may be brief (an hour) and focused on just a single issue, or take months with long gaps between court dates. Many people have images of court based upon movies and television, but the reality is different. Trials require considerable preparation, so they are usually costly – even if the trial itself is not that long.
When the dust settles after a court-based case pitting two people against each other, is it human nature for parents to magically become kind and supportive to each other following a cranky custody battle; or is it more likely that problems persist or even worsen – making things harder for children to navigate ongoing parenting conflict? Sadly, the correct answer is usually the latter.
What if those parents learned to communicate and problem-solve more effectively through mediation? Maybe they learned how to hear each other and act at least business-like to each other. Those parents are less likely to have serious ongoing conflict, their parenting relationship will be better, and the children will have better outcomes. You may think this cannot happen, but it does happen every week during mediation sessions. Almost all of our mediations end successfully with clients reaching a full agreement.
The path to finishing your case may involve some twists and turns. You might start as a a court-based case, but then try mediation. Your lawyer may suggest a parenting coordinator if there is significant and ongoing parenting conflict. Litigants may decide to seek the services of an arbitrator or conciliator in an effort to avoid a trial, or in place of one.
Focus on Problem Solving and Your Future
Understandably, people may tend to focus on things that already happened. These things may be upsetting and cause strong emotions, such as in the case of infidelity. Trying to exert revenge or get even is a mistake becuase you will spend more money in legal fees, and not feel any better when your case is over – but you will have fewer assets after your $70,000.00 divorce that finally settled two and a half years later when nobody could pay more legal fees. Oh, and if the lawyers were experienced, both lawyers likely could have predicted the terms of the final outcome fairly accurately closer to the start of the case.
Instead of focusing on litgation, we provide a range or services to help you navigate your family law or divorce case, including:
- Collaborative Dispute Resolution;
- Settlement Counsel – assisting clients with negotiations, second opinions, drafting documents, etc.;
- Uncontested Divorce;
- Parenting Coordination Services;
- Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements;
- Parenting & Custody; and
- Paternity and Unmarried Parents
Another option worth mentioning is Limited Assistance Representation, commonly referred to as LAR. LAR is approved in all MA Probate and Family Courts. Under a LAR agreement, a client retains an attorney to help them with certain aspects of the case but maintains responsibility for the other portions. A specific LAR fee agreement is completed and filed with the court. For instance, someone could hire a lawyer just to handle a motion hearing, but not the entire case. In another example, perhaps the client retains a lawyer only to review or draft one or more legal pleadings. This allows a client to get assistance for some portions of a case, when otherwise the person may not have been able to afford traditional legal representation at all.
Go here for more information on our Do It Yourself Mostly – Limited Assistance RepresentationPackages.
We welcome your call to discuss your situation, and how we can help.