Separation and divorce can be an extremely difficult time involving complex emotional, financial and legal issues. Our practice focuses on providing our clients with an array of approaches to separation and divorce including both non-adversarial and adversarial approaches. You can read through the more detailed descriptions of these approaches below.
At our initial meeting, we will talk about your particular circumstances, the legal process, and the merits of each approach. Together we conduct a cost-benefit analysis weighing the financial, emotional and practical considerations and help you choose which approach is best for you. Just click to call or email us.
- Collaborative Law – Couple engages in face-to-face discussions guided by collaborative professionals to reach agreement.
- Mediation – A neutral third party facilitates discussion to reach agreement.
- "Kitchen Table" – Couple discusses issues on their own, we act as consultant and prepare final agreement.
For many couples, however, the relatively new "Collaborative" approach has proven to be a less stressful, more civilized way to work through the separation and divorce issues and get on with life.
Collaborative law is a dramatically different way of approaching family law issues and is new to Maryland. The Collaborative law approach is used in divorce cases, custody disputes, grandparent rights cases and can also be used for the preparation of prenuptial agreements. Under the collaborative approach, each party is represented by a specially trained lawyer, whose job is to provide legal counsel and assist in resolving the separation and divorce issues outside of court. Both lawyers and the parties commit in writing to working together toward an equitable and fair settlement agreement without contested, costly, and time consuming litigation.
What is the role of the Collaborative Lawyer?
Collaborative family lawyers approach divorce cases dramatically differently than the traditional divorce lawyer. Under the collaborative approach, each party has a collaborative lawyer to represent their interests, and to provide them with legal advice like a traditional divorce lawyer, but different in that the parties and lawyers commit in writing to working together to resolve the divorce issues without contested litigation.
How does the Collaborative Law process work?
The parties meet in a series of 4-way face-to-face meetings; attended by both parties and their lawyers. The focus of the meetings is on problem solving; the attorneys and the clients work together openly and honestly to resolve conflicts, so that both parties are satisfied.
If the parties have issues that require the help of an expert, such as a business valuation, financial advisor, or configuring what kind of shared physical custody arrangement is best for their children, the parties may agree to hire experts who work on behalf of both parties. Those consultants are then asked to provide the parties with their opinions, so the parties can make informed decisions. If there comes a time when the parties, after good faith efforts, can not agree on an issue, they can elect to mediate the issue, use an independent arbitrator such as a retired judge to resolve the issue, or seek court intervention. The court is the option of last resort, and if either of the parties seeks or threatens court intervention, the collaborative process terminates and traditional litigators must be hired. The collaborative process prohibits the collaborative lawyer from representing a client in a contested court procedure.
What are the benefits of Collaborative Law?
This method allows the parties to maintain their privacy, incur fewer costs than traditional litigation (both financial and emotional), maintain control over the problem solving process, and learn to communicate and treat each other with dignity and respect. This approach lessens the impact of separation and divorce on all those involved; this is especially important for any children involved. It also provides the parties with skills they can use after divorce to resolve future family conflicts or to interact with one another as family dynamics change.
If you and your spouse agree to proceed using collaborative method, your spouse can find a collaborative lawyer here by clicking on the link or at the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals web site at www.collaborativepractice.com.
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Another way to resolve your separation and divorce issues is through a process known as Mediation. Under this approach a mediator, who is a neutral third party, helps you and your spouse negotiate and resolve issues during a series of informal meetings. Although the mediator may offer their perspective on issues and can help generate creative solutions to problems, no legal advice may be provided to the parties nor can the mediator prescribe to either party what the outcome should be. Once an agreement is reached, a written settlement agreement, is prepared, which will need to be reviewed by your attorneys before signing.
If you and your spouse want to mediate with either Nancy Weller or Stacey Andersen, please let us know at the beginning of your first telephone conversation with this office. If you use another mediator, then we can review the mediated agreement and provide legal counseling as your attorneys.
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We approach most separation and divorce cases using a cooperative method. We provide traditional legal counseling and representation, with the goal of negotiating a fair and equitable settlement agreement with your spouse's lawyer, but with an eye toward litigation if the case cannot be resolved through negotiation.
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Litigation is the process of resolving separation and divorce issues through the court. This approach is available when you and your spouse cannot resolve issues through collaborative law, cooperative law, or mediation. Sometimes you have no choice but to go to court, but typically this should be the approach of last resort. When you file papers in court without a separation agreement, you lose control over timing, over procedures, over privacy, and over the decision making process. Also, the court's remedies are limited and do not provide solutions to many issues facing divorcing couples. Litigation resolves conflicts through an adversarial process and is often more expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining than the non-adversarial approaches addressed above. While we would prefer that family problems be resolved through discussion and negotiation, in those cases that require litigation, you will be represented vigorously by a skilled advocate.
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