The courtroom is rarely a place that most people want to visit when dealing with their matrimonial issues. More often than not, a day in court is a stressful experience, particularly when it comes to dealing with things like divorce, child custody, and visitation rights. It’s no wonder that many individuals prefer to negotiate their divorce outside of court if possible. While there are ways for people to avoid the courts, such as using divorce mediation, not all spouses know for definite whether their spouse will agree to an alternative dispute resolution process like divorce mediation or collaborative law. In these circumstances, it’s important to keep your options open.
When a spouse contacts my office to arrange their initial consultation (free for up to 30 minutes with the potential to move to paid consultations after), we try to screen them first to see if they are looking to utilize me as their neutral divorce mediator. It’s important for us to find out whether they want a one-on-one consultation with me as an attorney, or whether they are looking for a divorce mediator. Meeting with someone one-on-one when they’re considering mediation could compromise my position as a neutral party in the eyes of their partner. If the individual tells me that they want to have a one-on-one consultation with me, I may not be able to be their mediator, but we can keep their options open.
Setting Up Negotiations with Spouses
One option I can offer my clients is for my office to write a letter to their spouse indicating that my office currently represents their other half in connection with various “marital difficulties”. This phrase is commonly used during the introductory correspondence letters. In this letter, we can outline that you desire to resolve the situation as amicably, whether in divorce mediation, traditional negotiations, or otherwise. We can ask the other party, or a lawyer of their selection, to contact the office so that they can discuss options on how to proceed. We do make it clear that the other side is recommended to utilize an attorney, but, of course, they can choose to represent themselves. Within the letter, I often note that although an amicable resolution is desired, it’s still important for the other party to respond to the letter as quickly as possible.
The process that occurs as a result could be the correspondence between lawyers, or if one side decides that they want to represent themselves, a negotiation with one spouse and their lawyer. Settlement agreements in the form of separation documents can be drafted in this case and followed up by an application for uncontested divorce. On the other hand, the divorce may be filed and settled with a stipulation of settlement. The couple can also choose whether they would like to remain legally separated for a while, or whether they would prefer to file for a divorce immediately once their agreement has been signed. From there, any lawyers involved can negotiate and draft the language of the agreement and submit an uncontested divorce package once the agreement is signed.
Setting Up Divorce Mediations
In the letter sent to the other party in a marriage, I could also mention that the client I represent is open to the idea of divorce mediation for the case. The letter may mention that while I am a lawyer for the other spouse, I can also take a step back and the couple will be able to choose a different divorce mediator of their choosing. In this instance, I would act as the review attorney for the client that originally approached me. This means that I could work behind the scenes to help my client prepare for their mediation sessions and debrief after those sessions. I could also help my client to prepare for upcoming sessions and review or draft the settlement agreement too. The other lawyer or I, or the mediator involved with the case (assuming they are a lawyer as some divorce mediators are not) could then submit a package for uncontested divorce to the court.
The possibility of collaborative law is available here too. In the letter to the other spouse, I could outline that the spouse is open to the idea of collaborative law, if that is the situation. Here, I would explain what collaborative law means, and even offer some information that the other spouse can use to determine whether the process suits them. I will also be able to point out that I am a collaborative trained lawyer. If my client is intent on a specific process, then we could attempt to steer the process in that direction in correspondence with the other side.
Filing and Serving
In some cases, my client may want the impact of filing for divorce with a lawyer such as myself and serving the other party with papers. In this case, we could then move back to one of the aforementioned processes to settle the case. However, sometimes our client will need help with bills or will not be able to wait for a negotiation. We might then consider things like Pendente Lite motions for maintenance, child support, requests for a preliminary conference, requests for judicial intervention, financial discovery, a trial to be scheduled and requests for orders about payment when a divorce is pending.
To learn more about keeping your options open with a divorce lawyer and family law attorney such as myself, contact our office to schedule your free initial consultation. You can reach out at (516) 333-6555.