Mediation & Collaborative Practice

LET GO OF THE PAST TO CREATE YOUR NEW LIFE

“So let’s leave it alone because we can’t see eye to eye. There ain’t not good guy, there ain’t no bad guy.  There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” 

– Dave Mason, Singer/Songwriter

MEDIATION

You and your spouse sit down in the same room and with the help of a mediator (neutral third party) exchange information, brainstorm ideas and come to an agreement.

COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE DIVORCE

A team, which includes two mediation attorneys, a coach and financial counselor, supports and guides you to an agreement when there are more complicated legal or financial issues.

LITIGATED DIVORCE

Lawyers argue your position and then a judge decides how assets will be distributed, children will be taken care of, and the amount of alimony.

FOCUS ON

YOUR FUTURE

There are many reasons people get a divorce but the bottom line is that the relationship just doesn’t work anymore. Often there has been a lot of emotional damage done along the way.  Litigated divorces can focus on disappointments, wrongdoings and betrayals and make things worse. Mediation and Collaborative Practice Divorce encourages you to focus on your future and dissolve your marriage cooperatively so you minimize distress for you and especially your children. It empowers you to make decisions about your future rather than relinquishing that power to the court system.

HELPING YOU THROUGH THE PROCESS

“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Sometimes agreements come easily; sometimes they take a lot of time and careful attention. As your mediator or collaborative practice attorney, my role is to:

  • Listen to your stories confidentially, objectively and without judgment
  • Create a safe and respectful environment for communicating
  • Encourage a willingness to compromise and be flexible
  • Help keep you focused on what you want the future to be like for you and your children
  • Assist you in brainstorming potential solutions for division of property, finances and co-parenting
  • Provide legal information in a mediation and legal advice in a collaborative process
  • Lead you to a final agreement

When children are involved, it is especially important to reduce conflict in divorces.  I encourage you to choose the path that will help you settle your differences in a way that helps maintain respect in your continuing relationship as co-parents.  The goal is for you to be able to work together effectively to raise happy and healthy children so you both enjoy watching them grow up and become successful adults.

Either path – mediation or collaborative practice – is an excellent process to more amicably and cost-effectively resolve your differences.

MEDIATION

“When the storm has passed, put your energy into rebuilding your life, don’t waste time looking back.”
– Leon Brown

At this point you may feel like you can’t forgive but you do feel like you can work together to come up with a solution designed to rebuild your lives separately. Mediation is a powerful process that can have surprisingly successful results.

Mediation sessions bring everyone together to meet and can be conducted weekly, every two weeks, monthly or as slow or as fast as you wish.  This is your mediation so remember that you are in control of the process. If you wish to take a break from mediation and return to rebuilding your marriage, you are free to do so.   

The length of mediation depends on how many issues have been resolved prior to starting the mediation process and how willing both parties reach an equitable agreement for everyone in the family. You can reduce the amount of time spent in mediation if you and your spouse are able to come to agreements prior to mediation, or at the least narrow down your options to a few workable ones. However, if you and your spouse are not able to discuss your divorce outside of mediation, it is strongly recommended that you avoid the discussion without my help. When couples try to work out issues on their own and it leads to arguments and “drawing lines in the sand,” it makes mediation more difficult and time consuming.

On average it takes three to six sessions mediation sessions to reach an agreement to present for the judge to sign. Each session is usually two hours long, depending on prior communication and the level of animosity.

If one of you is unwilling to budge from your position(s) on a divorce issue, mediation may not be an option. If you feel more comfortable with an attorney by your side in negotiations, collaborative may be a better choice. If you wish to “win” a point or wish to punish or seek revenge, then litigation is your best option, although often is not as successful as a party may hope for.

THE MEDIATION PROCESS

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
– Napoleon Hill, author of Success with a Positive Mental Attitude

Here’s how the process works for finalizing the mediation agreement:   

Assuming the parties have reached an agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding states that the agreement is not final until each party has had the opportunity to consult with an attorney.

At least one party contacts an attorney sometime during the mediation process.  The mediation attorney will charge a set fee, usually $1,200 – $1,500.

The attorney will prepare a Complaint if one has not already been filed, finish the documents and a Final Decree.  The complaint must rest with the court for 60 days for divorces without children, 90 days with children.

The other party may seek advice form an attorney as to any exact language in the Marital Dissolution Agreement or Parenting Plan.

The party who filed the Complaint will arrange for a court hearing.

At the court hearing, the attorney will ask several questions as to whether he/she wishes a divorce, whether the agreement is fair and equitable and whether adequate provision has been made for the children.  

If the answers to these questions are yes, then the judge will grant the divorce.  The signing of the Final Decree signifies that you are indeed divorced.

COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE DIVORCE

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
– Winston Churchill

Collaborating with someone you are divorcing might seem counterintuitive but it works well for people who respect one another and want the best for everyone involved, especially their children. A team of professionals is assembled to support and guide you through the process.

The team includes:

An attorney for each party who is trained and committed to the collaborative process. Your attorney is an advocate for you throughout the negotiation process.

A “divorce coach” (mental health professional) helps keep the process constructive and respectful. The parties have the guidance and support to help navigate the emotional aspects of the divorce. The focus of the negotiation is on the future rather than on the past. If you are able to successfully negotiate a settlement with each other with the aid of the team you will have a less stressful future particularly where children are concerned.

A financial consultant who provides financial information to both spouses

A child specialist who gives counsel and advice about parenting issues (optional).

Collaborative Practice may be right for you if:

You and your spouse don’t want a court battle and the damage that a nasty divorce can cause.

You want to be in control of your future rather than passing that on to the courts.

You are willing to work together and take responsibility to reach an equitable settlement.

Collaborative practice usually costs less because most of the work is done during the sessions. The information gathering is joint and transparent. This process makes it easier to reach a final agreement rather than waiting on the courts to schedule a hearing.  Generally the settlements that come from a collaborative process are more detailed and complete than ones obtained through a court hearing, thus eliminating future misunderstandings.

If you choose Collaborative practice, I will act as your attorney.

THE COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE DIVORCE PROCESS

“Under the guidance of an emotionally intelligent leader, people share ideas, learn from one another, make decisions collaboratively and get things done.”
– Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

One of the attorneys will prepare a Collaborative Practice Agreement.  The agreement describes the term and conditions of the process and will be signed by you and your spouse. You and your spouse commit to maintaining open communication, to being transparent with all information and to sharing all the necessary details.  You are promising to make a good faith effort to find a solution that is best for everyone involved.

Team meetings are scheduled over a period of time.  The parties and their attorneys gather information in a similar way to the mediation process. The team helps you negotiate with your spouse on three major issues, how the debts and assets are divided, how the children will be parented and possible spousal support.  The divorce coach may meet with either or both parties individually to help with emotional concerns and support productive communication.

The attorneys in the collaborative law practice act differently than in litigation or mediation. Though each attorney is primarily the consultant of one party, both attorneys do whatever they can to help the process be constructive and to reach a satisfying conclusion.  Sometimes this might mean that an attorney acting as the consultant to the wife might suggest ideas that are beneficial to the husband and vice versa. Similar to mediation, both parties consult with one neutral financial professional, appraiser, and/or any other neutral professional that might be helpful.     

On rare occasions when the parties cannot reach an agreement through these collaborative practice sessions, the Collaborative Practice Agreement prescribes that the team seeks help from a formal mediation process. The other professionals used in the collaborative process will not be available to parties during the litigation process.  If one or both parties wish to leave the collaborative process, the attorneys must withdraw and the parties must seek new litigation attorneys. Such a provision encourages parties to work towards agreement.

If one party opts for collaborative law then their spouse will have to choose one of the other collaborative trained attorneys on that list or any other trained collaborative attorney.

Informative websites include Collaborative Practice and Middle Tennessee Collaborative Practice Group. The Collaborative Practice website, has an excellent 20-minute video from an actual collaborative practice case. Marietta is a member of Middle Tennessee Collaborative Practice Group.

  • Mediated Divorce

  • _$1,200 - 4,500_
    • Process: Face to face
    • Conflict: Private
    • Decision Makers: You & your spouse
    • Average Length: 3 – 6 months

  • Collaborative Divorce

  • _$15,000 - 35,000_
    • Process: Face to face
    • Conflict: Private
    • Decision Makers: You & your spouse
    • Average Length: 4 – 12 months

  • Litigated Divorce

  • _$15,000 - 500,000_
    • Process: Lawyer to lawyer
    • Conflict: Public
    • Decision Maker: Judge or jury
    • Average Length: 9 – 24+ months

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