Divorce Mediation – Collaborative Divorce

Divorce Attorney Lynda Robbins’ Reading MA divorce and family law practice is limited to non-court options such as Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. Lynda also serves as a consulting attorney for clients working with other mediators. Mediation and Collaborative Practice are also excellent choices for resolving non-divorce issues such as pre-nuptial and post-marital agreements, changes in support and parenting plans or addressing questions not fully resolved at the time of divorce such as college expenses for the children. The processes can also be used to help in other types of family disputes such as between parents and children or brothers and sisters.

Divorce Mediation

Divorce Mediation is a dispute resolution process where the parties work with neutral facilitators, usually attorneys or mental health professionals, to address all the details of their divorce. The neutral mediator cannot advise parties but, they can give them legal information and assist them in finding the best solutions for their situations. The parties meet with the mediator and, often, consult with attorneys and other experts outside of the mediation process, bringing the information back to the “table” for discussion. Mediation provides a setting, with expert guidance, that allows those who know the situation best (you) to determine the outcome.

Collaborative Divorce

In Collaborative Law, the parties each have their own attorney and, usually, other team members such as coach/facilitators, financial professionals and, if appropriate, child specialists, to assist them in the negotiations. By combining resources and taking away, in writing, the threat to go to Court if negotiations do not go as expected, the parties have more flexibility and creativity to fashion solutions that work for their situation. The Collaborative Team, including clients, meets together to work through the process. Collaborative Law is often more expensive than mediation but, usually, less expensive and more efficient than litigation. The use of the expert team members assures the parties that they have the best resources to address their problems.

Using a collaborative divorce lawyer offers many distinct advantages over a traditional divorce litigator:

  •  You keep control of the process yourselves, without going to court
  • Children’s needs are given priority
  • All parties commit to reaching agreement through a problem-solving approach
  • An atmosphere of respect preserves self esteem
  • Open communication allows everyone to express needs for moving forward and provides new tools for effective problem-solving in the future
  • There is full disclosure of relevant facts and all financial information
  • The process is confidential
  • Each party has his or her own Collaboratively trained attorney advocate to advise and guide them through the process.
  • A Collaboratively trained neutral facilitator or coach is an important part of the team and works with the parties both individually and with the attorneys to assist the parties in working through the negotiations.

Face-to-face meetings in the presence of lawyers make negotiations direct and efficient and allow for mutually created resolutions.

Collaborative Divorce and Law Resources

The ‘Art’ of Four Way Meetings,” by Lynda J. Robbins, MCLE, Collaborative Law Practice: At the Cutting Edge of Alternative Dispute Resolution (2005) and MCLC Collaborative Law Journal, Spring 2006

Collaborative Divorce – A Safe Place” is a twenty minute video following the true life story of one couple as they proceed through their own Collaborative divorce.

Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council

The Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council is an association of attorneys and other professionals committed to resolving conflict in a collaborative manner and dedicated to helping our clients achieve amicable settlements of disputes by problem-solving and negotiation. The Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council trains attorneys and collaborative professionals to educate the public regarding the collaborative option and promotes the use of the collaborative law practice throughout Massachusetts.

International Academy of Collaborative Professionals

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals is committed to expanding the use of collaborative practice into all areas of dispute resolution throughout the world. The IACP is dedicated to service to its members and the public through fostering professional excellence and professional development as well as establishing standards of practice and professional ethics. It provides a central resource for education, networking and referrals.

Modification and post-divorce issues

People move on, children grow and circumstances change.  Formally modifying a divorce Agreement is often necessary.  Or, simply sorting post-divorce issues and coordinating necessary adjustments.  As these issues are often much narrower than the original divorce negotiations, they can sometimes be addressed in one or two sessions.  And, it is usually better to resolve the changes before they lead to more problems.

Topics to address in Divorce and Family Law Disputes

Support

Child support—Both parties have an obligation to contribute to the support of their children until they are emancipated. Emancipation can be as late as age 23 depending on the child’s circumstances. Judges determine child support using state Child Support Guidelines. In Mediation and Collaborative Practice, parties can be creative in fashioning a support arrangement that meets the needs of the children as long as the overall benefit to the children is no less than the Child Support Guidelines mandate.

Alimony (spousal support)–As of 2012, Massachusetts alimony law has been significantly changed. The duration of alimony, if any, circumstances under which it can be ordered by the Court, types of alimony, determinations of need and ability to pay are all examples of the questions that must be addressed regarding alimony. Interpretation of the new law is evolving and the guidance of an experienced professional is important.

Divorce and Property Division

Divorce law in Massachusetts is influenced by the facts of each situation.

Massachusetts law requires an “equitable” division of all marital property. “Equitable” is not always equal. Most divorces are now based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, commonly referred to as “no fault divorce.” The emphasis is on coming to an agreement that both parties believe is best under their circumstances.  Not all property is the same.  There can be tax consequences related to some assets that need to be adjusted.  Some assets like retirement funds require specialized and technical expertise to value or to divide with minimum tax consequences.  And some assets might be treated differently because of their source, for example, gifts or inheritances.  It is important to speak with a legal professional to understand the distinctions.

Parenting Plans & Custody

If there are children, their best interest is paramount. Parenting plans addressing child custody help all those involved know who is responsible for the children and when. Parenting plans establish the structure of what some people call custody and visitation. They spell out how decisions are made on behalf of the children. Child support and other financial arrangements affecting the children are also important to negotiate.

Do you have questions about support, parenting or property division? Lynda can help. Divorce law also includes modifications when things change. Contact us to find out what those changes mean to you.