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Collaborative family law, also known as collaborative practice or collaborative divorce, is an alternative dispute resolution method designed to help couples resolve family law issues, such as divorce, child custody, spousal support, and property division, through cooperative negotiation rather than litigation.
In a collaborative family law process, both parties and their respective attorneys commit to resolving their disputes outside of the courtroom. They sign a participation agreement, which outlines their commitment to work together in a respectful and transparent manner, with the shared goal of reaching a mutually acceptable settlement.
The collaborative process emphasizes open communication, cooperation, and problem-solving. It encourages the parties to focus on finding creative solutions that meet the needs and interests of all family members involved, particularly the children. The collaborative approach also aims to minimize the emotional stress and acrimony often associated with traditional litigation.
Key elements of collaborative law include:
Voluntary Participation: Both parties must willingly choose to engage in the collaborative process and agree not to pursue litigation during this time. If either party decides to go to court, both attorneys must withdraw, and new legal representation is required.
Team Approach: In addition to the parties and their attorneys, the collaborative process may involve other professionals, such as financial advisors, mental health professionals, child specialists, and divorce coaches. These experts provide guidance and expertise in their respective areas to help facilitate a fair and comprehensive settlement.
Open and Honest Communication: The collaborative process promotes transparent and respectful communication between the parties. They are encouraged to share information openly, ask questions, and express their concerns in a constructive manner.
Problem-Solving and Negotiation: Rather than taking an adversarial stance, the parties and their attorneys work together to find mutually beneficial solutions. They engage in negotiations, brainstorming sessions, and joint problem-solving meetings to address various issues and reach agreements.
Settlement Focus: The primary objective of collaborative family law is to reach a settlement that meets the needs and interests of both parties and their children. The focus is on finding creative solutions that consider the unique circumstances of the family, rather than relying on court-imposed decisions.
Collaborative family law can offer several advantages over traditional litigation, including reduced costs, faster resolution times, greater control over the outcome, and improved post-divorce communication and co-parenting relationships.
CONSULTING / REVIEWING ATTORNEY
A consulting/reviewing attorney focuses on advising clients in connection to their mediation, negotiations and/or the drafting of legal documents and agreements prepared in connection to those discussions.
The role of a reviewing attorney is to analyze an agreement, such as the divorce settlement agreement or parenting plan, and provide their client with a thorough review and analysis of the terms and potential implications. They offer legal advice, identify any potential issues or concerns, and help their client understand the legal rights and obligations outlined in the documents.
In essence, the reviewing attorney serves as a consultant or second opinion for the client. They ensure that the client fully understands the terms of the agreement and that their legal rights and interests are protected. The reviewing attorney may suggest revisions, negotiate changes, or provide alternative options to address any unfavorable provisions.
Engaging a reviewing divorce attorney can be beneficial for individuals who are working with a mediator or for those who have largely negotiated the terms of a settlement agreement. It provides an opportunity to have an independent attorney review the agreement and ensure that the client's best interests are safeguarded before it is finalized.
Parenting coordination is a process that aims to assist divorced or separated parents in managing and resolving disputes related to their children's upbringing. The role of a parenting coordinator is to help parents establish and maintain effective communication, reduce conflict, and make decisions in the best interests of their children. The coordinator acts as a neutral third party and works closely with the parents to facilitate cooperation, problem-solving, and decision-making regarding parenting issues.
The parenting coordinator's primary focus is to help parents develop and/or implement a parenting plan that addresses various aspects of their children's lives, including custody schedules, visitation arrangements, education, healthcare, discipline, and other important matters. They assist parents in creating a structured and consistent co-parenting approach that prioritizes the well-being and needs of the children.
In addition to developing the parenting plan, a parenting coordinator may also play a role in monitoring its implementation and addressing conflicts that arise along the way. They can provide education and guidance to parents, teaching them effective communication skills, conflict resolution strategies, and parenting techniques to promote cooperation and minimize negative interactions. In that parents are unable to agree on a decision connected to children, Parenting Coordinators may make recommendations to the parents.
Parenting coordination is typically a voluntary process, although in some cases, it may be court-ordered. The goal is to empower parents to make decisions jointly, without relying on court intervention for every disagreement. By working with a parenting coordinator, parents have the opportunity to resolve conflicts more efficiently, maintain a more stable and peaceful co-parenting relationship, and ultimately enhance the well-being of their children.
MEDIATION VS. LITIGATION
When conflicts arise, finding a resolution that satisfies all parties involved can be a challenging task. However, the traditional path of litigation is not the only option. Mediation provides a powerful alternative that offers numerous advantages for clients seeking a swift, cost-effective, and mutually beneficial resolution. Below are some of the benefits of mediation.
Mediation places clients at the center of the process. Unlike litigation, where decisions are made by a judge or jury, mediation allows clients to actively participate in crafting their own solutions. This client-centric approach gives individuals a voice, enabling them to shape outcomes that align with their unique needs, interests, and concerns. By empowering clients to make decisions, mediation promotes a sense of ownership and satisfaction with the resolution.
Legal battles can be financially burdensome, with attorney fees, court costs, and other expenses quickly piling up. Mediation offers a cost-effective alternative. By sidestepping the courtroom, clients can avoid exorbitant legal fees and lengthy proceedings. Mediation typically involves a neutral mediator whose fees are often shared among the parties involved, making it a more affordable option for clients seeking an efficient resolution without breaking the bank.
Time is of the essence, especially when it comes to disputes that impact one’s personal or professional life. Unlike litigation, which can last for months or even years, mediation offers a streamlined and time-efficient process. Parties have the flexibility to schedule mediation sessions at their convenience, without being bound by court calendars. Mediation often resolves disputes within a matter of days or weeks, allowing clients to move forward and focus on rebuilding their lives or businesses.
Strained relationships are a common side effect of litigation, where adversaries battle it out in a courtroom. Mediation takes a different approach, emphasizing open communication, cooperation, and finding common ground. By fostering a collaborative atmosphere, mediation helps preserve relationships, allowing clients to maintain a positive rapport, whether in personal, professional, or commercial settings. This aspect is particularly valuable when ongoing interactions are necessary, such as co-parenting, business partnerships, or community relationships.
Privacy is a critical concern for many clients. Litigation exposes personal matters to the public, potentially damaging reputations or disclosing sensitive information. Mediation, on the other hand, ensures confidentiality. Discussions, documents, and settlement agreements remain private, promoting a safe environment for open dialogue. Clients can freely express their thoughts, concerns, and desired outcomes without fear of public exposure, fostering trust and enabling frank conversations.
Flexibility and Customization:
Each dispute is unique, and clients deserve solutions tailored to their specific circumstances. Mediation provides the flexibility to explore creative alternatives that may not be available within the rigid framework of litigation. Clients have the opportunity to shape agreements that meet their particular needs, finding win-win solutions that go beyond legal remedies. This customization empowers clients and ensures that the resolution aligns with their goals, allowing for greater satisfaction and long-term success.
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