So, you’re ready to call an attorney to end a personal (and legal) bond that you once thought would last a lifetime. This has undoubtedly been a difficult and painful decision, and in truth, you are just at the beginning of making a long list of decisions, decisions, and more decisions.
At Breiter and Gura, our underlying goal is to get our clients through the legal process as emotionally and financially intact as possible. Rather than encourage clients to pursue expensive and lengthy strategies, our aim is to find the simplest, quickest and least expensive solution to our clients’ legal issues. That doesn’t mean that we can always control what our adversary is going to do, or how it is going to affect a case or its underlying cost, but it does mean that we put our clients’ interests first, working assiduously to settle matters fairly, and quickly.
As for legal approaches, there are basically four ways to undertake a divorce action: negotiation, litigation, mediation, and collaboration. Briefly, here are the differences:
Negotiation: lawyers and clients work to settle all outstanding matters without court intervention. The big advantages are less cost and more control. If you agree on the terms of your settlement, even if you make some concessions, you know exactly what you’re going to be dealing with. If you leave those decisions to a judge, you may end up with a decision that both parties hate, and you will definitely end up spending more money. Sometimes, of course, parties cannot agree on terms and do have to resort to court intervention, but we believe in doing everything possible to avoid that course of action.
Litigation: Many divorce lawyers love to litigate! It makes cases take longer and cost more, so I’ll leave it to you to figure out why they prefer handling divorce cases that way. Going to court, while sometimes necessary, comes with some built-in problems, and the most important of them is that “The Scales of Justice Are Held by People … Not Statues.” In other words, the judges who are put in charge of making decisions regarding your life and will be making subjective determinations regarding your money and your children are just human beings, who sometimes are wise and sometimes are not. They are people who sometimes agree with you and your attorney, and sometimes do not. But whatever they decide, is what you will have to live with. Many people find the idea of leaving the dissolution of a family unit up to a judge to be a frightening loss of control, and we agree. Sometimes, when parties cannot agree, there is no choice but to seek a ruling from the court, but we believe that if you can agree to something, even something not perfect, it’s better than taking your chances in court on the outcome, and paying for the privilege.
Mediation: But when the outstanding matters are simple, and when the parties are basically in agreement, a Mediated Divorce may be a practical solution. In a mediated divorce action, both the husband and wife can consent to attempt to settle the financial and custody issues that arise by using one Mediator, who is most often an attorney (but not always). This can lead to a less adversarial approach from all parties, and a much lower price tag of the final product.
Mediating a divorce settlement is not appropriate for all cases, however, as the Mediator is not allowed to provide legal advice to his clients, but it can be effective and economical where a couple is on pretty much the same track when it comes to the many financial and custody decisions that will have to be made in order to produce a settlement.
Collaborative Divorce: Collaborative Law had its origins in business litigation, but now exists as a full-fledged methodology for settling divorce cases. Here, both parties retain certified, collaborative attorneys — lawyers who have undergone extensive training in the collaborative process. The two litigants and the two attorneys work together to find sensible, legally-based solutions to the various issues facing the parties. In a Collaborative Divorce, instead of the usual adversarial relationship between litigants and their respective attorneys, you participate in an open, inclusive discussion of the issues and possible solutions, working with collaborative attorneys who are trained in ways to keep tempers down, while they target and solve the issues with the help and input of both clients. This approach represents a considerable advantage over mediation services, in that it keeps you legally protected and informed, while also attempting to keep the aggravation level down while you make important decisions that will affect your lives and your children’s lives for years to come.