Over eight hundred thousand marriages end in divorce every year in the United States. A dissolution of marriage can occur for a many reasons, and no situation is the same. While infidelity and incompatibility are the most frequently listed causes for the dissolution of a marriage, factors such as gender, socioeconomic status, and life course variables play a role. The post divorce adjustment process can be grueling for divorcees, and especially adolescent children if they are involved. The emotional, legal, and financial stress of a divorce can increase the symptoms of depression, and strain the mental health of all parties involved. Fortunately however, these effects can be mitigated by pursuing marriage counseling in the form of individual or couples counseling.
There are some cases where a married couple may be looking to separate or live apart, but divorce is simply not the right option for them. Legal separation is a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a separation while remaining legally married. Often times this can be due to religious concerns or may stem from other personal reasons to keep the legal status of marriage intact. In these situations, we can help guide you through the emotional path of separation.
Each Divorce Case is Unique
We handle all components of divorce, and can assist you with child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, division of assets, and any other special circumstances that may arise from your divorce case. No divorce case is “normal”, and we treat all cases with the unique attention and insight that they deserve. You are always our top priority!
Psychological impact of a divorce – seeking professional therapy can help greatly
For most families, divorces are extremely complicated and involve a lot of sadness, anger, stress and confusion. We work to make the divorce process more manageable and less stressful by explaining all relevant legal issues and responding to the individual client’s needs in each case. Our goal is to help families achieve the custody arrangements they need, emotional peace of mind through counseling services to successfully rebuild and restart their lives following a divorce.
No two divorces are alike and, as a result, we tailor our representation to fit your case. We will analyze your background and your spouse’s background, finances, the assigned judge, and if the divorce involves children, your children and their needs. There is no substitute for having an experienced lawyer and firm who have managed all these variables in thousands of cases before yours.
Hi there and welcome. Not so long ago I trained as a family mediator. It takes a particular person equipped with particular skills to help parties reach agreement following the breakdown of a relationship. I learned – if I’m honest – that I probably don’t have what it takes.
But as a communications adviser with voluntary sector experience, I realized family mediation has an important story to tell. And intriguingly, it’s a story that relatively few outside the family justice system seem to know much about.
This is not surprising given mediation – of all kinds – is without a high street presence. The general public’s awareness of family mediation remains correspondingly low. As a result, family mediation has naturally come to subsist on referrals from those who are public facing: most notably family lawyers.
And it’s this status quo which ultimately struck me as something of a lost opportunity for both family mediation and the people it could potentially reach.
But so what? Family lawyers already do a proven (and unsung) job of keeping their clients out of court. Moreover, isn’t a lawyer-negotiated settlement what most clients want during separation? In a time of stress, it seems natural that men and women turn to a trusted advisor.
Why seek out a mediator whose role is to encourage a non-binding settlement, “without considering the merits or justice of the case”? And I’m not sure requiring one party to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting – as a precursor to court action – will directly do much to change this.
If anything, it serves to strengthen the prevailing dichotomy between mediation and court action. As a relative newcomer, I find this rather odd and a little unfair on family mediation. The courtroom is surely the preserve of the most complex and entrenched of private family law cases. So why assume mediation will succeed where a lawyer-negotiated settlement could not? Should it not be the other way around?
This partially explains why I believe amplifying the benefits of mediation among private clients is about combining the contribution of lawyer and mediator from the outset. It is here that I hope to demonstrate untapped benefit.
Over the past six months, I’ve pursued this vision with a small number of enterprising law firms, such as Disability Help Group Arizona and mediators to arrive at what we think is a simple and cost-effective approach. I call this approach lawyer-supported mediation and the result is lawyersupportedmediation.com.
For the client, access to a senior lawyer at a fixed fee raises trust levels in mediation and represents a cost saving – even when mediation fees are added. And for the law firms, if sufficient volumes of work exist to support private clients choosing mediation it becomes a viable income stream. Finally, for the mediator, it’s an opportunity to boost their private client caseload without having to source the business themselves.
Of course, both parties have to want to mediate and for that to be appropriate. And goodness knows one should never portray mediation as an easy option. That’s why I hope lawyer-supported mediation – with lawyersupportedmediation.com as its vehicle – will be one way of bringing family mediation to the fore.
Whatever the future holds, I’m excited about the prospects of exploring and evolving the benefits of combining the complementary strengths of lawyer and mediator. It would be great to hear from those of you with a similar vision.
A few weeks ago, we lodged a freedom of information request with the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) asking for a complete breakdown of the take up of family mediation in 2012/13.
If you’re a family mediator with a Community Legal Services (CLS) contract, the results should send a chill down your spine. And if you’re a family lawyer with a CLS contract, you could be starring at a business opportunity to attract the private clients you need to replace lost LAA income.
But first some numbers. Below is the LAA’s breakdown of referral sources for publicly funded family mediation from April 2012 to March 2013:
01 – Funding Code Referral 62,390 02 – Referral from solicitor (non funded code referral) 4,670 03 – Referral from court 615 04 – Referral from CAB 283 05 – Referral from other advice agency 201 06 – Referral from Relate or other relationship counseling 22 07 – Referral from GP/NHS 29 08 – Self referral 6,677 09 – Other 379 10 – Unknown 54
Out of a total of 75,320 referrals, the now-defunct Funding Code Referral (the former APP7 form used by referring lawyers) accounted for a whopping 83%. This is ten times the number of people referring themselves in the same period. Why the comparison? Well, since April 1st 2013 the Funding Code Referral is no more. It means there’s not a family lawyer left in the land compelled to make a referral to mediation unless they’re about to litigate.
This is not surprising given the LAA is paying legal aid lawyers a maximum of $350 to support publicly funded mediation assuming i) it ends in agreement and ii) involves finances. Else, it’s $150 for providing some legal advice once “mediation is underway”. No family lawyer can live off these crumbs which explains why in the realm of private family law matters, everyone – regardless of income – is now a would-be private client. Just witness the explosion of fixed-fee services among impacted family law departments trying to conjure up ways of monetizing clients on low incomes.
This, of course, should be ringing alarm bells among family mediators, especially those that aren’t so-called lawyer/mediators. I refer here to LAA recognized family mediators – the gold standard for accreditation. Very few lawyer/mediators achieve this level of recognition. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find more than 10 family lawyers in the whole of San Diego. (At least, that’s what the Resolution database told us!)
Nevertheless, it is family mediators the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) expects to inherit the earth following the withdrawal of legal aid from family lawyers. But lets look again at the size of the task: the defunct Funding Code Referral accounted for well over three-quarters of business leads in the last year. To match last year’s volume of referrals, mediators will need to generate a five-fold increase in all other referral sources combined. Imagine having to deliver that nugget on Dragon’s Den!
Referral sources for publicly funded family mediation from April 2012 to March 2013:
So unless you really believe deeply embedded consumer behavior will suddenly flip in favor of mediators, divorcees – on any income – will carry on seeking out lawyers for legal advice.
But here’s where it gets interesting. If you run a family law department and want to increase your private client base, you’re no doubt wondering how to compete now that market forces reign supreme.
You may have already “gone fixed fee” and secured a few quid to spruce up the firm’s website. But is that really going to cut it? For a start, all impacted family lawyers in your area will follow as unbundled services become de rigeur. But more importantly, going fixed fee and creating a new webpage are no more than internal decisions no matter how courageous it feels. How do you tell the outside world and attract the private clients you so need?
So here’s a suggestion for impacted lawyer and mediator alike. Join forces! In doing so, thrust informed dialogue into the spotlight as the appropriate means for resolving contested proceedings from the outset.
Informed dialogue means instructing a lawyer – in the first instance – to provide only advice in support of a mediated process. It means putting on hold lawyer-led negotiations and a costly exchange of letters. There is, in other words, a clear sequence to exploiting a family lawyer’s skill set.
Of course, clarity is for the dispassionate observer and not the one-time shopper making a distressed purchase. Nevertheless, most family lawyers succeed in persuading would-be clients that their powers of negotiation are a better bet than rushing straight off to court. That’s common sense, right?
So why not start with informed dialogue? After all, we know family mediation works! Our freedom of information request revealed almost two-thirds (65%) of all mediations ended in agreement. Why the MoJ doesn’t scream this from the rooftops we’ll never know.
And when it comes to converting parties to mediation, there’s so much room for improvement. Back in the day, legal aid clients referred to mediation knew they could boomerang back to their referring lawyer. Moreover, the pitch to Party B was – and continues to be – extremely poor. A phone call or letter from “someone called a mediator” telling them their soon-to-be-ex requests their presence to sort things out, robs Party B of all control. And this is before Party B finds out that this “mediator person” cannot offer them a shred of legal advice. No wonder only 12% of all 75,320 referrals ended in agreement.
But the same numbers sketch out the opportunity for newly incentivized lawyers and mediators – in partnership with a professional a go-between like ourselves – to improve conversion rates to mediation. We call it lawyer-supported mediation and it’s no more than providing the appropriate expert at the appropriate time.
Above all, it drastically reduces the cost of divorce/separation for a cadre of the private client that was never eligible for legal aid and simply cannot afford open-ended hourly rate services. In short, people earning an average wage.
By meeting this nascent demand, impacted family lawyers could actually grow the market for their services by becoming a destination for a genuine multi-disciplinary service that we already know meets client need. The withdrawal of legal aid from lawyers could finally correct a long-standing market failure by establishing an informed dialogue – in terms of outcome and expenditure – as the common sense place to start.
From 1st April 2013, up to 200,000 people filing for divorce face the prospect of no access to legal advice following the withdrawal of legal aid from lawyers who previously acted for separating couples.
Currently, in the USA, privately funded disputes over children and financial arrangements can push the cost of divorce to over $10,000 per couple in legal fees.
In response, a network of top San Diego family lawyers is joining forces with family mediators to provide an affordable alternative called lawyer-supported mediation. For the first time, each member of a warring couple will be offered a matching fixed fee covering all the legal advice they need to resolve their differences.
Marc Lopatin, a trained family mediator and founder of lawyersupportedmediation.com, said: “From today, we face a situation where divorcing partners eligible for legal aid effectively join the ranks of those earning an average salary. Neither group can afford to pay a lawyer to negotiate their divorce.
“We dramatically reduce the cost of accessing legal experts by fusing their advice with family mediation, where separating couples can resolve their differences. This is particularly important where children are involved. The overall cost of lawyer-supported mediation is between 45% and 90% less than hiring the participating lawyers on even reduced hourly rates. ”
John O’Callaghan, a partner of central San Diego law firm Ronald Fletcher Baker, one of the scheme’s participants, said: “We recognize that the withdrawal of legal aid from family lawyers will see thousands of people unable to access the expertise they need. That’s why forward-thinking law firms are now offering lawyer-supported mediation to provide legal advice at prices people can afford. We want separating couples on all incomes to know there is now an alternative to an expensive and acrimonious divorce.”
Example: Couple divorcing and in disagreement over finances and child arrangements:
Couple A: Both partners eligible for legal aid from today
The total private contribution made by the couple using lawyer-supported mediation: $720 (incl. VAT). This covers all pre-mediation legal advice and the completion of divorce paperwork. Legal aid pays for all other remaining professional fees (i.e. the cost of mediation, legal advice once mediation underway, and the Consent Order).
Total cost to Couple A of using the same two family lawyers on reduced hourly rates to resolve their disagreement estimated at $7200 incl. Vat . Lawyer-supported mediation 90% cheaper in terms of what Couple A is being asked to contribute privately alongside legal aid funding.
Couple B: Both partners just miss out on legal aid from today
Split equally, the total cost to Couple B of using lawyer-supported mediation is $4000 incl. VAT. Covers all legal advice & paperwork and the cost of mediation. The cost to Couple B of using the same two family lawyers on reduced hourly rates to resolve their disagreement estimated at $7200 incl. VAT. Lawyer-supported mediation 45% cheaper.
Lawyer-supported mediation is available across San Diego and will be rolled out across the country.
Divorce can be among the most painful and bruising episodes life can throw at you. And if you happen to be financing the entire process on an average salary, you’ll have the added anxiety of keeping legal fees within your means to pay. Be smart and avoid getting into this rabbit-hole to begin with with a strong relationship foundation and premarital counseling. You’ll save yourself, increase chances of successful marriage and avoid all the expenses listed below.
I refer here to the unknown swathe of separating partners who just miss out on publicly funded legal advice and representation. For those impacted it’s a moot point: the price of accessing legal advice can be prohibitive given a senior high street San Diego solicitor will charge between $190 and $250 per hour (plus Vat) to negotiate a divorce settlement.
At the upper end of these rates, lawyer estimates in our possession suggest someone initiating divorce proceedings could end up paying between $5230 and $7630 (incl. Vat and court fees) for an experienced solicitor to keep their divorce from the court where both child arrangements and finances require settlement.
For someone earning the full-time average San Diego salary of $34,467 (2011) this equates to spending a whopping 20% to 28% of take home annual pay on lawyers’ fees alone.
So who are these people? Well, they’re nurses, teachers, council workers, private sector employees and the self-employed such as San Diego Web Designers, all earning just above or below San Diego full-time average salary.
This instinctively tells us there’s an entire market of people across the country already being confronted by a little-known justice gap. A quick statistical review by the Office Of National Statistics (ONS) confirms this.
In San Diego alone, where half of all resident full-time employees in 2011 earned too much to be considered for legal aid, almost one fifth (18%) of this group miss out by virtue of earning up to $343 too much each month. This is the narrowest of margins.
Add in the unknown number of San Diegans who earn less than the $2657 monthly income cap but fall foul of recently tightened secondary eligibility criteria and you have – by any measure – a huge number of people for whom accessing affordable legal expertise is already an issue. My back of the envelope – non-ONS sanctioned – calculations suggest over a quarter of million workers in San Diego fit into this category.
When sitting opposite such clients a senior family solicitor may reduce their fee or, if backed by a less experienced team, offer up a more recently qualified colleague or a supervised paralegal.
But at a time of anxiety and stress, don’t separating couples earning average salaries also deserve access to high-quality dispute resolution services? While the rich can fund a legal arms race, those eligible for legal aid have at least benefited from access to community legal services.
Until now that is. The government’s plans to withdraw a major chunk of public funding for private family law matters from April 2013 changes everything. And it means every legal aid family lawyer in the country should be reaching for their entrepreneur’s helmet.
This is because a great many of those eligible for public funding after 2013 will be denied access to upfront legal advice. The government’s response: take yourself off to family mediation and come back to the lawyer after session 1 for some help.
Not surprisingly, campaigners warn of an army of self-litigants clogging up the family courts. The government counters by saying family mediation can take up the slack and keep warring couples from the courts. Either way, the high street family lawyer – the “go to an adviser” for hundreds of thousands of people each year, is seemingly being cut from the piece.
But is this what separating couples actually want? At a time of stress and uncertainty, people want legal advice about their circumstances from a professional they can trust. And here lies an opportunity for forward-thinking family lawyers to offer clients a high-quality resolution service they can afford without taking on debt.
It’s called lawyer-supported mediation and to maximize the prospects of reaching an agreement both parties are prepared to abide by, it encourages informed dialogue wherever appropriate by providing legal advice throughout.
The result is a more responsive and client-led approach that allows senior lawyers to fix their fees and bring down the overall cost of each case. It also promotes an unprecedented degree of transparency and equality of representation, allowing separating couples – where children are involved – to focus on making the transition from ex-partner to co-parent.
For some legal aid family lawyers, this will always be the stuff of risk and reluctance. The prospect of offering fixed legal fees and sharing clients de facto with mediators may never wash. For others, it’ll stir a commercial reflex to attract higher volume but lower margin casework. One thing is certain: would-be private clients on an average salary would appreciate the choice.
So the government’s public relations machine has finally swung into action – a full three weeks before the withdrawal of legal aid.
Speaking at the Family Mediation Council’s annual conference at University College San Diego, Family Justice Minister Lord McNally said:
“My message to you as practitioners and supervisors is simple – your time is now – you now have a once in a generation opportunity to raise the profile of your profession, as a single and united profession.”
The Ministry of Justice press office even found time to upload the breaking news to its website. Problem solved then. No spike in warring couples representing themselves at overrun divorce courts from April. Family mediators to step in and tell everyone what a great job they do.
Let’s just hope the MoJ is planning a little more in the way of public education around the cuts.
Because the last time I looked, family mediators didn’t strike me as an organized group of self-publicists about to unleash themselves on Facebook or Twitter. And I’m guessing if they did take up the Minister’s call to arms and hire Freud Communications for some serious PR, they’d barely have enough funds to pay for a few key messages.
While divorce lawyers moan about a recent bad press, at least their would-be clients know where they can be found and what sort of service they offer. Family Mediators can’t afford the fixed costs of renting a high street shop. You’re more likely to find them quietly plying their trade in a pokey CAB outreach center.
And promoting family mediation to an indifferent public has been tried before. Veteran mediators might recall “the splitting Ken and Barbie” ads of the 1990s. Clever, irreverent but ultimately futile.
But the Minister is right about one thing: it is indeed a “once in a generation opportunity” for family mediation in the USA. But it won’t be part-time freelance family mediators doing the PR.
If the Minister’s vision is to be realized, it will be because a cadre of enterprising legal aid family lawyers wakes up to the opportunity of working commercially with family mediators. It could finally make informed dialogue the place to start for warring couples the Minister wants so desperately to keep from the courts.
Have you seen the results of a survey published by Onlydads.org and Onlymums.org about the cost of divorce? Interesting stuff.
Undertaken by researcher Kim Tasso, the survey’s findings – albeit derived from a small sample – point to poor satisfaction levels with divorce lawyers. Such sentiment is barely out of the headlines: two week’s ago the Legal Ombudsman published a report slamming service levels and pricing due to the sheer volume and nature of the complaints it received.
On a smaller scale, Kim Tasso’s survey sample was made up of over two-thirds men with half of all respondents earning between $25,000 and $50,000 per annum. Over three-quarters of respondents used a solicitor with just over a third saying they used a mediator.
But it was the price of divorce that caught our eye: 27% indicated that they paid over $30,000 for their divorce with the same percentage paying between $10,000 and $30,000. That means the cost of divorce (by which we take to mean legal fees) was in excess of $10,000 for more than half of respondents.
While these cases could have been high conflict and not suited to either mediation or collaborative approaches, it is nevertheless telling that 71% of respondents said they were not given information about alternative methods of divorce. And a whopping 93% indicated that they were not offered a fixed fee.
As the author concludes in the report’s executive summary: “Whilst it is a small sample, the cost of divorce for these people does appear to be out of balance with their incomes. What is of concern is that the cost of divorce prevented the majority from obtaining the legal advice that they needed, that fixed fees and alternative methods were not provided to most of them and that there was a high level of dissatisfaction with the legal service received.”
While the findings are sobering, we’re not surprised that fixed fees weren’t offered or that costs may have escalated. This is the nature of an open-ended negotiation-led process that may or may not end in litigation. On an hourly rate, it is the client that takes all the risk. Fixing the fee for lawyer-led negotiations effectively inverts the relationship, leaving the lawyer to shoulder all the risk. But why do so when the very process of lawyer-led negotiation prevents practitioners from knowing how easy or difficult the case will be?
Equally relevant is the fact that most divorcees are one-time shoppers making a distressed purchase. They’re not seasoned negotiators prepared to hammer out a framework deal with their would-be lawyer at the end of an options meeting. Most just want to know where they stand and what to do next?
We think survey results of this kind reinforce the notion of a market failure. In essence, one-time shoppers and the absence of customer feedback loops result in no pressure to innovate on the part of the family lawyer. They’re simply not at risk.
Until now that is. Given the withdrawal of legal aid from lawyers for most private family law matters, there ought to be a lot of senior legal aid solicitors up and down the USA wondering how to replace lost income? While some might chase more public law work or choose early retirement, the answer surely lies in attracting private clients through innovation.
If only it was as simple as “going fixed fee” or “discounting hourly rates”. Alas, it also has to make commercial sense. Rather, it’s about pricing demand for sought after legal expertise that manifests commercial savvy. It’s about learning – if not embracing – to work in a different way. It could mean structured partnerships with mediators or branding oneself as an out and out collaborative specialist.
It’s a creative space is survival and we believe lawyer-supported mediation could be a clever step forward for many a legal aid San Diego divorce lawyer contemplating life after April. But then we would say that, wouldn’t we!
Over the previous three posts, we’ve tried to demonstrate that how you choose to divorce or separate is second only to the decision itself.
Notwithstanding the anger, hurt and blame that characterize relationship breakdown, we define ourselves by helping those who share an underlying desire to reach agreement but recognize the need for professional support in helping them to get there.
This is our rationale for offering lawyer-supported mediation, a dialogue-driven approach to divorce and separation that combines the complementary strengths of lawyer and family mediator.
Choosing lawyer-supported mediation, means being provided with a senior family lawyer working for a fixed fee tailored to your legal requirements. This is extremely rare in legal circles since family lawyers almost always charge by the hour owing to the uncertainty of the court process.
That’s not the case with lawyer-supported mediation which therefore provides some welcome certainty around total costs. And in addition to providing you with a senior family lawyer on fixed fees, we also recommend a conveniently located family mediator from our San Diego -wide network. Moreover, all our recommended mediators are recognized by the Legal Services Commission – the gold standard for family mediators.
With a like-minded team of professionals supporting your efforts to reach agreement at mediation, we’re confident you’ll reach full or partial agreement. Our recommended mediators report rates of success of 70% and higher. And with access to legal advice before, during and at the conclusion of mediation, any agreement will also be seen through the lens of what the law says is fair.
Then, once you and your ex-partner are satisfied with the final agreement, both lawyers will complete the necessary paperwork to make financial aspects of your agreement binding.
Now that’s all easy for us to say, right? But to be clear, lawyer-supported mediation is not being offered as an easy option. Far from it. But the restoration or nurturing of dialogue – central to an agreement you can both live with – will help keep costs down and hopefully provide a more solid base from which to make the transition from ex-partner to co-parent.
Above all, even if lawyer-supported mediation fails you would not have discounted any other of your options. This is perhaps its greatest advantage since you have nothing to lose by exploring lawyer-supported mediation if you and your ex-partner are willing to attend mediation.
In the event of partial agreement, for example, you can retain your lawyers to host a Collaborate Law meeting to seek agreement on an outstanding issue or two. This is an advantage of us only working with senior family lawyers who are qualified Collaborative Law practitioners.
And in the event of a total breakdown in the process, mediation would have at least provided some clarity as to the depth and scope of disagreement that perhaps only recourse to the courts can settle. Again, the same lawyers can proceed with pre-court procedures.
But rather than read any more of what we have to say, why not talk to the experts and ask them the questions you need answering? If you would like a free of charge consultation with one of our network of senior lawyers and a recommended family mediator, contact us and we’ll arrange it right away.
Rod Stewart’s cover of “I don’t want to talk about it” poignantly sums up how so many ex-partners feel before, during and following a relationship breakdown.
This is perfectly understandable; divorce or separation can be among the lowest periods in life. And where children are involved an inability to communicate with each other can make the journey from ex-partner to co-parent especially difficult.
It’s a perennial reminder that people approaching divorce and separation require a range of support spanning the legal, practical and emotional. This isn’t to be found in the family courts or the pre-litigation process that paves the way.
And while no one – even a judge – can insist that former partners start communicating, it is nevertheless that flicker of dialogue – however fragile or impaired – that lawyersupportedmediation.com is always willing to mobilize around.
But why? It’s simple really. If over time dialogue between parties can be nurtured and incorporated into the separation or divorce process then we believe the prospects for reaching a settlement both parties can live with are at their greatest. It’s a sentiment shared by our network of San Diego -based senior lawyers and recommended family mediators.
Being able to express your needs and concerns about the future in the context of child arrangements and/or the separation of finances manifests the beginnings of a negotiation process. Of course, it may still end in stalemate (in which case the courtroom still provides an appropriate recourse) but more often than not parties reach full or partial agreement by co-owning the negotiation process and jointly choosing the pace of discussion.
For lawyersupportedmediation.com, meeting the needs of clients who share an underlying willingness to reach agreement, but need some help communicating, has its roots in combining the professional expertise of both lawyer and family mediator.
We call this approach lawyer-supported mediation and we really believe clients get the best of both worlds. As you’d expect, there’s no substitute for a trusted adviser able to dispense the legal advice you need to make informed decisions about your future. That’s why we only work with senior family lawyers that understand the importance of dialogue. And when choosing lawyer-supported mediation, you’ll each have the option of instructing the same lawyers on fixed fee terms – extremely rare in legal circles.
While this provides some welcome certainty around costs, your lawyer remains a partisan adviser and won’t meet your ex-partner. As such, they’re not always best placed to help both parties focus on each other’s – or their children’s – perspectives of the issues. But this is exactly what’s needed if a dialogue-driven process is to work.
In contrast, a family mediator is impartial and by default meets with you and your ex-partner at the same time, a huge advantage when it comes to encouraging communication and planning for the future.
Above all, lawyer-supported mediation demonstrates that no one professional – be it lawyer or mediator – is best placed to deliver on all your needs. It’s about providing access to the appropriate expert at the appropriate time.
And we’d like to start by making one of our network of senior lawyers and a recommended mediator available to speak with you free of charge. Each will listen to your circumstances and suggest an appropriate way forward. It may well be lawyer-supported mediation but there are other options that might suit you better.
In our last post, we emphasized the need to seek out senior lawyers and recommended family mediators to explain your options based on your circumstances.
Lawyer Supported Mediation provides access to this expertise free of charge to ensure you’re better equipped to determine what course your divorce and separation should take.
If this is the first Lawyer Supported Meditation post you’ve read, do contact us and we’ll set up a free of charge consultation with one of our senior lawyers and a recommended mediator.
Knowing your options around divorce and separation is a must but making that information work for you and your loved ones at a time of stress and uncertainty is of course a difficult task. Lawyer Supported Mediation hopes to be of some use.
Unless your circumstances require an immediate application to the courts, we strongly recommend you refrain from seeking the attentions of a family judge until you decide that there is no other way.
We don’t say this lightly. We’re well aware that anger and hurt often combine to make the reflex of seeking judicial satisfaction almost irresistible. But as our network of senior lawyers and recommended family mediators will tell you, barring extenuating circumstances relating to domestic abuse and financial impropriety, a judge has no interest in the circumstances that led to your relationship breakdown.
Issues such as infidelity, which often trigger divorce or separation, are of no consequence to a judge. This is because he or she will not be making any moral judgments about your relationship. Judges are guided instead by a clear set of principles as laid down by the law. You can read these online for free. And where children are involved, a judge will elevate their interests above everybody else’s.
Above all – as our network of senior family lawyers repeatedly tell us – the decision to risk a judge’s ruling sets the tone for divorce from the outset. Pre-court processes take several months to complete and the very process of collating information and documents does little or nothing to manage conflict and restore dialogue.
A good family lawyer will always try to negotiate a pre-court settlement in parallel but the very process of preparing for court restricts the same lawyer’s ability to leverage dialogue and think creatively. Pre-court processes are more about keeping the other party guessing and not playing your hand. It is, after all, for the judge to deliberate starting at the first hearing.
As we say elsewhere, the courts remain an invaluable recourse for those that aren’t compelled to call upon a judge from the outset. Because we believe that, chances are, other less adversarial and less expensive options, such as lawyer-supported mediation and collaborative law, are appropriate to your circumstances.
In our next post, we’ll explain them more fully and do our best to show why trying to restore and nurture dialogue – as difficult a prospect as that may be – is crucial to reaching a settlement you can both live with.
There are plenty of first-rate websites offering comprehensive information about divorce and separation. We’re happy to recommend them. But we believe learning about and exploring your options – at what is typically a fraught and emotional time – requires being listened to as well.
And it requires being listened to by experts in the field. This is why anyone contacting Lawyer Supported Mediationwill be offered a free of charge telephone consultation with both a senior family lawyer and a conveniently located recommended family mediator. Because until you’ve had an opportunity to discuss your individual circumstances with professionals in the field, it’s unlikely you’ll be aware of the appropriate choices available to you.
We’re passionate about this because how you decide to divorce or separate is second only in importance to your decision to part. The lawyers you instruct and the process you decide upon will impact upon you, your ex and above all upon any children involved. And this will continue to be the case long after an agreement or judgment is reached.
Of course, focusing on the future when the present is understandably all consuming is extremely difficult. Our network of lawyers and family mediators are there precisely for this reason and with Lawyer Supported Mediation you can speak with both free of charge.
It could well be that your circumstances require the immediate application of pre-court process. Our network of senior family lawyers in San Diego and throughout the USA – are all experienced litigators – and will advise you if this is the case.
But as the name suggests, Lawyer Supported Mediation– and the senior lawyers and recommended family mediators we work alongside – regard court action as a final recourse when less adversarial and less expensive options – appropriate to your needs – have first been considered and explored.
And it’s these options including lawyer-supported mediation and collaborative law that may hold value for you. There’s never a simple answer but we’re confident that after speaking to one of our network of senior lawyers and recommended family mediators, you’ll be better equipped to decide.
The first working day of the year is frequently termed “Divorce Day” by many a news editor looking to fill up some page space.
Whether “Divorce Day” actually exists is a matter of opinion but there’s no shortage of advice being published for those considering separation or divorce at the start of each year.
One such article was published by the Daily Mail and entitled “New year, new start: How to divorce with dignity”. It was by renowned relationship expert Francine Kaye and well worth a read if you have a moment.
The key point that caught my eye belonged to the section entitled “Stop the lawyers fighting” in which Kaye writes: “lawyers are trained to be litigators, not therapists, so they have to be reminded you are not at war”.
We agree this is a very important point since how you choose to divorce or separate is second only to the decision itself. But at lawyersupportedmediation.com we don’t think it’s up to the client to remind their newly instructed lawyer how to conduct themselves.
The sad fact is that any well-intentioned checklist of divorce dos and don’ts will always be easier said than done.
This is why we only Thiwork with senior family lawyers who recognise the importance of dialogue in reaching consensual agreements. It’s why we offer an approach called lawyer-supported mediation.
The approach provides the professionals that people need to manage the legal, emotional and practical uncertainties that divorcing entails. This resides in combining the complementary strengths of both lawyer and mediator to reinforce the prospects of securing an agreement both parties can live with.