- With respect, dignity, and integrity
- In a child-centered and family friendly way
- Using a customized process based on client needs
- With a holistic blend of legal, financial, parenting, and relationship expertise
- Focusing on equitable and sustainable solutions
- Limiting the scope of services to out-of-court problem solving
- When couples have resolved issues that must be addressed in their divorce, and they would like a settlement-oriented lawyer to draft all the necessary legal paperwork.
- When couples are working through a divorce mainly on their own, but would like the assistance of a neutral child specialist – a licensed mental health professional specializing in child-development and family systems, who focuses on helping families craft a child-focused parenting plan.
- When individuals completed a divorce some time ago and would like input from a neutral child specialist or neutral coach: a licensed mental health professional specializing in communication, relational and conflict-resolution skills, regarding family issues related to their children, or their co-parenting relationship, or ongoing communication with one another.
- One spouse (or both) would like a neutral financial advisor, a professional with strong financial acumen who can run calculations and options without investment in a particular outcome for either person, to assist in determining options for dividing property in a divorce, but are otherwise comfortable handling the divorce on their own.
- Clients who chose to start by working with a neutral financial advisor for a few sessions, may choose to have a child specialist help them on the parenting portions, and simply bring in the lawyers at the end to review and finalize the process.
- Similarly, a couple with relatively simple financial issues could work with a child specialist or coach at the beginning and bring in lawyers where needed.
- Clients who begin in the more traditional manner of starting with lawyers may either have the lawyers assist through most of the process or have the Lawyers “step back” while other team members assist with the majority of the work.
- Choose your process wisely. Study your options and know what you and your spouse want. I ask divorcing clients what would need to happen in your divorce so you could look back three years from now and say this was a successful transition for your family and you. Paint that picture for me. Be honest with yourself.
- If you want a knock down drag out divorce, you know the Katie bar the door kind or I will show him/her, or I will make him/her pay, a more traditional litigation process certainly fits that bill. Moreover, that bill will be very expensive. On top of that, someone else, a judge, will be making decisions for you since you and your spouse are not able to reach agreements on your own. If you think, you are going to win and be the victor you have already lost because there are no winners in divorce. Most judges tend to think the best outcome if they have to decide your divorce is one when both spouses equally share the pain and both spouses are somewhat dissatisfied.
- You may consider mediation. Most people have heard about mediation. Mediation can be less expensive than a traditional court based process. Mediators however, are not able to provide legal advice. This is true even if the mediator is an attorney. Sometimes couples choose to have their own lawyers present at mediation sessions to overcome the no legal advice dilemma. Mediators, even if they are an attorney are not able to draft/prepare final divorce decree documents. If a mediator helps you reach agreements, you, and your spouse take those agreements to an attorney to draft the final documents and that attorney can only represent one of you, not both spouses. I always encourage my divorcing clients to each have their own attorney when reviewing any final documents resulting from mediation. You may run into one or both of the attorneys encouraging you not to accept the mediated agreements or parts of the agreements. In my practice, I recommend to clients attorneys that I know and have worked with, are settlement oriented, and not inclined to escalate conflict in an already mediated agreement. That is not to say there will not be some tweaks here and there because there always are and for good reason.
Guiding Principle #1: The crisis of divorce should never become a trauma for children.
Although divorce will almost always be painful and difficult for children, it is entirely possible for parents to keep it from becoming traumatic. Children can be traumatized when trapped in an environment of high conflict, danger, abandonment or abuse. None of these words should describe a child’s experience of divorce.
Guiding Principle #2: Children must be kept in the center and out of the middle of their parents’ conflict.
It is understandable that divorcing parents will experience conflict with each other. It takes mindfulness and empathy for parents to set the kind of clear boundaries that keep their children from being drawn into the conflict. Being in the middle always impacts children negatively. It is toxic to use children as confidantes, ask them to take sides against the other parent or disparage the other parent in their presence. The decision to take the high road and not put children in the middle is one that parents will never regret.
Guiding Principle #3: There is such a thing as a good divorce for families.
Judith Wallerstein’s longitudinal research on the impact of divorce on children painted a bleak picture of negative, long term developmental, social, academic, emotional and behavioral effects. Wallerstein studied families who divorced in 1971, a time when family law was typically adversarial and divorce was socially stigmatized. In 1994, Constance Ahrens wrote The Good Divorce: Keeping your Family Together when your Marriage is Falling Apart based on her own longitudinal study. Ahrens found that when divorced parents could reduce conflict, communicate effectively, and co-parent cooperatively, their children did not experience long term adverse effects.
These children continued to feel a reassuring sense of family, transformed from under one roof to under two. With the right kind of personal and professional support, parents can make a healthy transition from a divorced couple to effective co-parents. Making this transition successfully makes a huge difference in the quality of life for children.
Non-adversarial methods of divorce undoubtedly enhance parents’ ability to create child-centered outcomes. Since 1990, there has been a sea change in family law, including models of collaborative practice, mediation and cooperative divorce. When divorce must happen, choosing a child-centered divorce process is another decision that most parents will never regret. For more information on Collaborative Team Practice, please visit the website of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Minnesota.
- Do you only work on divorce cases or do you practice other areas of law? If not exclusively divorce work, what percentage of your work is handling divorces?
- How long have you been working with divorce cases?
- How do you approach handling a divorce case? Tell me how you would proceed with a divorce case like mine.
- How many divorce cases do you typically handle in a year?
- What divorce processes do you use?
- During the past 3 years approximately what percentage of your cases have been:
- Would other people be working on my case with you? If so what are their qualifications and how is their time billed?
- What is your hourly rate and how do you bill for it? What exactly is billed besides your time? I.E. travel, copies, long distance calls, emails, etc.
- Do you require a retainer? If so, what is the amount? If I decide not to work with you will it be completely refunded?
- What do you expect from me as your client?
- What should I expect from you as my attorney?