COLLABORATIVE LAW PROCESS:
The Collaborative Professional Team:
Attorneys: The divorcing couple selects attorneys specifically trained in collaborative law to assist them is reaching mutually agreed upon resolution by identifying their individual needs and interests.
Coaches: Coaches are mental health professionals who are trained in the collaborative law process. They serve to work with a client in dealing with the emotional aspects of the divorce and to help identify goals and interests so that the four-way meetings with attorneys are productive.
Each client meets with his/her coach individually and, when necessary, there are four-way meetings with the clients and both coaches.
Financial Neutrals: Financial neutrals are utilized as part of the collaborative team when necessary to assist the parties in valuing assets and debts, businesses etc. and helping them create a marital balance sheet. In collaborative law the parties share a financial neutral as opposed to traditional litigation in which each party retains their own individual financial expert.
Child Specialist: A child specialist is utilized as part of the collaborative team when it is necessary for the child’s voice to be heard. The child specialist is a mental health professional trained in the collaborative law process who meets with the child to and can then assist the parties, the coaches and the attorneys in understanding the child’s perspective in the divorce.
THE LITIGATION PROCESS
Litigation refers to the process by which a matter is brought into a formal court setting where the outcome is often determined by a judicial officer, such as a judge or commissioner, after reviewing legal briefs and pleadings and after hearing oral argument at a court proceeding.
In the traditional family law litigation model, each party is represented by an attorney and most issues are brought before the court through motions and court trials. Even in litigation, the parties strive to resolve issues in settlement both outside of court and within the court system
The divorce litigation process begins with filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and serving this documents on the other party usually via a process server. Once served, the spouse served with divorce papers retains an attorney and files a response with the Court.
If the couple has children, in many Oklahoma counties, a court meeting will be set usually within three weeks of filing the divorce petition. In Tulsa County this court meeting is called the Parenting Plan Conference. This is often the first time the parties and their attorneys meet and exchange financial information and attempt to enter a Temporary Order Agreement.
A Temporary Order Agreement is entered to ensure that financial obligation during the pendency of the divorce will be met and to ensure that both parties have access to their children.
The next step is formally called discovery. This is when each attorney requests necessary information from the other side so that issues involving financial settlement and children’s issues can be learned. Usually, after discovery is complete, the parties will attend mediation with their attorneys in an attempt to settle their matter.
If resolution is not reached through mediation, the parties proceed to trial. There are no juries in a divorce or family law trial. The Judge decides all of the issues. The attorneys call witnesses and examine them. Documents are presented to the Court, and all the rules of evidence apply.
While, we try to avoid the necessity of a trial, sometimes your spouse is simply so unreasonable that a trial may actually be the least expensive way of concluding the conflict.
I believe my role as your attorney is twofold: educator and conflict manager. As an educator, I inform you about the laws as they affect your life as well as the repercussions and consequences of a possible decision. I strive to keep you focused on the best interest of your children, as well as your own best interest.
I educate you about your various options regarding settlement versus trial and, finally, help you refine your goals and objectives. As a conflict manager, I manage the conflict as efficiently and appropriately as possible. My goal is to help you work through the dispute in a way that is least detrimental to you and your family.
I frequently tell people that it is silly to spend a dime to get a nickel. By this, I mean that I manage the conflict in a way that is economically responsible so unnecessary fees are not spent achieving certain goals.
Divorce mediation is a process where separating parties come to a divorce or separation agreement with the help of a neutral third party – the mediator. Typically, the mediator – who does not represent either party – will meet with the parties together, facilitate communication where necessary, help the parties articulate their goals and creatively resolve the issues before them.
Assuming the parties reach an agreement in mediation, generally the mediator will draft the agreement for them. In mediation, parties have the opportunity to negotiate their own settlement rather than have one imposed on them by the court or their attorneys.
The parties stay in control of their own divorce or separation. Mediation works for parties who can take advantage of the fact that they know how they want their lives to look. For parties whose shared goals are to separate with dignity or to build a solid post-separation working relationship where there are children, mediation probably provides the most direct way of resolving their matter.