Alternative Dispute Resolution – Newburyport Law Collaborative
Karen Galat and Debra Quinn are both trained collaborative lawyers. They are each able to join a collaborative team or put one together if you are just getting started.
Advantages of Collaborative Law
Collaborative law is mediation on steroids. It is the newest approach to reaching an uncontested divorce. While both mediation and collaborative law are considered forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (as opposed to resolving a dispute in a courtroom) and both have the advantage of being less contentious and faster than a contested court case, there are some differences. Unlike mediation where the two parties work with a single neutral (a mediator), the collaborative process involves a team of professionals who work together with the parties in an effort to arrive at creative solutions that work best for all family members. While mediation can be done with or without attorneys, the collaborative law team consists of an attorney for each party, a neutral coach who acts as the coordinator and may investigate issues of custody and parenting time, and a financial neutral who can assist with child support, alimony, division of assets and debts and make recommendations as to tax matters. Ultimately the parties enter into a written agreement a court can find to be fair and reasonable.
Individuals who shy away from mediation often do so because, while a mediator can help the parties brainstorm various scenarios in arriving at their own solutions, he or she cannot give legal advice to either party. In a collaborative setting, while it is less contentious than litigating in a courtroom, the attorneys offer advice and advocate on behalf of their respective clients. If the collaborative process does break down, both attorneys are prohibited from becoming involved in subsequent litigation, so participants feel secure in the knowledge that information an attorney gains during negotiations will remain confidential.
Both mediation and collaborative law are good choices. Attorney Galat and Attorney Quinn recommend Alternative Dispute Resolution whenever possible. Whether you choose mediation or collaborative law, you are still making the choice to resolve your divorce cooperatively rather than fighting it out in front of a judge.
The Collaborative Process
If you and your spouse agree to try collaborative law, you must each hire an attorney who is a certified collaborative practitioner. Often the lawyers will agree on both a coach and a financial neutral. You and your spouse will start by each meeting with your chosen attorney privately. The coach may meet with each of you privately or together, depending upon your needs. The financial neutral may or may not meet with each of you as this individual often focuses solely on the numbers and sometimes is only a part of the team meetings.
Once the preliminary meetings have taken place, the coach will organize the first team meeting. In some cases, if enough preliminary work has been done, only one or two such team meetings may be needed before a Separation Agreement may be drafted. Then the two attorneys will complete the remaining documents and you will be ready to present them to a judge.
You and your spouse will be presented with a packet of completed documents together with the information that you will need to proceed on your own. This packet will include all the documents required by the court for you to obtain a no-fault, uncontested divorce, including a cover letter and envelope addressed to the Register of the appropriate court as well as instructions on filing your documents, the fee that must accompany them, where to go on the day of your hearing and what questions you might expect the judge to ask. The hearing will be very short, only about ten minutes, and 120 days after your appearance, your divorce will be final.
Cost of Choosing the Collaborative Process
The cost of the collaborative solution is still much less expensive than litigation, although sometimes more costly than mediation. However, if the team works quickly and efficiently, each party can complete the process knowing they have had four professionals look carefully at their finances, their plans for their children and their ultimate resolution and can rest assured the solution they have reached is the best possible for their family.