Our Goal and Our Practice
It is our goal to understand our clients’ priorities and address those priorities. It is very important to us to be accessible to clients as issues develop. We almost always are able to return a phone call during the same day or, if not, within twenty-four hours. We provide every client with copies of all correspondence and pleadings that come from our office or to our office because of the importance of keeping a client well-informed of the progress in their case. We are more than happy to speak with you if you would like further information. Please feel free to contact our office.
Collaboration, Settlement or Litigation?
In our practice, we do everything in our power to assist the client in coming to a negotiated settlement. One approach to arriving at a settlement is within a collaborative law context. This is where both parties agree to use a collaborative model, rather than an adversarial model, and agree to keep their case out of the court system. Each spouse signs a contract to maintain this commitment. For more information on collaborative law, please visit the Collaborative Law website at www.collaborativelaw.com. There are cases where, for a variety of reasons, settlement (at least initially) is not possible or appropriate. Some of these cases result in a court making all decisions after conducting hearings. Others eventually can be settled, at least on some issues.
If the parties do not want to sign a collaborative contract, their attorneys can attempt to reach a settlement through negotiation. In these cases, the clients must decide whether they wish to be directly involved in the negotiations, such as meeting with their spouse and the lawyers, or requesting that the attorneys handle the negotiation without the clients’ physical presence.
There are cases where a divorce lawsuit must be filed. Normally, these are cases where there is some emergency-such as a need for financial support, a withholding of contact with children, a concern for one’s safety, or the fear of dissipation of assets. Even when litigation is initiated, it is quite common for a negotiated settlement to be reached on at least some, if not all, issues. Regrettably, there are cases where a settlement cannot be reached, and the Court must make the decisions.
Once you have decided that you want to pursue a separation or termination of your marriage, it is important to become educated about all of your options and legal rights. We can provide you with this information, and assist you in making decisions that will best serve your needs.
To view a detailed video explaining the Collaborative Law process, click here.
The Well-Being of Your Children
In most cases, a client’s main concern is to insure the well-being of their children. All professionals agree that parents should do everything in their power to keep their children out of the court system. The people who know them best, their parents, should be making the decisions which affect their lives – not a judge.
Mental health professionals are often utilized to meet with the children or parents, to help in obtaining and presenting information concerning what is in the child’s best interest. Frequently, parents are encouraged to utilize mediation to negotiate agreements concerning their children. Until your children turn eighteen, or graduate from high school, all agreements are subject to change – including custodial arrangements, child support and decision-making.
Rights to Property and Support
In most cases, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are equally divided. Inheritances, gifts and pre-marital property are usually excluded. Spousal support may be appropriate depending on the circumstances, after considering earnings disparity, length of the marriage, need for education or medical problems. Child support may be ordered for children who have not turned age 18 or graduated from high school.
Rights Between Unmarried Parents
In a determination of rights between unmarried parents, the standard used by the court is the same as that which is used for married parents-deciding what is in the best interest of the child. A court can grant parents shared parenting or designate one parent as the residential and legal custodian while granting parenting time to the non-custodial parent. Matters concerning children of unmarried parents are heard in the Juvenile Court system rather than the Domestic Relations Court.
Selecting an Attorney
It is recommended that you work with an attorney whose primary practice is in family law. If you are attempting to select an attorney to represent you, it is a good idea to get recommendations from others who have been satisfied with their counsel. You may want to consider meeting with more than one lawyer in different firms. This may be helpful in assessing the type of person that you would feel most comfortable working with. You will want to obtain information about an attorney’s fee structure, their expertise in family law, and the attorney’s approach to representation. Trust your instincts and ask yourself if you feel listened to, understood and have confidence that this lawyer will handle your case with professionalism and skill.
We are available to speak with you over the telephone to discuss your particular situation and determine whether or not we can assist you. In our community, family law attorneys commonly charge a retainer fee to cover a certain number of hours of representation. We will discuss an hourly rate and retainer fee with you at our first contact. Following a telephone conference, we schedule an initial meeting. At an initial meeting, we typically will ask a client to bring financial information such as wage verification, financial accounts, retirement benefits, and debts (please visit our Resources page for a list of documents that may be needed). In the first meeting, we are able to discuss with a client their substantive rights, as well as their options in proceeding toward a separation or a termination of the marriage. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict, in any case, the length of time it will take, or the cost. The largest determining factor is not necessarily the complexity of the issues, but rather the cooperation of both parties as well as the attorneys.
Our goal will always be to obtain all the information that is needed to evaluate your case, to inform you of your rights and responsibilities under the law, and to advocate for you to achieve the best possible result.