Most clients have three goals: They want:
1. A peaceful and fair resolution;
2. A resolution achieved as soon as possible; and,
3. To keep their financial and emotional costs to a minimum.
Are these your goals too?
When I went through my own divorce, I shared these goals. I too wanted to achieve a fair resolution in a timely manner and cost-effectively. As a result, our law firm treats our clients the way we would like to be treated if we were in your shoes. We help our clients achieve their goals.
Generally, there are three steps to resolution regardless of the process you choose.
First, you exchange the facts. Regarding property and support issues, this means exchanging proof of your assets, debts and incomes. Regarding parenting, you share your history of parenting roles, your future plans for the care of your children and other relevant facts.
Second, you need to negotiate a resolution. If you go to court, the judge may make some decisions but 97% of court cases are eventually settled by negotiations. If you are in Collaborative Practice you will share your core concerns and work to find a resolution that meets the core concerns of both parties.
Third, you need to put the agreement into a legally binding form. If you are in court, you will obtain a court order usually on consent. If you are out of court, you will sign a Separation Agreement.
There are six processes available to you. All of the processes include an exchange of facts, negotiations and creating a legally binding document. The best process for you depends on your circumstances. The process choices are as follows:
1) Kitchen Table: You and your spouse negotiate an agreement on your own. You then bring the terms of agreement to us. To make it legally binding, you still need to exchange disclosure. We can then create a legally binding separation agreement. Both spouses obtain independent legal advice before signing the agreement. This process works well if the issues are simple and your level of cooperation is high. It is the least costly process.
2) Mediation: You and your spouse work with an neutral third party who assists you to negotiate an agreement. Prior to commencing the mediation, you exchange financial disclosure. The mediator is neutral so cannot offer legal advice or express an opinion; the mediator assists you with negotiations. Once an agreement is reached, each party will receive independent legal advice and one of the lawyers will create a separation agreement. Mediation is a great process if you are willing to negotiate an agreement without your lawyer at your side and the issues are not too complicated. It is a cost-effective and efficient process.
3) Collaborative Practice: You and your spouse each retain your own lawyer and commit to negotiating an agreement without going to court. You jointly retain a family coach and a financial specialist so as to minimize your legal costs. The family coach will help you navigate through the emotional issues and develop a parenting plan. The financial specialist will help you exchange disclosure and resolve the financial issues expeditiously and cost-effectively.
The Collaborative Process is able to handle all levels of conflict and complexities. It is much more cost-effective than the court process and results in better, longer-lasting settlements. You keep control over the decisions being made and work together to find resolutions that meet the core concerns of both parties. At the end of the negotiations, you sign a Separation Agreement.
4) Lawyer Negotiations: You and your spouse each retain lawyers. Through the lawyers, you exchange disclosure and attempt to negotiate an agreement, eventually signing a Separation Agreement hopefully. The problem with lawyer negotiations is that there is no commitment to staying out of court. If your case settles, it is cost-effective. Often these cases end up in court which is very costly, slow and unpredictable.
5) Arbitration: You and your spouse each retain lawyers. You also jointly retain an arbitrator who is usually a senior lawyer. S/he is empowered to make decisions regarding your case just like a judge would do. The advantage to this process over court is that you can choose the arbitrator and you can stream line the process. The disadvantage is that you are empowering the arbitrator to make decisions affecting you and your family forever.
6) Family Court: You and your spouse each retain lawyers. You will usually attend court on several occasions before it is resolved. The Court Process can take 1 to 3 years to resolve. It is the most costly process and pits you and your spouse against each other. A Court battle can be harmful to you and your children. If you want to find a peaceful and fair resolution, in a timely manner and cost-effectively, you should avoid the court process. At Galbraith Family Law, we consider Family Court the place of last resort. If no other process works, we will represent you in court.
At Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation, we have experienced lawyers and clerks who are focused on helping you achieve a fair and peaceful resolution to your divorce and separation. We do so as quickly as possible while keeping the financial and emotional costs to a minimum. We can represent you in any process you choose and help you achieve your goals.
We treat you the way we would like to be treated.