At Resolution Matters, our primary focus is working with clients who have experienced trauma in their family system. Using a thorough intake, we discuss the specific process options that will work best for the client’s needs. Often our clients are already pre-disposed towards mediation or collaborative law, and we respect their self-determination.
When parties decide that mediation is best, Attorney Shapiro may work with a therapist in conducting the mediation and developing a parenting plan. We often develop an interim agreement that addresses preliminary issues along with ground rules on how the family will conduct itself through the process. In a divorce context these preliminary matters may include housing, seeing other people, compensation if additional income is needed when the other spouse was the primary source of income. In a litigated matter this is called pendente lite or pending litigation. In a consensual process such as mediation this first step is achieved by negotiating an interim agreement that gives the family members a degree of certainty for the short-term while the longer-range negotiations take place with the mediator. If you contrast this with the legal system’s traditional settlement approach, a family may be in for a year or more finding dates, identify Family Masters, going through discovery and other legal motioning. By making the decision to use mediation, this is a wonderful opportunity for making a decision that is least harmful and least costly to the family.
If all parties are responsible, alert, and resourceful mediation may be an appropriate avenue to explore. As mentioned above, “party self-determination is a key component to a mediated settlement in any family dispute and of all the settlement approaches we may look at, it offers the greatest opportunity for growth and transformation.
If Mediation Isn’t Working To Resolve A Family Law Matter, Are There Other Complex Solutions Your Firm Will Try Before Litigating A Matter That Involves Trauma?
When we first talk to a client, they share concerns that they are aware of, along with other unknown concerns we point out. It is necessary to have a professional guide them through this process. At Resolution Matters, we go through what is called the spectrum of possible methods of resolving their case during the initial interview process. We view possible methods along a continuum, so that we explore various options with our clients. The client then decides how they would like to proceed legally.
If we look at the various resolution options from left to right, on the left is the least invasive. It is called the kitchen-table model and is often the preferred method. It means that family members are comfortable enough to sit around the kitchen table to discuss and work out some, if not all, agreements. If there are few arguments, there will be less time devoted to negotiating. This creates a more efficient and cost-effective process.
The next process moving along the spectrum is facilitation. This is usually a simple process, where Resolution Matters and possibly another lawyer would facilitate the agreements among the family members.
After that on the spectrum is mediation. Mediation can take on various shapes and sizes. It can adapt to whatever the issues are. In the case of divorce, Resolution Matters lawyers work with both parties to agree on financials, parenting plans, and other separation issues. We might need to bring in experts from various fields to assist with the agreements at hand. Experts might include therapists, parenting coaches, economic experts, and financial advisors.
Moving more toward the center of the spectrum is the collaborative law model. At the heart of the collaborative law process is the notion that all sides have individual representation of counsel. They sit down together and enter into a Collaborative Agreement laying out the procedural structure that will support resolution. One key aspect of the Collaborative Participation agreement is that if the case does not settle through the collaborative process, the lawyers will not continue into litigation.
The role of the parenting coach (trained psychotherapist) is critical in working with families experiencing high emotional intensity. In these situations a collaborative law process may be best suited having coaches at the table with the parties tends to ground and focus the conversation in a more constructive manner. This will always be the first option when family members have a high level of distrust, anger, and simply do not want to even be in the same room as the other.
One other advantage of the collaborative process is that the parties can come to mutual agreements that might not have been an option in litigation. It can be done in such a way that balances the delicacy of the family fabric, especially where young children are involved. This can possibly prevent family members from experiencing recurring trauma.
The next process along the continuum is called arbitration. This is often confused with mediation, but arbitration requires a third party to make either a binding or non-binding decision on a particular issue. Often in a divorce, arbitration is used around custody, since arbitration is a private matter. The advantages are that arbitration is done outside the court, is expeditious, and is up to the parties involved to select the arbitrator who they think is equipped and has the skill level to respond to the issue in question.
Litigation might be appropriate in serious situations, such as domestic violence. It is often a last resort or happens when the involved parties cannot be in the same room to work out an agreement. It is Attorney Shapiro’s opinion that working in the earlier stages of the continuum is preferable. It often saves the client’s time and money, while not exacerbating the client’s prior trauma as litigation might do.
For more information on Family Law In Maryland, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (301) 795-2444 today.
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