The Divorce Process
How the Collaborative Divorce Process Works
- Determine the goals, interests, and concerns of both clients and their family
- Identify the issues that require resolution
- Gather and share all information necessary to make decisions
- Identify all options available
- Evaluate the options
- Make choices to develop a mutually satisfactory and lasting agreement
Details of the Settlement Process
We use a series of four-way settlement conferences during which the parties meet with their lawyers to discuss input from team experts, share concerns and brainstorm solutions. During these meetings, we share each person’s interests, needs, and values, consider settlement options and evaluate them for consequences. This process of open discussion helps diffuse the tensions that often surround matters of:
- Division of personal assets
- Division of debt
- Division of business assets
- Selling a home and other large items
- Maintenance, formerly known as alimony
- Legal separation and annulment
- Domestic violence and restraining orders
Attorneys are committed to negotiate until there is a resolution. Once the agreement is reached, attorneys write the Marital Settlement Agreement and develop court documents for signing. The divorce proceedings are closed at a final court hearing.
Many people ask if they can use a mediator instead of a lawyer in a divorce. In order to determine what is right for you, an understanding of the difference between Lawyer-Mediator and Advocate Attorney is needed. Typically, a mediator’s role has been to help parties find solutions to disputes from a neutral, third-party perspective.
Mediation is confidential and scheduled outside of court, so it aims to promote open, honest and unreserved discussion between the parties.
Mediators can benefit parties in a divorce by helping suggest constructive alternatives to the positions of each of the parties and to help to find a reasonable solution based on the presentation by both parties.
Lawyer mediators do not represent either person, but can draft all necessary legal documents and submit them to the court.
Ideally, a divorce or separation settlement will end in a mutual agreement with both parties satisfied with the outcome. However, whether attained through collaboration or litigation, sometimes post-settlement disputes arise that are significant enough to need the help of an attorney. Enforcing the settlement may become a problem or changes in circumstances may require modification of the settlement. In either case, J. Wexler Law s.c. has the experience and empathy to work with you to resolve the dispute, even if we did not handle your original settlement or trial.
A significant change in the life of one party to the divorce or separation can turn a good settlement into an unworkable document. It may be a sudden change in health or a dramatic change in income. One party may have to move out of town. Drug or alcohol abuse may enter into the picture. These and other changes in circumstances may justify the modification of your settlement.
We find the collaborative process to be particularly useful in arriving at modifications that respond to new situations. Open discussions of the facts, goals, and options usually lead to the best possible modification for everyone involved. Of course, there are times when things get more contentious and we are prepared to deal with that in court if necessary.
Common enforcement issues include nonpayment of child support, failure to pay maintenance, and refusal to adhere to child custody or placement orders. We have legal means to force the violator to meet payment obligations, such as garnishing wages and other court-ordered remedies. The needs of children are top priority and in custody or placement disputes, the court can force compliance.
Alternatives to Divorce
If the court determines that a legal marriage never existed, it can issue an annulment. When a marriage is annulled, spousal support may not be required. Division of assets and debt, and issues surrounding children of the marriage may be relevant to the court. Some of the circumstances that nullify a marriage include:
- One spouse is already married to someone else
- One spouse being underage at the time of the marriage
- Close blood relationships
- Mental incompetence
- Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Inability to consummate the marriage
- Lying about addictions or STDs
Legal separation may be an alternative for couples that are unsure about divorce. We also find that sometimes, a legal separation may be a negotiated solution to issues such as health insurance coverage that come up with collaborative discussions.
Just like divorce, legal separation involves property division; debt division; maintenance or alimony; and child custody, placement, and support. The difference is that with a legal separation, neither party is free to remarry. If a couple decides to get back together, the legal separation can be more easily dismissed than a divorce. The separation can be converted into a divorce at a later time.
At J. Wexler Law s.c., we will help you determine which option – divorce, legal separation or annulment – is the best choice for you.