Mediation presents the opportunity for both parties to work together in a conciliatory fashion to settle outstanding issues related to the dispute, whether it's divorce, custody or support modification, or issues related to family caregiving. The parties don't have to be in agreement to get started, but the goal of mediation is to settle disputed issues prior to going to court. Mediation enables the parties to fashion an agreement that is tailored to their particular set of circumstances, rather than having these personal decisions made by a judge.
While the primary goal of mediation is to come to agreement on dispute-related issues and craft an agreement acceptable to the parties and the court, through the process, parties often develop better communication skills, save time and money, improve their cooperative parenting efforts, and resolve their personal issues privately instead of airing them in open court.
Generally, mediation services are provided at the Holdsworth Law office, however, due to COVID-19 all mediation sessions are currently being done virtually through Zoom. After all issues have been resolved, we will draft an agreement to present to the court and assist in completing the other documents necessary to comply with filing requirements. The parties then attend the scheduled court hearing, in person or via Zoom, to discuss the agreement with the judge.
Perhaps you are or will be working with another mediator to settle your disputes, but you’re not sure what your rights are, you don’t understand some of the laws or processes involved, or you just need someone to go over the terms of the proposed agreement with you so you truly understand what you’re signing. It is critical that any agreement you sign be one you truly understand. Getting an agreement modified later is not always an option, so getting it right the first time is worth the extra time and effort invested in the process. We can work with you each step of the way so that you can go into mediation feeling confident and well informed and understand the terms of any agreement you come to.
For some clients, mediation is too intimidating and they want a lawyer representing them, but they don’t necessarily want to wage a battle in court. Even when the other party has hired an attorney and served divorce papers, a negotiated settlement may still be possible. In this instance, we will contact the other party, or their attorney if they have one, to attempt to resolve the differences in a more amicable, civil fashion. Typically, the parties and their attorneys meet to try to identify what can be agreed upon and what needs to be worked out.
Recently, due to COVID-19, negotiations are being done virtually. They then attempt to fashion a settlement of the differences that both parties find acceptable. An agreement will be negotiated and drafted and then filed with the court along with any other documents required at the time. While not every case will settle, parties who negotiate a settlement are able to make decisions regarding their lives and the lives of their family with an understanding of their particular circumstances, instead of having a judge make these decisions with limited insight into the family’s needs.
Limited Assistance Representation (LAR), also referred to as “unbundling” enables attorneys to assist clients on a limited basis, carving out a mutually agreed upon scope of representation. The attorney agrees to handle specific tasks or issues and the client will be responsible for other elements of the case.
The LAR attorney might provide only coaching and education regarding the legal issues being addressed. An attorney may appear in court with the client for some or all of the case. In other cases, the attorney may provide assistance with drafting court documents, financial statements and agreements. By unbundling the array of services often necessary to handle a case from start to finish, a client benefits from legal counsel while still participating in the case as he or she is capable. Parties who might not be able to afford representation for their entire case may now benefit from legal advice and save a substantial amount of money on legal fees.
LAR is designed to allow attorneys a great deal of flexibility regarding how fees are paid as well. Some services will be billed on a flat fee basis, others may be paid on a pay-as-you-go basis, and where retainers are still indicated they are likely to be drastically reduced. While not all cases are appropriate for LAR, it provides an alternative to the estimated 60% to 80% of self-represented litigants who are unable to qualify for free legal assistance and can’t afford full-service legal representation.
In this information age, the Internet and a plethora of self-help publications have empowered many consumers to take it upon themselves to handle all of their divorce and post-divorce needs. Unfortunately, the court system is sometimes difficult to navigate, the requisite documentation can be intimidating, and the rules of procedure can be confusing. An unintentional mistake can have serious, long-term consequences. Often, however, traditional full-service legal representation is cost prohibitive. With the advent of Limited Assistance Representation (LAR), attorneys can now offer varying degrees of support and counsel during the divorce process.
Lynn Holdsworth, a trained LAR attorney, is available to assist the divorce do-it-yourselfer with advice and assistance on an as-needed basis. While not all cases are suited for LAR, there are times that a client just wants help completing court forms or drafting agreements. In other instances, a client may not understand the proper procedure or what to expect in court. With LAR, we can help with specifically identified aspects of your case, while you handle the parts you feel comfortable handling. You can go into court feeling better informed and more confident, while avoiding the sometimes overwhelming expense of full-service representation. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, and you’re contemplating a DIY divorce, consider DIY Divorce Coaching. In many instances, DIY Coaching is well-suited for contempt and modification matters too.
In some instances couples are able to resolve their divorce-related issues amicably, without the need for lawyers or litigation. With Online Divorce, the client provides the necessary information to complete the forms required by the court and we prepare the documents. The client and spouse then present the joint petition for divorce to the Court for approval. Online Divorce allows clients the opportunity to obtain legal assistance with the sometimes intimidating and confusing paperwork, without incurring the expense of full-service representation.
Online Divorce is well suited for clients who have already agreed with their spouse on the major divorce-related issues such as financial assets, debt, division of personal property, child support and custody (if there are minor children involved, both parties must attend an approved Parenting Education Program prior to filing). Sometimes, couples have already separated and resumed life as “single” people and they just need to finalize the divorce with the Court. Perhaps there are a few minor details that need to be resolved. With our assistance, the client can better grasp how to proceed and work out the finer points with their spouse.
If you think Online Divorce might be right for you, call or e-mail us to discuss your case. If you both agree that your situation is well suited for Online Divorce, we'll send you an information packet, as well as a questionnaire and financial statement to complete. Your spouse will need to complete a financial statement as well. Drafts documents will be sent to you via email for your review and to share with your spouse. When the two of you agree they are accurate, final documents will be sent via email. You and your spouse then sign the necessary forms in the presence of a notary and return the completed packet by mail. We will file the petition and set up a hearing date. You and your spouse appear before the court, live or via Zoom, and address any questions or concerns the judge may have. You will receive an email prior to this hearing explaining what to expect on the day of court.
Thirty days after the Judge approves the separation agreement, a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue. The divorce will become final ninety days after the issuance of the Decree Nisi.