STUCK IN DIVORCE COURT? HERE IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO CUT COSTS AND AGGRAVATION!

Are you in divorce litigation?

Are you having second thoughts – time standards, discovery cost, no trial in sight? Enough!

You have complained to your attorney and your attorney reports that your spouse’s attorney has heard the same complaints from your spouse.  Your attorney suggests mediation or conciliation.

What is the difference between Divorce Mediation and Divorce Conciliation?

Mediation is an independent, voluntary, confidential process conducted by a mediator, who is neutral. The mediator will:

  • Assist you and your spouse in identifying and discussing those issues keeping the two of you from settlement.
  • Explore with you and your spouse various avenues to resolution.
  • Develop a settlement acceptable to you and your spouse.

The two of you will select the mediator. The mediator’s fees will be split between the two of you or paid as the two of you agree.

The major benefits to Mediation are:

  • The mediation is private. There is no report to the Judge.
  • The mediator will provide all the time you and your spouse need to work on a resolution.
  • Experienced mediators have settlement rates of between 85% and 97%.
  • If the mediation is in the 3-15% that fail, you and your spouse may enter a written agreement (stipulation) stating that all that was agreed to in the mediation shall not be litigated at trial.

The major negatives to Mediation are:

  • The Mediator is paid.
  • If the mediation is in the 3-15% that fail, the parties will have to return to the litigation process for the unresolved issues.
  • Since you are in litigation, you must get permission from the judge to “take a time out” for mediation. Your attorney will handle this.

Conciliation is a court related process in which a court appointed neutral (the Conciliator) assists parties to resolve their case by:

  1. Clarifying the issues preventing a settlement; and then
  2. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s arguments; and
  3. If the divorce cannot be resolved, then the Conciliator explores the steps which remain to prepare the case for trial.

The Court usually allocates two hours for the Conciliation session. The Conciliator is not paid, but there is an administration fee, currently $50.00 per party.

The major benefits to Conciliation are:

  • The trained Conciliator will assess your “side” and your spouse’s “side”. You will then be able to consider the assessment in planning your next step, e.g., trial or settlement.
  • The Conciliator does not get paid.

The major negatives to Conciliation are:

  • The Conciliation lasts a short time, contrasted to Divorce Mediation.
  • The Conciliator may report her/his assessment to the Judge and any opinion as to whether someone is not acting in good faith.

What should you do?

Statistically, 97% of divorce litigation will settle within days of the trial. That means, even though you and your spouse each paid an enormous amount of money to get ready for trial, it may never happen (97% of the time).

The sensible thing is to avoid more costs now, stop the litigation, and settle your differences in mediation or arbitration.

©2018 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

Divorce Arbitration is the Way to Go! So……

A decision of our Appeals Court, Gravlin v. Gravlin, is helpful for those facing divorce.

For collaborative divorce attorneys and divorce mediators, the decision confirms that arbitration is the viable alternative to court litigation for resolving a single issue or even taking the place of a full court trial.

In Gravlin, the Appeals Court acknowledged “… arbitration has long been recognized as a valid means of resolving disputes between divorcing parties.” This Blog has often praised the value of arbitration as an alternative to divorce litigation; with Gravlin, the Appeals Court stamped an imprimatur of sorts on divorce arbitration.

While arbitration is available to replace a public court trial, it is also available if collaboration or mediation reaches a deadlock (a stalemate on one or two remaining issues); then, it is time for divorce arbitration.

When parties follow a simple process, the Appeals Court promises a “… strict standard of review [that] is high[ly] deferential…” to an arbitration award.

What does the simple process involve? The simple process requires that:

  • Respective counsel advise each party.
  • Parties freely enter an Agreement to Arbitrate.
  • Parties knowingly waive a court trial and submit to arbitration.

If there is any trial court review of an arbitration award, the review will be limited to determining:

  • The arbitrator’s award was confined to what he/she was asked to decide;
  • The award did not give relief that is prohibited by law;
  • The award is not based on fraud, arbitrary conduct, or procedural irregularity in the hearing.

(In my experience, the selection of an experienced, knowledgeable arbitrator will result in a positive review and enforcement of the award.)

For collaborative attorneys and mediators, Gravlin is another reason to recommend arbitration for settlement stalemate.

For parties facing divorce or divorce stalemate, arbitration is an alternative to a costly, lengthy and publicly litigated trial.

*Anthony is a divorce arbitrator, collaborative attorney and divorce mediator. His office is in Salem.

© 2016 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

How to Save Real Money in a Divorce

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Arbitrator, Mediator and Collaborative Attorney ©2018

In every divorce there are non-law issues. Some are as basic as “Who gets the college chest”? or as complicated as “Where will the children primarily live”?

Attorneys and smart parties are now using professional neutrals (also called coaches) to resolve those issues that are not distinctively legal in nature.

A Financial Neutral expedites the process by analyzing the unique needs of your family, identifying tax provisions related to those needs and creating realistic plans to preserve family income and property.

The Facilitator Neutral expedites the process by helping you and your spouse precisely identify short and long-term goals.

Most experienced attorneys can do all that the neutrals do.  But, they do it at their regular rates.

Experienced divorce attorneys charge between $350.00 an hour to $450.00 an hour. Some charge more; some less. The important point is that the hourly fee of your attorney is the same whether your attorney is working on the “separation agreement”, a legal document, or who gets the college chest – a distinctively non-legal issue.

Experienced neutrals charge between $175.00 and $250.00 per hour.

Who can use Neutrals?  Parties in contested divorces are already using neutrals to do real estate or business appraisals. So why not other neutrals?  Parties trying to “work it out” on their own can really benefit from neutrals. The Collaborative Divorce Process  already uses neutrals.

Ginny Simon and Linda Cohan are Facilitator Neutrals. Diane Pappas is a Financial Neutral. The fees of these neutrals follow within the range described above. All three are experienced mediators – a plus.

 

HELP OTHERS TO KNOW You are invited to post this article on your web site, blog or social media.

 

DIVORCE WORKSHOP – Take the Next Step and Untie the Knot

knot

Getting Divorced? This half-day workshop on taking the next step toward untying the knot will cover the legal, financial, family and personal issues that are often encountered during the divorce process.

  • How do I get divorced and where do I start?
  • Is Mediation better and less expensive than Litigation?
  • Will I get or have to pay Child Support and Alimony?
  • What are Marital assets and how are they split? What about an Inheritance?
  • Will our children be okay? How do we tell them?

Our experienced, volunteer Family Law Attorneys, Divorce Coach and Divorce Financial Analyst will provide the knowledge and information you need to empower you through the divorce process with confidence and peace of mind.  The more you know, the better the outcome.

YOU HAVE OPTIONS – COME LEARN WHAT THEY ARE

March 11th –  9:00 am – 12:30 pm

The Barn at 10 Liberty Street, Danvers, MA – Exit 22 on 128

Cost $30 – Includes a 36-page Divorce Handbook

Pastries, muffins and coffee will be served
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The Divorce Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to make divorce more civilized and less traumatic for everyone involved, especially the children.

For more information and to register, please visit www.TheDivorceCenter.org

My Advice for Divorce Month

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Arbitrator, Mediator & Collaborative Lawyer

 

Divorce Month is almost here. In 2016, I saw one of the saddest, unnecessary, adversarial divorces ever. The cost in emotions, future harmony and money was enormous and unnecessary.

So again, I urge everyone who is facing divorce to consider seriously staying out of the public adversarial divorce system. It will hurt and it will hurt way into the future.

Staying out of the “system” generally means choosing one of two processes, either confidential mediation or confidential Collaborative Divorce. Take the time to read about these important confidential divorce approaches at The Three Approaches to Divorce.

If the two of you agree on only one thing, let it be that you will use confidential mediation or confidential Collaborative Divorce.

Hand in hand with the right approach is the right lawyer. Not all divorce lawyers are qualified to do divorce mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Mediation requires training and success. Collaborative Attorneys need to be certified. Believe me, this is not the time to go to your third cousin’s friend’s real estate lawyer.

 

For more information about Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce:

The Three Approaches – Graphically

The Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council

The Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation

The Divorce Center

Saving $$$$ When Facing Divorce — Financial Statements

looking-to-save

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos

In my over 25 years of helping people facing divorce, I have seen, in almost every divorce, a reoccurring client decision that results in wasting hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of dollars.

What is that decision? The decision not to read and follow the court’s instructions on how to complete the court’s Financial Statement.

In all divorce cases, the most important document is the Probate and Family Court Financial Statement.

In an “uncontested” divorce, the judge reads the Financial Statement to help her or him decide if she or he will approve the parties’ Separation Agreement.  I have seen judges, or their clerks, refuse to let uncontested divorce cases be approved because Financial Statements did not conform to the court’s instructions.

In contested cases, the Financial Statement helps the judge determine many issues, for example, the standard of living of a party, the needs of a party, and the honesty of a party.

In my office, and the offices of many attorneys I know, we do not complete client Financial Statements. No client of mine can ever say, “I do not know where that number came from, my attorney completed the Financial Statement.” Clients must complete their own Financial Statements.

The Probate and Family Court Instructions for Financial Statements can be found by going to my web site DivorcingOptions.com, then to RESOURCES, then to Long Form Instructions or Short Form Instructions.

There are about 13 to 15 paragraphs of instruction.

The instructions for both forms are accompanied by a self-calculating form for the user’s convenience.

Here is a list of the most ignored instructions:

  1. Fill in your name and address;
  2. Answer every question;
  3. If an answer to a question is 0 or none, enter 0 or none;
  4. All income and expenses are to be reported in weekly amounts with monthly figures being divided by 4.3;
  5. List all assets and present value.

Since the Family Court wants its instructions followed, my paralegal or I must point out what needs to be changed, in a client’s draft Statement, to comply with the court’s instructions.

Because clients are paying for time, the amount of errors and the amount of resistance (Yes, some clients resist the court’s instructions under the misbelief that the court will make an exception in their case.) can result in legal fees that are avoidable.

The take away:

The court’s instructions are few and clear. Taking the time to follow them can save you $$$$.