Why should I try to avoid trial in a Massachusetts divorce?

Celebrity divorces make it seem like battling it out in court is the norm, that it is the most effective way to get what you want. As with any other aspect of celebrity life, we have to remember that they aren’t always like us — despite what PEOPLE Magazine says.

Did you know that approximately 90 percent of divorce cases reach settlement before ever going to trial? It is a statistic reported by Forbes based on expert estimates. The truth is that there are very real benefits to avoiding court by settling, either through mediation, negotiation or collaborative divorce. One of the largest benefits? The amount of control that each spouse has over the outcome of the divorce.

Judges in Massachusetts make decisions about property division, spousal support and child custody based on specific state law. Although there are definite laws, it doesn’t mean that these are always clear. A judge has a lot of discretion in making decision, and there is no way to guarantee that the judge will make them in your favor.

When you and your spouse agree to a settlement out of court, you make the decisions. Yes, you are probably going to have to make some concessions, but you have a lot of control over which ones you are willing to make. You can spend time focusing on creating an agreement that is truly tailored to you and your family.

In addition, the cost of cooperation is more often than not much lower than litigation. The details of the settlement can be kept confidential. A final bonus? It can help you address the emotional aspects of divorce that often motivate decisions or requests. It can be cathartic or just less stressful.

Source: Forbes, “When Divorcing, Why Is War Often The Preferred Option?” Russ Alan Prince, Oct. 22, 2014

Mediation can result in binding orders for family law matters

When a Massachusetts judge decides how a family law matter should be resolved, that judicial officer will create an order that stipulates just how the parties must act with regard to the custody, support or divorce matter under consideration. A judicially created order is binding on the parties. This means that the parties are required to act in accordance with the terms of the order or they may face real penalties like claims of contempt of court.

The Massachusetts courts allow parties to use mediation to resolve their family law differences. As previously discussed on this blog, a mediation session brings opposing parties together before a neutral, unbiased mediator. That mediator does not represent either of the parties and does not advocate for a particular resolution to their family law dispute.

During the mediation session the parties can talk through issues to try to resolve their own problem in a hands-on manner. They are not subject to the mandates of a judge and can resolve their disputes on their own terms. If they are able to come up with a way to fix their problems in mediation, the terms of the decision are embodied in a settlement agreement.

In many situations the agreement that the parties make in mediation is considered a legal contract. Contracts bind people to their terms and often include enforcement and penalty clauses that explain what can happen if a party fails to abide by the agreement’s terms. In some situations a family court judge may adopt a settlement agreement as an enforceable order and give the order the judicial weight of a judge-made order.

Mediation gives people the power to settle their own differences. The agreements they make in mediation can be enforceable just as orders made by judges are enforceable. Both mediation and courtroom hearings can be appropriate ways to handle family law disputes.

Our law firm can help you mediate your divorce

The Walters Law Offices include in their practice the mediation of Massachusetts divorces. As prior posts on this family law blog have discussed, mediation is an alternative to a traditional court-based divorce. Individuals who wish to talk through the issues related to the ends of their marriages outside of the courtroom may benefit from working in the mediation process.

Mediation can address many topics that fall under the general heading of divorce. For example, child custody matters may be negotiated between the parties to a divorce in a mediated setting. Additionally, the financial aspects of a divorce, such as property division matters, child custody, and alimony, may be discussed during a divorce-related mediation.

Mediation is not always the best option for every Massachusetts couple that finds its marriage ending in divorce. Interpersonal issues that prevent the individual partners to a marriage from speaking openly and honestly about their divorce plans may inhibit the mediation process. However, any couple that desires to begin its divorce in mediation may, if necessary, move its divorce to a more traditional setting in the family courts.

The attorneys of the Walters Law Offices have represented clients who have pursued mediated as well as traditional divorces. They recognize that not all couples may initially be interested in mediating the ends of their marriages. However, parties who would like to learn more about what it truly means to mediate a divorce may always contact the firm for more information about this aspect of its practice. Understanding mediation as an ends to a marriage gives some parties options for controlling the way that they separate their lives from those of their soon to be ex-spouses.

Mediation can be an important option for divorce

Every married Massachusetts couple is unique in its own way. How the partners of a couple interact, how they make decisions and how they share responsibilities can vary greatly from household to household. Whether they have kids, what types of property they own and other marital factors can also set one married couple apart from its neighbors. Incidentally, how Massachusetts couples approach divorce can therefore vary a great deal as well.

Because couples and even the individual members of a single couple may approach divorce differently, the state provides different ways for spouses to negotiate their divorces. Most people know that a divorce may be litigated in a family law court with the assistance of attorneys. A divorce may also be negotiated through mediation with the help of a neutral party.

Mediation can have benefits as well as drawbacks. For example, while the cost of a divorce may be reduced when the partners are able to talk out their decisions in a mediated environment, some individuals may not feel comfortable working directly with their soon-to-be ex to hash out the details of their separations.

Couples who mediate their divorces may feel more confident in the outcomes since they made the decisions themselves, though couples who cannot work together and experience conflict may prefer the use of a family law judge to decide important issues for them.

What is important for Massachusetts readers of this family law blog to realize is that they do not have to follow the path to divorce that their acquaintances followed. They have options for divorcing their spouses and family law legal professionals can help them decide how best to address their pending divorces. The Walters Law Offices help clients pursuing divorce through both the courts and mediation. Our law firm’s website can provide general information to those who wish to learn more about their divorce options.

Characteristics of collaborative divorce

When a couple decides to end their marriage via divorce there are multiple ways that this may be accomplished. Some choose to go to court and litigate the matter in front of a judge. Others select arbitration, where the decision is made by a third-party decision maker. For some couples, mediation, where the couple gets to determine the outcome with the assistance of a neutral third party, is the way to go. In still other situations collaborative divorce is selected.

Readers may be wondering just what collaborative law is and whether it could be a good option for them. In this post we will address this question.

A collaborative divorce is designed to let the couple determine the terms of the divorce. When necessary, neutral professionals in a variety of fields may be called upon to provide guidance on matters affecting the outcome of the divorce. These individuals include: real estate evaluators, business valuators, mental health professionals, child specialists and financial neutrals.

There are multiple positives to this approach for couples who are able and willing to work through their differences. For example, because the focus is on working through issues together, couples are forced to communicate—an activity that they may have struggled with in their marriage. When children are involved this could bode well for co-parenting in the future.

In addition, the process takes less time than litigating the matter in court which in turn generally ends up costing less. For many who are starting a new chapter of life this is particularly appealing.

Divorcing couples interested in learning more about collaborative divorce should ask their lawyers about the process.

Source: CNBC, “Collaborative divorce can ease emotional, economic stress,” Deborah Nason, May 2, 2014

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