For those of you who are still all “doom and gloom” on collaborative divorce, here is yet another article talking about the benefits of the process. If you are thinking about a divorce or separation, you should start considering a collaborative divorce, especially if you have children…
The Holidays are hard enough for those of us that aren’t divorced. Figuring out which relatives you are going to see when, packing the car, getting the dogs to the kennel, coordinating the cat sitter, driving across the country to visit family…. and the list goes on and on. And I’m not divorced. It’s enough to give you a headache.
I can only imagine the stress and frustration that must befall one of my clients that has to do all this, and then execute an agreed-upon visitation schedule so that they can see their children in addition. What if the relatives they want to see are out of town, but their visitation schedule is set so that they must stay in town until after the holiday? Or vice versa?
The thought of not spending my entire holiday with my son is unbearable – but this is exactly what some of my client’s do every single year. Being a Mom or Dad is hard enough, even if you aren’t divorced. Most of the stress and the problems come from the fact that either or both parents are unable or unwilling to communicate with one another. Lack of communication between two separated spouses is a major problem, and the unintended victims are the children.
Divorce doesn’t have to be this way – in a Collaborative Case with Children, my law firm immediately refers our clients to a licensed psychiatrist/psychologist who can assist in developing a workable strategy for seeing the kids during the holidays. As an attorney, I’m really in no position to make decisions about what visitation schedule is in the best interests of the children – that job is best left to a professional who is trained to handle these issues – a child psychiatrist.
A child development specialist can help you and your spouse to learn how to communicate so that when the holidays come around, even if you can’t spend the entire time with your kids and your ex-spouse, you can certainly minimize or eliminate the level of animosity and hostility between everyone involved.
If you would like a recommendation to one of the therapists we work with, please call our offices at (919) 460-5422.
This is an all-to-common question, and although I have answered it several times in my “Ask a Lawyer” section, I thought I would answer it again here.
The answer to this question depends, unfortunately, on the financial circumstances of the person asking it. If you have a good job, the money issue may not be such a big deal. However, if you are not working and you don’t have any relatives or friends that can help you out, then you are going to have a tougher time.
The first thing you should do is stop, breath, and take stock of where you are, how you are feeling and consider your options. If you have made it to this website, then you are probably researching divorce lawyers, which is a good thing – you will in all likelihood need a good lawyer to help you through this.
Second, I would ask you to think about how you want to resolve this dispute. If you choose to hire a lawyer to help you with a custody battle, then you are looking at spending upwards of $15,000-20,000 to see this through trial. If you don’t have that kind of cash, then you should look at other options.
At the Hart Law Firm, we offer several other non-court options to help you resolve your case. In fact, with the exception of just a couple of open litigation files, we have moved our practice away from the court system and into our conference rooms to resolve our client’s disputes. The options we offer include:
- Divorce Consulting – If you and your spouse are able to talk through your differences and reach a resolution, we can assist you in drafting the legal documents necessary to settle your dispute.
- Mediation – If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement by yourselves about how you want to resolve your case, than we can mediate the dispute for you in our offices. Once an agreement is reached, it can be filed with the court and made into a court order.
- Collaborative Divorce – If your case is more complicated and requires more time, or you want your own attorney to guide you through the process, than we can assist by representing you in a collaborative divorce.
- File-It-Yourself – If you are really on a budget, and you need to get to court, but want to handle the case yourself, then we share office space with Carolina Dispute Settlement Services, who offers a low-cost File-it-Yourself clinic every Thursday. Fees vary depending on what you need done and your income level. If you can’t make it on a Thursday, then we can also assist you in drafting the legal documents you require to get your case moving.
- Divorce Assessment – If you are just beginning to consider your legal options, but don’t yet know what to do, than our Divorce Assessment may be for you.
- Separating Together Orientation – If you are willing to come in and meet with us, and you want to bring your spouse with you to discuss settlement options only (nothing substantive), than we can conduct a 1/2 our orientation that goes through all of the above options with you for a reduced cost.
Bottom line – there are a lot of options available to you that don’t involve costly litigation. Give us a call at (919) 460-5422 or fill out our contact form and schedule a meeting with Raleigh Divorce Lawyer James Hart to learn more about your legal options.
I guess these things aren’t quite official until there is a press release about it. Just announced – myself and four other Raleigh Divorce Lawyers have joined Separating Together, a Collaborative Family Law Practice Group in Raleigh, North Carolina.
All of us have pledged to restrict our law practices to resolving family law matters without involving the courts. According to the press release, “The attorneys guide both high and low conflict clients towards mutually beneficial agreements through the practice of non-adversarial, transformative conflict resolution and settlement negotiation, including collaborative divorce and mediation; thus, separation and divorce agreements are achieved with dignity, respect, privacy, and without going to court.”
Separating Together now consists of the following Raleigh Divorce Attorneys: Mark Springfield, Jeffrey Seigle, Martha Mason, Adrian Davis, Kerry Burleigh, Aida Doss Havel, Deborah Throm, Tré Morgan, and yours truly, James Hart.
One of the main reasons I chose to join Separating Together is that I have a fundamental problem with the way family law cases are handled in the courts. The court system is expensive, stressful to everyone involved (including the attorneys), and ultimately assists in tearing families apart rather than helping them to peacefully resolve their divorce. In the press release, Jeff Seigle, co-founder of Separating Together, says, “I was involved in the adversarial process where there was normally a winner and a loser. The spouses were left financially and emotionally bereft by the court system. They had not learned how to work together, so they had to go back to court to resolve additional co-parenting and financial support differences that arose over time.” I couldn’t agree more.
I personally have found that by when parties are able to work together in a collaborative divorce process, they are able to maintain more control over the the outcome of the process, whether we are discussing co-parenting issues, financial support, or property division.
Lots of attorneys advertise that they will handle a collaborative divorce. However, “a true collaborative divorce includes two specially trained attorneys, and the option of including co-parenting advisors, a child specialist, and a financial specialist. Without going to court, collaborative divorce provides a less destructive and more moderate process with a focus on the future well-being of the family.”
North Carolina has some wacky laws when it comes to divorce. They are not always intuitive, and sometimes they are downright unfair. One such example is a rule called the “McClean Presumption“. This rule deals with Equitable distribution in North Carolina, and the treatment of marital and separate real property (also known as land) and their treatment as “joint interspousal gifts“joint interspousal gifts.
Here’s an example:
Lets say that you own a house that you purchased before you were married. You worked hard and paid off your mortgage, and now the home is worth $,000. You get married and you and your spouse decide to start a family, but your house is too small for kids. So you decide to sell the house, and use the proceeds to put a down payment on a new house. Now your spouse wants a divorce, and is asking for 1/2 of the equity in the new home. Are they entitled to it?
Under the McClean presumption – they are. That’s because in North Carolina, if you took title to the new house as Tenants by the Entirety, then the down payment you made on the new house is considered a gift to the marriage, even if that was not your intent. Accordingly, your spouse would be entitled to half the equity, or $125,000.
Many other states would allow you to segregate out the money that you put into the house as your separate property, so you would keep the entire $,000. But not if you are getting a divorce in North Carolina.
Is it fair? No. Is it wacky? Yes.
However, all is not lost if you have made the mistake of transferring the equity in your pre-marital home into your marital home. Consider a Collaborative Divorce. In a collaborative divorce, the parties agree to not go to court. This means that while the law in North Carolina says that a judge must presume there has been a gift to the marriage, in the collaborative process you are able to engage in creative problem solving. You will probably not be able to keep all of the equity that you contributed, but in considering the cost to the other spouse of litigating that issue, you have the opportunity to make out better than you would in court. Just something to consider.
In response to my most recent blog post, I’ve received some questions about what taking my family law practice 100% Collaborative means for the remainder of my practice… Here are some of the questions I’ve received and my responses:
Does this mean that you’ll only do collaborative divorces? Actually, No. It only means that I won’t be litigating anymore family law cases as of the end of 2010. There are lots of family law cases that are not actually litigated, for a variety of reasons. Many people do not wish to litigate because of the stress, cost, time, or uncertainty involved in a litigated dispute. For this reason, many people choose to work out settlements on their own (often called the “kitchen table” approach), and then bring that settlement to an attorney to put into a formalized legal agreement. In addition, some people look for mediated solutions. Still other people want something similar to collaborative, but do not require a full-blown collaborative divorce. I will handle all of those cases – just none that end up in the courtroom.
You won’t represent a party unless the spouse has another attorney in your group? That is a great question, but the answer is also “no”. The spouse is free to choose any attorney they want, either within my referral network or otherwise. We recommend that the spouse choose an attorney within our network because we can be sure that no lawsuit will be filed that way. However, the opposing spouse is free to choose any other family law attorney to represent them.
Your clients won’t be using mediators? That is an inaccurate statement. Mediation will be part of my practice, but not the only option. Mediation is a great tool for certain clients to use when they can’t come to an agreement on several issues in their case. I will either conduct the mediations myself or refer the clients to outside mediators.
Will you still be doing divorce assessments? For now, the answer to this question is yes. However, the partipating attorneys at Separating Together also offer an “orientation” that both spouses can attend that will layout the different options for settlement – without going into the facts of the case. For more information on this option, please visit the Separating Together website.
Will you write up Separation Agreements from a mediated Memorandum of Understanding? Absolutely! Uncontested separation agreements are and will remain a vital part of my practice.