Welcome to Family Law Tip of the Week, a regular series on our blog where we offer tips on how to go through divorce and custody disputes in an amicable way. Divorce should always be a last case resort but if you are going through it, we want to provide some tips on how to survive it.
When you are going through a divorce and you are trying to keep matters amicable, one approach is to seek a single attorney who will moderate the dispute for both of you. Rather than each of you getting an attorney, paying higher fees, and working against each other (and doubling the cost to your marital estate in the process), you can choose one attorney to work with both of you to develop an outcome that is fair and reasonable for both sides. Negotiation will still ensue, but this one attorney represents both of you and will do their best to come up with a solution that makes it work without having to go to court.
This approach is rare for a few reasons. First, if the divorcing spouses do not get along to begin with, having a joint attorney is not likely to fix that problem. Unfortunately, many divorcing spouses find they cannot even have an adult conversation with the person that they are getting divorced from. It is going to be difficult to agree on an attorney and work together with that attorney or take their advice seriously.
Second, if either of the two of you have a protection from abuse order, either mutually or from one person to the other, you will not be able to communicate effectively with your attorney as the attorney will have to avoid being a go between for messages that are not legal.
Third and finally, though legal to proceed together with one attorney, it does, by definition, present a technical conflict of interest. The attorney can’t get the best outcome for either person if he is working to find the best compromise for both. And if the two spouses cannot agree after the attorney’s best efforts have been made, that attorney would be disqualified from representing either party in court on the divorce.
Having said all of this, having a single mediator assist you to work out a divorce can be a powerful cost-saving and stress-reducing measure. A mediator’s goal is to bring you together. An attorney/advocate’s goal is often to push you apart. The costs tend to be lower and having someone invested in finding a way to reach a solution that does not involve the two of you going to court will provide an outside force to hopefully resolve it with less fighting and trouble.
Additionally, if you have kids in the mix, having a mediator attorney work out a custody agreement can be a really good approach too. This attorney can help the two of you get home studies, meet with counselors, and do other things that you may have to do through the court process anyway. Reducing stress on your kids in this process is immensely valuable to their well-being and your family’s long-term health.
This is just one of many approaches that we recommend to clients to avoid making litigation more heated than it needs to be. The divorce and custody process is already painful enough to be involved in. If there is a way to reduce that, then we strongly recommend it. If you have questions about this approach or any others, call our family law attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm today for a consultation.