Just as no two marriages are alike, no two divorces are the same. While the same laws may apply, the facts of every case are different, and so are the personalities, relationship history, and goals of the two parties. The divorce may be a mutual, amicable decision, or one party’s fault may have led to the breakdown of the marriage. There may be minor children involved, or not. There may be business interests or significant assets to divide. The divorce may involve issues of international law. And the parties may both be reasonable and caring—or not.
In short, it is unreasonable to expect that a one-size-fits-all divorce process will adequately meet the needs of all divorcing couples. At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, our singular focus is on achieving our clients’ goals in their divorce. In order to do so effectively, we offer a variety of dispute resolution options depending on their needs.
Litigation is what most people think of when they imagine a divorce. It is the formal court process that leads to a divorce where one or more of the important decisions cannot be resolved by agreement. The process begins with the filing of a lawsuit, and ends with a trial if the spouses cannot reach a settlement beforehand. The great majority of litigated divorces do end in settlement. Those that do not tend to be drawn out and contentious, as well as costly. However, in some cases, litigation is the only way to achieve a fair and favorable outcome in a divorce, especially when there is a power imbalance between the spouses or one spouse is unwilling to deal fairly in settlement negotiations.
Because most divorces do settle out of court, many divorce attorneys lack courtroom experience. The attorneys of Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield are different. All of our attorneys have extensive trial experience, including in cases involving complex financial and child custody issues. Because we are confident in our ability to successfully litigate divorce cases, we often have leverage to negotiate a favorable settlement, particularly when the opposing attorney would prefer to avoid a trial.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) commonly used to resolve family law disputes. In mediation, spouses meet in a voluntary and confidential setting with a trained neutral professional, the mediator, who helps them identify and resolve issues in their divorce in a way both parties consider fair. The mediator is not a judge and does not make a decision for the parties. Instead, he or she facilitates discussion of the issues and options, so that the parties can craft an arrangement that works for their unique needs.
Because the parties reach their own resolution instead of having one imposed on them, the agreement typically serves their needs better, and they are usually more willing to abide by it. Mediation is usually much less contentious than litigation, which can help to preserve the goodwill between parties who may need to co-parent together for years after the divorce concludes. Mediation is also typically quicker, and less costly, than a litigated divorce.
The attorneys of Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield not only have decades of experience representing clients in mediated divorce matters, they are themselves trained family law mediators who have helped hundreds of individuals successfully mediate their divorces. This gives our attorneys insight from many different angles, as litigators, as counsel for mediating parties, and also as the neutral mediator. This allows us to identify and address issues and obstacles others may miss.
Collaborative divorce is another form of ADR designed to help couples dissolve their marriages with respect and dignity. In the Collaborative process, each spouse works with an attorney who has completed training in Collaborative practice. In this divorce process, the couple specifically and formally identify reaching a fair and lasting agreement as their top priority, above all others. As a result, all parties sign a participation agreement indicating that they will abide by the rules of the process. Those rules include voluntarily disclosing all information relevant to the divorce and using good faith efforts to negotiate a settlement. Should the parties choose to litigate their divorce after beginning the Collaborative process, they must be represented by new attorneys and must not use information learned in Collaborative divorce negotiations against the other spouse.
Collaborative divorce negotiations take place in a series of four-way meetings between the spouses and their attorneys. Because divorce is a financial and emotional event as well as a legal one, other professionals, such as a financial neutral, child specialists, and divorce coaches may be involved as needed. The participation of all professionals ensures that the parties receive the exact support they need, from the people most qualified to provide it.
Other advantages of Collaborative divorce include a less stressful, more dignified process; the divorcing spouses control the timetable and the outcome; and the fact that the process promotes respect and good communication.
The attorneys of Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield have guided numerous clients through the Collaborative divorce process. We are proud to be able to offer this and other forms of dispute resolution to our clients, and to help them choose the divorce process that most closely aligns with their needs and goals.
Negotiations follow their own customary rules and practices, just as other forms of dispute resolution. In addition, technical legal rules apply in the context of divorce negotiations. These rules can be related to when an enforceable agreement exists, the confidentiality of certain negotiation discussions, and even what specific decisions a court will respect and adopt. Often either practical and logistical considerations, emotional issues, or legal consequences will affect the leverage dynamics in a family law negotiation. The attorneys at Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield not only have received training in the theory of negotiation, they have years of experience successfully negotiating hundreds of family law cases, from very simple to incredibly complex. Just as every case is different, so is every negotiation. You can have confidence that your entire legal team at Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield is committed to achieving the best result for you, consistent with your goals and situation.
You might wonder why anyone would choose litigation without first trying ADR. In large measure, the reason rests with the individuals themselves. To succeed in ADR, the effort requires a proper mindset, a mutual good faith effort, and the desire to settle a dispute rather than to foment conflict. It also helps to have good legal counsel at your side.
Choosing the best route to resolve your family law issues can be a complicated decision. Because no two cases are the same, we invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation with an experienced member of our legal team before making your decision.