Mediation, Collaboration, Litigation
In many cases you may choose the route you take to settle your divorce. Northwest Family Law will guide you. We will outline your options, and we will decide which process you are comfortable with and will get you to where you want to be.
The sooner in the process we make that decision the better. Mediation and Collaboration have their own rules and procedures and it can be costly – in legal fees and emotionally – to change processes mid-stream.
It may seem overwhelming at first, after all you are being asked to make an important decision very early in the case, but we assure you we work together to ensure the decision is an informed one and fits you and your situation.
Mediation is an entirely voluntary process that avoids court. Instead of a judge, there is a mediator; instead of hearings, there are a series of conversations; instead of a judgement there is an agreement.
The goal, stated up front and reiterated at every step, is to arrive at a settlement, an agreement, which works for both parties.
Mediators use their expertise in conflict resolution to help both spouses engage in conversations in an open and effective manner – something you may not have been able to do for years. They also employ their settlement experience and knowledge of Washington divorce law so you can be assured that the settlement conforms to state law.
Please note that mediators can tell you all about divorce law and all its attendant subjects – child custody, alimony and the like – but cannot give legal advice. Both parties should engage independent counsel through the mediation process.
Collaborative law is the middle ground between mediation and litigation. Like meditation, collaboration is purely voluntary, both spouses must agree to participate.
For a collaborative process to begin, both parties, as well as their attorneys, must sign a written agreement, a contract, that they will each fully commit to resolving their differences through negotiations and will not resort, or threaten to resort, to litigation. Each party must retain a lawyer specially trained to handle collaborative cases. The spouses’ attorneys are involved in the negotiations under a clear mandate to resolve all differences only through discussions and negotiations.
Collaborative cases often also involve other professionals on the team, particularly divorce coaches, child specialists, and financial experts. Typically, these cases last just as long as a traditional divorce litigated through the court system.
Litigation is court. The parties’ attorneys submit the case to the court and begin the process of taking the divorce toward a trial.
This does not mean the case will or must eventually be heard and/or decided by a judge, controversies can be worked out and agreements made long before a trial date.
While the case is earmarked for trial and the attorneys will follow the court rules of procedure and conduct discovery, there is still ample opportunity for the parties to work out some or all of their issues.
Negotiations, however, must be conducted by attorneys.
The court, ultimately, determines the structure, length, invasiveness, and depth of the process. If the parties cannot work things out along the way the court will begin to make decisions for them. A judge will impose a decision based on their understanding of the matter.
That decision may not be what either party wanted and it will be, of course, binding.
Again, there are many ways to resolve your case. Some cases require a more aggressive approach; some cases require a more cooperative or collaborative approach. We will work with you to tailor our approach to your case to meet your specific needs and goals.