When divorcing, going to trial is often a last resort because it is costly, time-consuming, emotionally draining and you have no control over the outcome. With courts’ activities now limited due to coronavirus concerns and stay-at-home orders, we expect a backlog of court matters that could last for many months. If you have begun divorce proceedings and fear an impasse on spousal support, child custody, child support, division of property or other matters, what are the alternatives?
Here are five approaches that can help divorcing couples reach a resolution, avoid an expensive trial, and move forward despite the pandemic.
Kitchen Table Settlement
Couples work together to agree on terms both agree on. Both spouses have a voice in the process. This is often accomplished through the couple themselves. Both spouses should have qualified legal counsel to ensure that their best interests are protected. Once both parties are satisfied with the details, the draft agreement is submitted to the court to be finalized.
Couples may use a neutral, third-party mediator to help them resolve problems. Each spouse may work with his or her own lawyer as well. The advantages of this approach include being non-adversarial, letting couples keep their personal lives private, and being less expensive than litigation. A mediator might help the divorcing couple resolve just one thorny issue or several. It can be used to help arrange temporary agreements as well. The timeline is flexible–mediation proceeds at a pace that works best for the couple.
Attorney Assisted Mediation
This approach is identical to mediation, however, the mediator is in charge of the process but each spouse’s attorney is part of the process. The spouses, attorneys and mediator can be in the same room, or the mediator can move back and forth between spouses to help them resolve the legal issues.
The couple signs an agreement to resolve their issues outside of court. Each then hires a trained Collaborative attorney, who works with other trained professionals to help facilitate as needed with communications, finances, and parenting. The divorcing parties work through all of their issues until the case is settled. The collaborative approach sometimes can be lengthy, but is a good choice for couples who both wish to minimize conflict and stay out of court.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, attorneys, mediators, arbitrators, collaborative lawyers and other trained professionals are primarily working with parties using remote technologies such as teleconferencing and video conferencing. As courts in Missouri prepare to gradually reopen starting later this month, following the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent announcement, judges are being encouraged to continue using remote technologies as well, as courtroom occupancy will remain limited.
All of us here at Raza & Jones, LLC understand this is a challenging time for our clients. As a family law firm, under St. Louis County’s Order pertaining to COVID-19 we are considered an essential business, and we remain open and available to all our clients. Our entire firm is working remotely, using our Zoom account to meet with clients or speaking by telephone. We are committed to delivering the same high standard of compassionate, effective representation we’re known for, in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Raza & Jones, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions, or to schedule a confidential consultation, call 314-449-8830.