The time and cost that is entailed in litigating matters in the current court system is a concern to many clients, and there are other avenues available for those who are seeking to honor the years spent together in a marriage or committed relationship. It is possible for a couple to amicably decide their issues and to avoid the adversity of litigation in resolving matters such as property division and settlement.
When a claim is made for “Equitable Distribution of Marital Property” (also known as “E.D.”) a Mediated Settlement Conference is ordered by the court. In this process, the parties provide the court with an affidavit regarding the property held at the date of separation and the values of the property (a brochure outlining what to expect during the process of mediation is attached). In this type of mandatory mediation, both of the parties, as well as their attorneys are in attendance. Normally, the parties are required to split the cost of the mediator between them.
Other Options: There are other options available to couples who are separating. These options can include (but are not limited to):
1. Kitchen Table Approach
The parties sitting down together and working issues out between them and then having the agreement drafted into the form of a legal document known as a “Contract of Separation” and/or a “Property Settlement Agreement” by an Attorney;
2. Voluntary Mediation
Scheduling an appointment with a Mediator who can assist the couple in coming up with an agreement that satisfies their needs and then taking that agreement to an Attorney to draft into a “Contract of Separation” and/or a “Property Settlement Agreement.
The parties, with their Attorneys, enter into a “Collaborative Law Contract” in which all agree to use their best efforts to work out the issues of the division of property and other issues between them, without filing a lawsuit. The couple then will employ members of the Collaborative Practice Team, which is a group of Financial Planners, Accountants and others, to provide much-needed services for them jointly
This process is “agreement-driven,” since the arbitration starts out with an agreement between the parties to use arbitration to decide the dispute. Once the parties agree on arbitration, their decision is set out in an arbitration agreement. If there is a case pending, the agreement can take the form of a consent order. In general the arbitrator has the powers and prerogatives of a judge in receiving evidence, hearing testimony and reaching a decision.