At Virginia Leen Law & Mediation Office, P.S. in King County, Washington, our goal is to help families overcome divorce and other difficult family law matters peacefully, while still achieving what our client needs and wants at the conclusion of legal proceedings. Please learn more about methods of dispute resolution below, and if you have a family law concern, please contact our office in Kirkland to discover how supportive, rational legal counsel can help in your unique situation.
All marriage dissolutions have at least a few things in common. Your family unit is dividing, and you need to decide how to provide the best financial and emotional support for your children. This means there are generally questions about how assets and debts will be allocated, and how your children will be parented. Below are some dispute resolution methods that can be effective in helping you address these issues:
Regardless of the size of the marital estate, some divorcing couples are able to work through the terms of their marriage dissolution quickly and easily. They discuss financial matters unemotionally. They either agree on how assets and debts will be divided or work with a financial professional to come to an amicable agreement.
Most likely, both partners in these situations have relatively equal bargaining power or have a high level of trust between them. If they have children, they trust each other regarding the safety and well-being of their children and are able to communicate effectively about day-to-day parenting issues. They either agree on a residential schedule or work out a schedule that is best for the children with the help of a family counselor.
Even in these cases, it is best for each party to seek independent legal counsel. An attorney should draft the final papers to ensure the intentions of each party are clearly communicated to the court. An attorney can also ensure that collateral documents, such as deeds and titles, are accurate and filed with the proper entity.
Virginia Leen Law & Mediation Office, P.S. provides simple and effective legal services to assist with uncontested dissolutions.
While some couples generally have good intentions and can interact civilly with one another, they either disagree about what is fair or do not know their rights under Washington law. They may not have equal bargaining power and are afraid of being shortchanged in the settlement. If they cannot agree on a parenting plan, they are open to guidance and willing to work with a family counselor or other professional to develop a residential schedule.
In this scenario, the choice of attorney will make or break the success of the settlement. Regardless of the size of the marital estate, two attorneys focused on low-conflict resolution should be able to resolve the issues. To do this, they may enlist other professionals, such as financial planners and family counselors, to provide neutral, third-party guidance to resolve disputes.
Collaborative law is a highly effective option for a divorcing couple seeking a low-conflict resolution. In a collaborative divorce, each marriage partner selects an independent attorney from within a group of trained collaborative attorneys. These attorneys are committed to staying out of court. Both the attorneys and the divorcing couple sign an agreement pledging they will not resort to litigation during the collaborative process. Financial documents and other evidence are exchanged informally and full disclosure is mandatory.
If, for some reason, the collaborative process does not result in a settlement, the divorcing couple must each hire a new attorney to appear in court. All discussions from the collaborative process are confidential and inadmissible in the litigation proceedings.
Essentially, collaborative divorce is a cooperative, rather than a threat-based approach. Each divorcing partner is encouraged to discuss their true needs and goals, without fear that it will be used against them later. The collaborative approach also includes the services of other trained and certified professionals such as financial advisors and family therapists who can coach the divorcing couple as neutral third parties if needed.
Firm principal Virginia A. Leen is a trained and certified collaborative law attorney.
Mediation is also an effective means of settling low-conflict dissolution cases. Unlike collaborative law, mediation is used in an adversarial situation. A neutral mediator is employed to try to bring together divorcing partners who are in opposing positions.
Divorcing couples can engage in mediation with or without attorneys. Often the attorneys are litigators being required by the court to try to reach a settlement prior to trial. They continue to fight for their clients to the fullest extent, but in a less formal setting.
Mediation is most effective when it is used early in the dissolution process, before significant time and money has been put into the litigation, accusations have been made, and bad feelings have been allowed to fester.
Virginia A. Leen is a trained mediator, and has successfully represented clients to full settlement in over 95-percent of her mediated cases.
FasTrack Divorce™ is a new and exciting hybrid synthesizing the best of these other dispute resolution methods. In a FasTrack Divorce™, both parties select a divorce attorney who has agreed to abide by specific protocols designed to achieve an efficient and relatively rapid resolution. Both attorneys bill at the same hourly rate, and whenever appropriate, the goal is to keep the case to between 20 and 25 billable hours, which makes the cost predictable and equal for both parties.
The FasTrack™ process streamlines the exchange of financial and other relevant information by having each party complete uniform worksheets and paperwork. The case proceeds to mediation and, if any issues remain unresolved through mediation, the parties submit to binding arbitration.
Litigation has been the traditional method of resolving family law disputes in this country. Many people think it is their only option in a divorce. Litigation generally involves two opposing divorcing partners. It requires formally written court documents, court appearances, and the possibility of time-consuming and expensive methods for obtaining financial and other evidence, called “discovery.”
Of all methods of dispute resolution, litigation is the least predictable. Attorneys do not guarantee results. The commissioners and judges are human beings, who have their own personal opinions and biases, and base their decisions on written submissions and a brief oral argument by the attorneys. Divorcing couples cannot control the outcome of a case once it has gone before the court. This often causes feelings of being helpless and/or unsatisfied with the result.
Sometimes litigation is inevitable, particularly when one or both parties cannot or will not find a reasonable middle ground, such as cases of domestic violence, mental illness and/or substance abuse. Even if you believe your divorce is or will become high conflict, it is worth looking into the possibility of low conflict options early on. With each side committed to staying out of court, and attorneys who have the same goal, even high conflict cases can be resolved through mediation or the collaborative process.