Tag Archives: Dissolution

How to Interact with Your Mediator

30 Jan

Have you decided to utilize a mediator to navigate you and the opposing party through your family law matter? Are you ready to come to an agreement but not sure what to expect and how to interact with your mediator? The helpful tips below can assist you in your upcoming experiences in mediation.

What will be the main focus of mediation?

  • The number one goal is to determine what is best for all parties, and when children are involved, the resolution of custody and support matters will focus first and foremost on the best interests of the children.
  • That the parties mediate in good faith with no secret agendas.
  • Each party remembers and adheres to the idea that mediation is not the place to make the other party look bad.
  • If one party becomes hostile or accusatory about unrelated issues, the other party should not buy into these issues. Instead, the non-accusing party should tell the other party, in front of the mediator, that he or she is there to talk about fair settlement of the marital estate and/or co-parenting only.

What should I expect from the mediator?

  • To stay neutral, reduce tension, and help both parties communicate.
  • Not to decide who is “right and wrong,” or force either of party to agree to something that makes him or her uncomfortable.
  • To explore options and creative solutions to settling the issues of contention.
  • Not to contact either party outside of the mediation in order to avoid being influenced.
  • To make each party aware that he or she cannot represent either party, give legal advice or provide counseling. This applies even if the mediator is a lawyer or therapist.

What are some other helpful tips for choosing and interacting with a mediator?

  • Before choosing a mediator, interview several about their training, experience, style, and fees.
  • Always ask if the mediator has experience in Family Law and your specific issues.
  • Be sure to choose someone with the training, experience and cultural sensitivity to help resolve your specific issues.
  • Know that choosing male and female co-mediators can help ensure gender balance and prevent perceived unfairness.

In the end, remember that negotiating agreements isn’t always straightforward. It may seem at times that the mediator is working on issues that should be covered at a different point in the process. Always be aware that you may need to gather additional information at various points. But the mediator should always help you to stay on track and consider new and unique options. A good mediator encourages each party express opinions, positions, and items of importance, and will help the parties listen to each other in ways that will make a resolution more likely.

Legal Separation as an Alternative or Precursor to Divorce

16 Aug

What is Legal Separation?

The term “separation” is frequently thrown about when a marriage relationship comes to an end. There’s moving out and moving on, which constitutes a physical separation. But there is another, more formal, form of separation. Couples who wish to have their assets and lives divided by law, yet maintain the status of a “married” couple can instead seek a legal separation. Legal separation allows these couples to separate their lives formally, but maintain married for religious, financial, or other personal reasons. This can be beneficial in maintaining health insurance coverage, or qualifying for derivative social security benefits.

As with a standard divorce, a person or couple seeking a legal separation must file a petition with the court and serve this petition and summons onto the other party. From this point, the couple may use the legal system to obtain property division and other orders, such as custody and support orders. However, a final judgment of legal separation will only be granted if both parties consent to it, or if the responding party does not appear.

How Does Legal Separation Differ from Standard Divorces?

Most importantly, when a party or couple seeks dissolution of marriage, the action will end in a termination of the marriage. However, along the way the marital property will be divided, as with legal separation. In this respect, the actions are similar. However, there is a major difference between these actions with regards to a standard residency requirement. With divorces, a judgment of final dissolution cannot be entered unless at least one of the parties was a resident of California for six months, and of the county in which the petition for dissolution was filed for the three months preceding the filing. This causes difficulty for new residents seeking to get a speedy divorce and to benefit from court orders relating to the case. In contrast, there is no residency requirement to seek a judgment of legal separation.

When Would Seeking Legal Separation be Beneficial to Me?

As stated above, any person or couple wishing to seek legal services to formally separate from his or her spouse, but remain married in status, should talk to an attorney about legal separation. If a person seeking legal separation later changes his or her mind and decides that dissolution is preferable, the petition for legal separation may be amended. All orders pertaining to the legal separation proceedings remain in effect once dissolution is sought, and will not be reopened.

In addition, legal separation can prove a helpful tool for couples who wish to obtain a judgment of dissolution, but do not meet residency requirements. In addition to the residency requirement, there is a mandatory six month period from the service of the divorce summons (or appearance of the responding party) before a judgment of dissolution can be entered. Coupled with the residency requirements, parties to a divorce potentially may have to wait a year before it can be finalized. These individuals can use legal separation as a tool for speeding up the process. By filing a petition for legal separation, and later amending the petition to seek dissolution once the residency requirement is met, a party can start the clock upon service of the original summons for legal separation. More simply, a judgment of dissolution can potentially be obtained six months from date the service of the summons for legal separation, not the later date of the amended petition for dissolution. Seeking a legal separation with plans to later amend the action also allows the parties to seek temporary orders in their open court case. This is particularly useful if there are custody issues, or either party is seeking support. Filing for legal separation will also place automatic restraining orders on each party, preventing them from disposing of any assets. This protects and maintains property for later division in the dissolution proceedings.

As always, individuals are urged to contact an attorney before making any decisions about the future of your marital and family status. For more information and potential representation, please call or email for your free thirty minute consultation today!