Representation ( Full or Limited )
“Full” representation means that a party has retained an Attorney to represent them on all issues in the case, including negotiations with opposing counsel, preparation of all documents, and appearances in court if necessary. The goal of this representation is to obtain a mutually agreeable settlement of all issues reduced to a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) which is made a part of the Judgment. Where the case is settled in this manner they are referred to as “uncontested cases.” Unfortunately, sometimes a case cannot be settled and must proceed to trial of the issues: these are known as “contested cases.”
“Trial usually occurs in complex or highly emotional cases and can be very expensive. Trial often damages any hope of an amicable relationship between the parties after judgment which is especially unhealthy where children are involved. For these reasons alone trial is to be avoided whenever possible.”
“Limited Scope” representation means that a party has retained counsel on only specific issues and they represent themselves (in pro per) on all the other issues in the case. This frequently is seen in cases where one or more of the issues are too emotional or complex for a party to handle on their own, or where financial resources preclude a full retention of counsel. By way of example, a party could negotiate with the opposing party and/or their counsel on certain matters, but have their attorney represent them on specific other issues.
Mediation (Alternative Dispute Resolution)
A common and financially beneficial form of alternative dispute resolution is the process known as Mediation. While it is understood and even expected that there may be varying degrees of disagreement between the parties at the onset of a divorce, for the process to succeed, both parties must want the matter resolved fair and equitably and without having to go to court.
The Mediator, preferably an experienced Family Law attorney, is retained by the parties jointly as a neutral, not as counsel for either party. Each party therefore legally represents themself. The mediator’s job is not to provide “legal advice” but rather to inform the parties of the law particular to their particular circumstances, to identify their individual options, rights, and obligations, to foreseeable as many possible consequences from any course of action they choose to take, and then assist them in reaching equitable solutions and/or compromises.
Each party may retain consulting counsel on the side if they wish to provide the “legal advice” that the mediator is prohibited from doing. That said, the pleadings and written documents for filing with the court are prepared by the Mediator at a considerable savings to the parties.
Another form of Alternate Dispute Resolution is referred to as “Collaborative Law.” This is not a separate body of law but rather a specialized way of handling divorce negotiations. In this environment, each party has retained his or her own counsel to advance their best interests, but all have agreed to “share” information and ideas as to the best way to resolve the issues for both parties. Often outside professionals may be called upon to provide helpful information such as accountants, therapists, or actuaries. The incentive to finding a mutually agreeable solution is strong, in that if the parties are unable to reach agreement, each must dismiss his or her present counsel and retain new counsel to proceed with the matter in court.
“In my practice, whether as counsel for my client or as the parties’ mediator, I strive to find a common thread, to find the mutually beneficial solution, and to do preserving respect and dignity for both parties.”
Sometimes parties do not want or cannot afford to retain counsel but still want the necessary information to handle the case themselves. Having the benefit of legal advice with regard to Family Law matters can be critcal
“A very responsible and cost effective approach when only a little help is needed.”