How to Choose a Family Law Process?

By John Goodwin of John G. Goodwin, Family Mediator/Collaborative Family Lawyer/Family Lawyer posted in Family Mediation on Monday, April 2, 2018.

As family law professionals, we are asked by clients for advice and recommendations on choosing a process. How are they to choose? At this point, we need to consider and discuss all process options including family mediation, collaborative family law (CFL), arbitration, lawyer – lawyer negotiation or litigation. And to do this, we need to be reasonably familiar with all of the processes in order to give helpful advice.

All of these processes are legitimate options for separating couples and can be described as such to clients but before giving advice, it is helpful to find out from the clients:

– the quality of the relationship (level of cooperation and respect) with their spouse.

– level of adult functioning / emotional – mental health status / communication abilities,

– the complexity of the issues,

– any difficulties experienced to date, and

– the level of responsibility and control they want over the process.

For most people, the decision, in its most simplified form, is based on how much they want their lawyer involved in the work to be done (collecting and organizing information about the relationship and the family finances, the negotiations, drafting agreements, etc.).

Where there are children, it is often advisable to involve a parenting mediator (a person with mental health / family relations background or other directly related experience) to deal with the child and family relations issues. Depending on their qualifications, such a parenting mediator can interview the children if necessary. If these issues are given priority and (ideally) resolved before or at the same time as the financial issues are dealt with, the spouses are often in a much better frame of mind to deal efficiently and effectively with the financial issues. This approach is appropriate, regardless of the process involved – whether it starts out with a financial mediation, CFL, lawyer -lawyer negotiation, arbitration or litigation.