Where the issues are limited and the parties are somewhat cooperative (at least regarding the children and finances), a settlement can often be directly negotiated between them with the lawyer drafting the negotiated terms of a Martial Settlement Agreement and Joint Parenting Agreement (when requested). This means only one lawyer is formally retained to draft the settlement papers and quickly move the case through the courts. However, because of ethical rules, one lawyer can only represent and answer the questions of the spouse that contacted the lawyer first. The other spouse should protect his or her own interests by either understanding fully what they are agreeing to or hiring their own attorney to review the settlement proposal. The basic idea here is that the more complex the issues, the more each spouse may need their own attorney to be involved so that they each understand what they are doing.
Mediation & Collaborative Law
MEDIATION: The parties can also hire a mediator to meet with both parties and confidentially discuss their respective rights and obligations and suggest a resolution. Mediators are often former judges and other highly experienced family law attorneys. They are able to give each spouse a fairly good idea of what to expect if the matter is litigated and help formulate a settlement to avoid that. COLLABORATIVE LAW: This is where both parties hire their own attorney to negotiate an agreement before a divorce is filed. This works best for parties with very complex financial arrangements and/or business interests and a desire to keep divorce terms confidential. Often the attorneys jointly hire accountants and other experts to assist with sorting through and valuing assets. Issues like maintenance/alimony, pensions, business interests, numerous debts, obligations on prior marriages, taxes, complex calculations of child support, etc. are not always easily decided without assistance.