I’ve been practicing family law for more than a decade now. Several years ago, I decided to switch my practice from litigating cases to keeping couples out of court entirely.
What I do is called collaborative divorce, but I’m also a certified family court mediator. People often use the two terms interchangeably. I want to explain some of the differences between the two, with the hope that it will help you decide which approach you need.
Both collaborative law and mediation are in the same family, so to speak. They share the same goal of resolving family disputes outside of court. Both options give you, the client, the most control over the outcome of your case. However, they differ to the extent in which the parties are in agreement on their domestic issues.
Divorce is not always ugly. Sometimes, spouses are willing to cooperate to end their marriage very amicably. Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in the collaborative divorce process. Each spouse has his or her own attorney and all parties enter into a legal contract, committing to work together to separate assets and debts, decide on parenting time, alimony, and so forth. Sometimes, spouses utilize additional neutral third-party experts to help them, such as a financial planner to analyze their marital estate and make recommendations regarding an equitable division of assets.
In this scenario, I represent one spouse and advocate on that individual’s behalf. However, I also cooperate with the other side to make sure we’re all fully transparent, disclose all the financial details, and get the divorce resolved amicably and efficiently. In this approach, we all work as a team.
Mediation is different in that you have a neutral third party as a go-between for you and your spouse to help you resolve your divorce, generally in a one-day session. If you are litigating your divorce in North or South Carolina, mediation is required prior to a final trial, and a court will either appoint a mediator or both parties will agree on a mediator. If you and your ex are amicable, you can agree to mediation on your own, with or without attorneys participating in the process.
While I take many clients to mediation as their attorney, I also often serve as a private mediator for two spouses. In that scenario, I am the neutral third party. I help those who cannot come to an agreement on certain aspects of their divorce but who would still like to settle outside of court.
As a neutral, I do not advocate for either side, but I do try to help each spouse or parent see and empathize with the position of the other. Mediators cannot not give legal advice, either. They are trained to facilitate negotiations between the parties so that the parties can come to an agreement on their own terms. In both the collaborative process and mediation, you get to decide what works best for your family going forward.
Generally, parties will call my office and request one service or the other. More often, parties are confused about which option will work best for their family. If you are unsure of what you need, you can always call and schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation in detail and receive recommendations and legal advice.
No matter what role I play, my mission is to do divorce differently. I’ve successfully mediated and collaborated on countless cases and I’m grateful that families have walked away from this process as emotional and financially intact as possible.
If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
It seems a little strange to talk about commitment when you are contemplating divorce. If your marriage is broken, chances are you’ve decided you no longer want to make any commitments to each other. But if you’ve chosen to end things amicably through a collaborative divorce, you will need commitment to get you through this process.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to practice collaborative divorce. This way of divorcing is not like many of the divorces you hear about and like many of the divorces I litigated years ago. The amount of fighting between couples and the resulting impacts on their children became too much for me to witness. Those types of divorces devastated families – emotionally and financially. I decided years ago I wanted to do divorce differently. Now, I’m specially trained to help couples work as a team to separate their assets, decide child custody, and the like.
But this process is not just a promise to play nice.
It’s a commitment – a legal commitment to work together – and as such, it must be taken seriously. If things go awry, the consequences can be damaging.
When you choose a collaborative divorce, both you and your spouse (or ex-spouse, or soon-to-be ex-spouse) will work with your respective attorneys and with each other to resolve all issues pertaining to your divorce. All parties sign a legally binding contract, requiring both sides to act in good faith, disclose all required information, and be fully transparent with one another and the collaborative team.
Sometimes, couples will hire additional experts who serve as neutral third parties to assist with specific issues. For example, a financial neutral can analyze all of the assets and debts, make tax projections, and present a spreadsheet proposing how everything can be divided most equitably. A child specialist can provide input on what custody schedule might work best for the children. A divorce coach can ensure that the spouses stay on track emotionally during the collaborative process and each have the emotional and mental health support they need to tackle the legal problems.
Change of Heart
If all parties are working together as spelled out in the contract, what could go wrong? As you can imagine, divorces can be emotionally devastating. Sometimes, spouses start off in agreement until something happens that gives them a change of heart. They no longer want to be amicable. If that’s you, I would encourage you to reconsider.
If you or your spouse stop cooperating, you are legally in breach of the contract you signed to participate in good faith during the collaborative process. That means your likely next step is entering into litigation. Remember, you’re trying to avoid the courtroom.
Whatever work you’ve done will result in very little progress if the collaborative process terminates. If you end this process, you will have to dismiss your current attorney and retain a new one. If you have an outstanding legal bill, you’ll still have to pay it. If you’ve created any documents with your attorney or had any specialists involved, you won’t be able to take any of that work product with you to the next attorney.
Although there are many reasons to stay committed to the collaborative process, the aforementioned scenarios are two very good incentives for keeping your case collaborative. I’ve been practicing collaborative law for many years now. I’ve helped couples resolve their divorces outside of the courtroom – even when there’s infidelity or marital misconduct of some kind involved. Even in these emotionally difficult circumstances, two people can still work together to end their marriage peacefully and efficiently. I’m committed to helping you divorce collaboratively.
Will you be committed?
Our mission statement here at Dasher Law is “Divorce Differently.” We know your divorce can be different. Call us to set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
Sometimes, couples just want a friendly divorce. There are no shouting matches, no affairs, no bombshells. The couple has decided that they no longer want to be married and they want to divorce and divide their assets amicably.
If you’re in that camp, the positive news is that your divorce shouldn’t cost as much as a contested divorce. If you are both amicable but haven’t yet decided on custody schedules, assets and the like, a collaborative divorce is a great option
Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in the collaborative process. We keep couples out of court and work with both sides to resolve all matters pertaining to the divorce. The collaborative process is highly effective and has increased in popularity in recent years.
In the alternative, if you’ve both already agreed upon all aspects of your divorce, you may only need an attorney to write up the agreement for you. If you’re in this position right now, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Not All Attorneys Offer this Service
When you’re calling a law office, tell them you and your spouse have already agreed on the terms of your divorce and you need an attorney to draft the agreement as a scrivener. Ask if they provide that service. Some attorneys do not. While this service is straightforward, it may not be as comprehensive as you need, as the scrivener attorney cannot give you independent legal advice.
You're Not Legally Divorced Yet
Even though you’ve figured everything out amicably, someone still has to initiate the divorce proceeding with the court and file the appropriate legal paperwork. It’s not adversarial. It just has to be done in order for you to be legally divorced. You will either have to do that part yourself or pay an attorney to file and finalize the paperwork for you.
Divorce Takes Time
Drafting up a legal agreement may be the easiest and quickest part of the process for you and your spouse. If you agree on everything, you don’t waste time. However, your state may still have a mandatory waiting period before you can get legally divorced. In North Carolina, you must be physically separated for a full year before you can file an action for divorce.
If your attorney drafts a Separation Agreement for you and your spouse, the attorney is acting as a scrivener. He or she is incorporating the terms upon which you’ve already agreed into a binding legal document. If you have certain questions about the terms or someone has a change of heart, that attorney will not be able to give you legal advice. You’ll have to consult with and/or hire a different attorney in order to receive independent legal advice.
The total cost will depend upon a few factors; namely: the attorney’s hourly rate, how long it takes him or her to draft the agreement, and the communication (included requested edits) between you and the attorney. But, generally speaking, this service should cost significantly less than a traditional lawsuit.
A Consultation is a Good Idea
Every case is different and there may be nuances in your case that require more than just a Separation Agreement. Schedule a consultation so that you’ll know whether you indeed just need an attorney to draft the agreement or if you’ll need more. A consultation will also give you a better handle on the potential cost involved.
At Dasher Law, our mission statement is “Divorce Differently.” We want to help keep you out of court and give you the opportunity to move on to the next new chapter of your life. If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us to set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
How do I find the right attorney?
I’ve been practicing family law for more than a decade and from this side of the table, it’s an easier question to answer. But, from a potential client’s perspective, the answer can be more elusive.
I’ve worked with dozens of attorneys over the years, first when litigating family court cases and now exclusively in collaborative law. From years of interacting closely with my colleagues day in and day out, I consider many of them to be great attorneys. But how does a potential client know who’s good – especially if they’ve never dealt with divorce or the courts before?
What exactly is “good?”
Good can mean competent. All practicing attorneys should be competent. We all went to law school (which is rigorous, to say the least) and we’ve all passed at least one Bar Exam. But competent doesn’t necessarily mean exceptional or outstanding. Maybe you think a good attorney is an aggressive one. Conversely, you can find a highly skilled and experienced attorney whose style and approach does not align with your values. The real question is: how can you tell if an attorney is good for you? Here are my best tips:
Ask Around in Your Trusted Circles
I practice collaborative divorce, which essentially means I help keep couples amicable and out of court, so I’ll stick with advice about divorce attorneys. Chances are, you know family or friends who are divorced. You can start by asking them about their attorneys. Ask how their divorce process went and look at the outcome of their situations. If it sounds favorable to you, you may want to take their recommendations. You may also find that your friend has a friend who’s divorced, and they were happy with their attorney. Ask around and then do a basic internet search on that attorney to get as much information as possible. Knowledge is power.
Look for Specialties or Professional Associations
You have some options when it comes to divorce. If you and your ex are on good terms and you’re willing to divorce amicably, you will want to find an attorney who practices collaborative divorce law. We are specifically trained in this process. Look for an attorney who is trained in collaborative divorce or who has a depth of experience in alternative dispute resolution. Your city or state will likely have a professional association where you can find attorneys and resources online. Our attorney is a member of the Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals Group in North Carolina and the South Carolina Family Solutions Group in South Carolina.
If you prefer to litigate your case, you might look for someone who is a seasoned litigator. Some attorneys are board-certified specialists in family law. If you need someone with specialized training, you can find it. Otherwise, there are likely plenty of experienced family law attorneys in your area.
Check the Reviews
Reviews can be extremely helpful but…not all reviews are created equal!
Unfortunately, almost anyone can post anything online – even if they’ve never consulted with or employed the attorney they’re reviewing. But a solid track record of good, detailed reviews from former clients is a good sign. If possible, take the time to read the reviews to make sure that the way the attorney advises, practices, etc. is in line with your goals. I find Avvo.com to have more reliable ratings because of their stricter review guidelines. Reading reviews is a good start, but don’t let your research end there.
Consult With Your Candidate(s)
Nothing replaces meeting with an attorney face-to-face to get a feel for his or her demeanor, knowledge base, and approach to divorce. A consultation is a good way to see if you like the attorney. If you’ve whittled your list down to a good candidate, call his or her office and go in for a consultation. That meeting may be the confirmation you need to hire that attorney and move forward with your divorce.
Remember That There Are No “Winners” in Divorce
When I litigated cases, potential clients would sometimes ask how many cases I’d “won.” I can see why they wanted to know. Court is an adversarial process and if you’re fighting, you want to win. But after litigating cases and now actively staying out of court for years, I can tell you that no one ever wins in divorce.
Divorce starts with a loss. Even if a judge rules in your favor on one particular point, you’ve likely lost a lot along the way to get to that ruling. Remember that “winning” means different things to different people. If you’re curious about your attorney’s track record, ask. If you already know the judge assigned to your case, ask the attorney how they’ve faired in front of that judge in the past.
If you’re looking for a divorce attorney, I hope these tips will help you find the right one. If you want to divorce differently, I’m here to help. I’ve been practicing collaborative divorce law and have successfully kept couples out of the courtroom for many years. A peaceful divorce is possible. Call us to set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
If you’ve decided on divorce, chances are you’re already doing your research to find an attorney. If you’re ready to book your first consultation, you’re taking an important first step in getting your case resolved. I want to give you some of my best tips for getting the most out of your consultation so that you don’t walk away with more questions than answers.
Friend or Foe?
How do you want to resolve your case? Are you looking forward to taking your ex to court – or are you willing to resolve things as amicably as possible? Your answer will help you book your consultation with the appropriate attorney.
I practice collaborative divorce, which means both sides commit to resolving all their divorce issues out of court. It is generally more cost-effective than traditional litigation and helps leave families emotionally and financially more intact. I say this because if you are looking to resolve things peaceably, you probably don’t want to consult with an avid litigator. Likewise, if you know you’ll need to go to court, a collaborative divorce attorney may not be the best fit. Decide which approach you want and go from there.
Attorneys generally charge for a consultation, so know that ahead of time. You may need to save some money or plan for that cost in your budget. Consultations are usually an hour and can cost in the $300 range, but they could be more, they could be less. It will always depend on the individual attorney.
Clients book consultations for a variety of reasons. You may be contemplating divorce and want to know what your options are. You may already be in the divorce process and need an attorney to proceed. Whatever the reason, just know that an hour consultation can fly by. You’re paying hard-earned money. Don’t waste it. Keep the following in mind:
Have a list of questions – whatever they are. Writing them down will help keep you on track. If you’re not sure what specific questions to ask, ask the attorney about all your available options in your situation.
It’s OK to Get Help
Even in the collaborative process, divorce can be painful. Some of my best clients have been those who have sought counseling before seeking out an attorney. It’s not a must – but processing your emotions before your consultation may help you focus on the task at hand. You don’t want to pay an attorney solely to be your sounding board. You need legal advice for your divorce, a game plan, a way forward. You don’t want you to walk away from your consultation empty handed.
How Do I Know if It Went Well?
You should leave your consultation with a general idea of your options. You may not be able to address every detail of your divorce in one hour. But an attorney can explain your most pressing issues and talk about what to do going forward. If you need a second consultation, that’s ok. Some clients do that when more questions come up or circumstances change. If your consulting attorney addresses your questions, you feel satisfied with the advice you’re given, and you feel you’re a good match, then the consultation is a success.
Our practice deals exclusively with collaborative divorces. We have successfully kept couples out of court for years. It’s not traditional litigation. It’s different. That’s why our mission statement here is “Divorce Differently.” If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
If you’ve recently found out that your spouse has spent all the money, or that there’s “someone else,” let me first say: I know this is likely a very painful time for you. If you’ve decided to pursue a separation, you are not alone. Financial misconduct and adultery are two of the most common causes of a breakdown of a marriage. It may seem like a contradiction, but I’ve helped many couples resolve their divorces outside of court when adultery or bad behavior was involved. You may be asking:
If my spouse did me wrong, shouldn’t I take them to court to make sure I get a fair deal?
One of my most oft-repeated phrases in meetings with my clients is that there is no such thing as “fair” in divorce. I know that to be true based upon my years of training and experience in both traditional divorce litigation and collaborative divorce.
Suit or Settle?
Traditional litigation involves filing a lawsuit filled with allegations, going to court, gathering evidence, taking the witness stand, and so forth. Collaborative divorce is different. It’s a completely voluntary process where the attorneys and spouses work together as a team to separate assets and reach a resolution on difficult issues like parenting time, child support, alimony, and the like. Work together? A team? It may sound improbable. But it works.
If you commit to a collaborative divorce, it’s not just a promise to play nice. The collaborative process requires a legally binding contract requiring both sides to be transparent and act in good faith to resolve all pertinent issues. That contract helps keep you focused on the end goal: resolution.
The Money Factor
You or your spouse may be resistant to the idea of collaborative divorce. I understand. However, a court battle will most likely be emotionally and financially devastating. Litigating your divorce also places the outcome in someone else’s hands. A judge will take different factors into account when deciding what assets are left, who will get them, and how much time each parent will spend with their children.
That kind of a resolution may be difficult to accept. However, if you and your spouse can both work together for a greater good, the divorce will be in your hands. You both can decide what’s best for your family going forward – and doing so collaboratively is generally more cost-effective than litigation. This financial component is what gives many of my clients the incentive to resolve their divorces outside of the courtroom.
When adultery is involved, divorce can get ugly. In North Carolina, spouses can and do sue the “other” man or woman. Keeping your divorce out of court can protect both spouses from the pain and humiliation of spelling out all the details at trial. In my experience, working collaboratively can help both spouses transition into separation and divorce more peaceably and privately. I’ve represented spouses in contested litigation for years and now help couples stay out of court entirely – often when there is marital misconduct involved. I can tell you that collaborative divorce is possible and worth considering, even in these difficult circumstances.
Collaborative divorce attorneys like me are specifically trained in the collaborative process. I’ve been practicing exclusively in this area for several years now and I can tell you that it’s an ideal fit for many families.
If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
If you’re not familiar with collaborative divorce, I’m here to share a few insights with you based on my years of practice. You may hear the word “divorce” and think of mudslinging or being grilled by an attorney while you’re on the witness stand.
Collaborative law is so different. You may have already guessed, but collaborative divorce means the spouses and their attorneys collaborate. They all work together as a team to separate assets and reach a resolution on difficult issues like parenting time, child support, alimony, and the like. The collaborative process is completely voluntary but has proven very successful in keeping cases out of court, ex-spouses civil, and family finances in better shape. Collaborative divorce has significantly grown in popularity in the past few years. In our view, here are five advantages of hiring a collaboratively trained attorney:
1. Less Conflict
Divorce is hard. There’s no getting around that. But divorce can be much harder on you mentally, emotionally, and financially if you and your spouse are going back and forth in court. In the collaborative process, both spouses agree beforehand, in a legally binding contract, that they will commit to resolving their domestic issues out of the courtroom. When the spouses share that same goal, they’re often more committed to working through disagreements and getting issues resolved. Instead of being a team in marriage, they become a team in a different game.
2. More Privacy
Court files are public record. Anyone can go to the file room at their respective county courthouse and look at the most intimate details of a family’s breakup. Was there a cheating spouse? You’ll probably read all about it in the filings. Did a spouse gamble away all the marital assets? That will be in there, too. If you’re considering divorce, airing your most intimate struggles in open court can be like adding salt to a gaping wound. Maybe you just don’t want anyone to know why your marriage is ending. Maybe you don’t want anyone to know the balance of your retirement accounts. Whatever your reason, depending upon where you live, a collaborative divorce allows you to keep most of your private details out of the public record. There is no recorded testimony, no public accusations – just an agreement between two spouses on how their marriage will end. In North Carolina, if spouses successfully complete the collaborative divorce process, the only public record could be that of the legal divorce itself. In South Carolina, your agreement must be approved as an Order of the court and become part of the public record, but you and your spouse control the narrative and will not include any intimate details regarding the breakdown of your marriage.
3. Like-minded Support
Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in the collaborative process. However, most of us are not trained in child psychology or wealth and capital management. The great news is that if you are committed to the collaborative divorce process and you need an expert to help you figure out, for example, what parenting arrangement works best for the children, there are child specialists, financial planners, and divorce coaches who are also committed to the collaborative process. They can work together with both spouses (or one-on-one) to find a resolution to a specific issue – and they often charge less than the hourly rate of an attorney. These professionals are an excellent resource that can help give you more peace of mind knowing they share your same goal – a peaceful resolution.
4. Streamlined Process
The goal of the collaborative process is to resolve domestic issues as amicably and efficiently as possible. If both sides are following through with their commitment, both spouses and their attorneys are sharing all the necessary documents in a timely manner, there is open communication, and additional professional help can be attained easily by adding trained professionals to the collaborative team. This process eliminates what you often see in litigation: attorneys sometimes repeatedly asking for documents, subpoenas being issued to get more information, each side looking for their own expert witnesses to support their case, and so on. At Dasher Law, my colleagues and I work to streamline the process so that we can resolve your divorce amicably, efficiently, and equitably, and you can move forward with the next steps of your new life.
5. Cost-effective Approach*
I’m always leery when I see the * after a sentence. It means there’s a “but” coming. Let me first say that a collaborative divorce is generally more cost effective than litigation. When you have both sides working toward a resolution, they spend less time fighting. BUT – you and your spouse play a role in the final cost. If you work together, you will keep costs down. But if you start the collaborative divorce process and start having difficulties, your attorneys will have to walk you through those issues, which could mean a higher overall cost. My goal is always to help my clients resolve their divorces efficiently and as financially soundly as possible.
If you’re facing a divorce, I want you to know that there is hope that you can divorce differently. Collaborative divorce is an ideal fit for many families. If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
If you’ve ever driven by my office in downtown Matthews (or you’ve just spent the last few minutes exploring this site), you can’t miss our mission statement:
What’s your first impression of that statement? Is it refreshing? Confusing? Laughable? Maybe when you think of divorce, you think of a knockdown, drag out court battle. Maybe someone you care about has gone through a bitter, contentious divorce where both sides are slinging legal papers at each other at a rapid-fire pace. Maybe you’ve seen a dear friend have to tell a judge what his or her child does and eats and why they’re a good parent. Maybe you’ve only seen that kind of divorce in the movies.
Consider yourself fortunate.
The reality is that divorce is an unavoidable part of our world. I’ve worked in family law for more than a decade now. I’ve represented spouses in contested litigation for years and have now helped couples stay out of court entirely for several years. That’s why I can tell you definitively that you can divorce differently.
Divorcing differently doesn’t mean that spouses are best friends, that they want to split everything fairly and move on, or that they agree entirely about how they want to raise their children after they’ve separated. All of this can certainly happen. I’ve seen it. However, divorcing differently means you approach and execute your divorce differently.
At Dasher Law, we practice what is known as collaborative divorce because we collaborate with the “other side” to come to a mutually beneficial resolution. We help spouses essentially work as a team to separate assets and make decisions regarding child support, child custody, and alimony, using our legal expertise to advocate for a fair outcome.
When couples are willing to utilize the collaborative approach, it often saves a significant amount of money in legal fees because attorneys are not filing contested lawsuits, responding to allegations, gathering evidence, crafting trial notes and arguments, and the list goes on. Every time that attorney (or staff member) makes a copy of something, it costs you money!
Our goal is not only to help families come through divorce as financially healthy as possible, but also to help alleviate some of the mental and emotional anguish that comes with an us-against-them approach.
Divorce is hard. But it can be different. If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.