Understanding the Benefits of Conciliation

conciliationConciliation is a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that is becoming more common in the United States and is used in court-affiliated ADR programs in Massachusetts.  Typically, the parties will seek conciliation following the commencement of litigation and identification of the disputed issues.  The conciliator meets with the parties and counsel and listens to each side explain what their desired outcome is and why they believe that outcome is fair.

The conciliator will then ask questions and may meet with each side and his/her attorney, or just the attorneys or just the parties or any combination thereof.  The conciliator analyzes the situation and using legal acumen and his/her knowledge of the particular judge assigned to the case, will help the parties reach resolution by helping each side to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their position.  The conciliator may make proposals for settlement and seek agreement from each side.

If an agreement in principal is reached, a short memorandum incorporating the basic terms is prepared.  One of the attorneys generally undertakes to draft a comprehensive agreement which is then signed by the parties and becomes part of a Court’s judgment.

There are several advantages to using conciliation rather than taking issues to the courtroom:

  • It is less expensive. Taking issues to trial can cost thousands of dollars.
  • It consumes less time. Issues handled by the court often get drawn out and postponed, making the process lengthy.
  • It can be more private.
  • In general, litigants who reach voluntary agreements are more satisfied with the process.  Leaving decisions to the Court can be unpredictable and a Court does not have the time to address nuances and details that may be important to the parties.

For more information about conciliation or other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution, contact Patricia S. Fernandez & Associates. Pat serves as a Conciliator (both privately paid by the parties or pro bono through court appointment) or as Counsel representing a Party at the conciliation. Our legal team is dedicated to helping you to choose the strategy that is right for you. Call (978) 681-5454 or Click Here to request a free 30 minute consultation.

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Active Duty Military Parents and Child Support

child supportAre you divorced and have been called to active duty with the military? If so, there are several factors to consider when it comes to paying your child support. The Child Support Enforcement Division (CSE) works with active duty parents to ensure that the child support remains paid in full and on time.

A few aspects to be aware of include:

  • If you pay child support and the payments are withheld directly from your paycheck, the CSE can transfer the income withholding from your civilian employer to the Department of Defense (DFAS) so that your child support will be deducted from your military pay. There may be some delay before the income withholding at DFAS goes into effect.
  • Your monthly income may be greatly reduced after a call to military duty. The change in income may justify a change in the amount of the child support order. Only a court can modify the amount of your child support order; however DOR can assist you in asking the court for a reduction.
  • If you are currently ordered to provide health insurance coverage for your children, your call to military duty means your existing insurance coverage will end. However, you may enroll your children in the military health care coverage TRICARE.
  • Your call to active military duty may require you to obtain a valid passport prior to deployment. The State Department will refuse to issue or renew passports to parents who owe $2,500 or more in past-due child support.

If you are currently paying child support and have been called to active military duty, please call Patricia S. Fernandez & Associates with any questions or concerns. Our legal team is dedicated to helping you take the right actions in your child custody case and we thank you for your service.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Mediation

1. What happens during a Mediation?

Divorcing parties work with an impartial third party or Mediator to reach an agreement on the relevant issues regarding their divorce.

2. Are we good candidates for a Mediation?

If you and your spouse have reasonable expectations regarding important issues such as child custody, child support, alimony and asset division, you may be able to settle your divorce with the help of a mediator.

2. How many times will the Parties meet with the Mediator?

The Parties meet with the Mediator as often as needed to draft an agreement.

3. What are the Mediator’s responsibilities?

The Mediator educates the Parties on the law, informs the Parties about what other couples and the courts have done in similar circumstances, and assists them in drafting a Separation Agreement.

4. Is the agreement binding?

Agreements reached through Mediation are non-binding and cannot be enforced in court. However, after an agreement has been reached, the Parties may present the agreement to the Judge in Probate and Family Court, and it will be entered as a binding agreement.

5. Can I have my own attorney review the agreement?

Yes, both parties are given the opportunity to have the agreement reviewed by their own counsel.

6. What is the advantage of using a Mediator?

Mediation is less costly and time-consuming than litigation.  In addition, couples who use a mediator are more likely to maintain a civil post-divorce relationship.
If you are considering Mediation, please call Patricia S. Fernandez & Associates. Our legal team is dedicated to helping you choose the strategy that is right for you.

 

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