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Divorce Choices

Hiring a Tulsa Divorce Lawyer

The Collaborative Law, or Collaborative Practice, is a way for a divorcing couple to work as a team with trained professionals to resolve disputes respectfully, without going to court. Each client has the support, protection and guidance of his or her own lawyer. The lawyers and the clients together comprise the Collaborative Law component of Collaborative Practice. This process provides a way for divorcing couples to maintain control over both the process and outcome of their divorce. It is a way for couples to move at their pace with support of a professional team who assist them in identifying their interests and goals and then help them to divide their assets and debts, create parenting plans and options for the new family structure after divorce. Components of a collaborative divorce require:1) clients negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using court to decide any issues for the clients; withdrawal of the professionals if either client goes to court; 3) the clients to engage in open communication and information sharing, and 4) the clients to create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both clients.
Keys to the collaborative process:

  1. Hiring Tulsa Collaborative Attorneys: Both parties must choose a specially trained family law attorney. For a complete list of these attorneys in the Tulsa area go to www.yourdivorcechoice.com.
  2. A commitment to the process: The collaborative law process can only be utilized if both parties choose to enter the process. This officially occurs when a participation agreement is signed by you and your spouse and both attorneys. The collaborative law process requires that each party disclose all financial information. Open and honest disclosure is the key to success of the collaborative process. There are Ground Rules to follow in the process and each participant must agree to abide by these ground rules.
  3. Interests and Goals: .It is essential in the collaborative process that each person be able to express his or her interests and goals as a new family structure is formed. By carefully identifying interest and goals the resulting settlement is something upon which both people can agree. The interests and goals are identified in meetings which include both parties and both attorneys. In these meetings, which are called “four-way meetings”, in which each meeting has a specified agenda. Minutes are taken so that any agreements reached are recorded for final settlement documents and homework is assigned for the next four-way meeting.
  4. Coaches: As part of the professional team in the collaborative divorce each person has a coach who works with that person during the process. The coaches are mental health professionals who have extensive training in the collaborative process and also with the dynamics of family law and the divorce courts and how they function. Collaborative Divorce Coaches are emotional experts. They understand blame, guilt, fear and anger, which are all normal feelings when a marriage breaks. Those feelings can, however, be destructive if they pour over to your family relationships and your divorce. The Coaches help you and your spouse move to a different level of communication to help the divorce process move quicker, less expensively, and less destructively. If you have children, the end of the marriage means a need for a parenting plan, and a new way to communicate that focuses on the children. The primary focus is empowering your family to grow individually and in their relations with each other. Your family is not ending, just restructuring. You will have meetings with your Coach, and then with your spouse and your spouse’s coach. All of you will work with the Collaborative attorneys to address problems that may be keeping the collaborative process from moving smoothly.
  5. Final Agreements: There is not a final order divorcing a couple in the collaborative process until both are in agreement and ready to finalize. The items included in the final decree are based on agreements reached in the four-way meetings.

COLLABORATIVE LAW PROCESS:

Collaborative Participation Agreement
Ground Rules for the Collaborative Process

The Collaborative Professional Team:

Attorneys: The divorcing couple selects attorneys specifically trained in collaborative law to assist them is reaching mutually agreed upon resolution by identifying their individual needs and interests.

Coaches: Coaches are mental health professionals who are trained in the collaborative law process. They serve to work with a client in dealing with the emotional aspects of the divorce and to help identify goals and interests so that the four-way meetings with attorneys are productive. Each client meets with his/her coach individually and, when necessary, there are four-way meetings with the clients and both coaches.

Financial Neutrals: Financial neutrals are utilized as part of the collaborative team when necessary to assist the parties in valuing assets and debts, businesses etc. and helping them create a marital balance sheet. In collaborative law the parties share a financial neutral as opposed to traditional litigation in which each party retains their own individual financial expert.

Child Specialist: A child specialist is utilized as part of the collaborative team when it is necessary for the child’s voice to be heard. The child specialist is a mental health professional trained in the collaborative law process who meets with the child to and can then assist the parties, the coaches and the attorneys in understanding the child’s perspective in the divorce.

THE LITIGATION PROCESS

Litigation refers to the process by which a matter is brought into a formal court setting where the outcome is often determined by a judicial officer, such as a judge or commissioner, after reviewing legal briefs and pleadings and after hearing oral argument at a court proceeding. In the traditional family law litigation model, each party is represented by an attorney and most issues are brought before the court through motions and court trials. Even in litigation, the parties strive to resolve issues in settlement both outside of court and within the court system

The divorce litigation process begins with filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and serving this documents on the other party usually via a process server. Once served, the spouse served with divorce papers retains an attorney and files a response with the Court. If the couple has children, in many Oklahoma counties, a court meeting will be set usually within three weeks of filing the divorce petition. In Tulsa County this court meeting is called the Parenting Plan Conference. This is often the first time the parties and their attorneys meet and exchange financial information and attempt to enter a Temporary Order Agreement. A Temporary Order Agreement is entered to ensure that financial obligation during the pendency of the divorce will be met and to ensure that both parties have access to their children.

The next step is formally called discovery. This is when each attorney requests necessary information from the other side so that issues involving financial settlement and children’s issues can be learned. Usually, after discovery is complete, the parties will attend mediation with their attorneys in an attempt to settle their matter. If resolution is not reached through mediation, the parties proceed to trial. There are no juries in a divorce or family law trial. The Judge decides all of the issues. The attorneys call witnesses and examine them. Documents are presented to the Court, and all the rules of evidence apply. While, we try to avoid the necessity of a trial, sometimes your spouse is simply so unreasonable that a trial may actually be the least expensive way of concluding the conflict.

I believe my role as your attorney is twofold: educator and conflict manager. As an educator, I inform you about the laws as they affect your life as well as the repercussions and consequences of a possible decision. I strive to keep you focused on the best interest of your children, as well as your own best interest. I educate you about your various options regarding settlement versus trial and, finally, help you refine your goals and objectives. As a conflict manager, I manage the conflict as efficiently and appropriately as possible. My goal is to help you work through the dispute in a way that is least detrimental to you and your family. I frequently tell people that it is silly to spend a dime to get a nickel. By this, I mean that I manage the conflict in a way that is economically responsible so unnecessary fees are not spent achieving certain goals.

Mediation

Divorce mediation is a process where separating parties come to a divorce or separation agreement with the help of a neutral third party – the mediator. Typically, the mediator – who does not represent either party – will meet with the parties together, facilitate communication where necessary, help the parties articulate their goals and creatively resolve the issues before them. Assuming the parties reach an agreement in mediation, generally the mediator will draft the agreement for them. In mediation, parties have the opportunity to negotiate their own settlement rather than have one imposed on them by the court or their attorneys. The parties stay in control of their own divorce or separation. Mediation works for parties who can take advantage of the fact that they know how they want their lives to look. For parties whose shared goals are to separate with dignity or to build a solid post-separation working relationship where there are children, mediation probably provides the most direct way of resolving their matter.