The governor recently signed several bills related to family law practice and procedure. I have written a summary of the changes and updates for the New Hampshire Bar Association. You can read the entire article here:
Archive for the ‘Mediation Blog’ Category
Do you and your siblings disagree on what would work for your parents? Professional geriatric care management can provide objective information. It is the process of planning and coordinating the care of the elderly and disabled to improve their quality of life and maintain their independence for as long as possible. Health and psychological care are integrated with the best possible combination of services such as: housing, home care services, socialization programs, financial and legal planning.
A geriatric case manager can prepare a care plan tailored for your family member’s circumstances after a comprehensive assessment. Professional geriatric care managers accomplish this by combining a working knowledge of health and psychology, human development, family dynamics, public and private resources and funding sources while advocating for the individual throughout the continuum of care.
The care plan is modified when necessary based on the professional geriatric care manager’s monitoring of the effectiveness of the components of the care plan.
For more information, click here.
Hiring both a lawyer and a mediator will not double your costs, because the lawyer and the mediator assist you with different parts of the divorce. In a traditional (non-mediated) divorce, lawyers give legal advice, draft court papers, and negotiate or litigate the terms of the divorce. Mediation replaces the lawyer’s need to negotiate or litigate the terms of the divorce.
Negotiation or litigation, and the related process of “discovery,” are the most expensive parts of the legal process. By making the divorce decisions in mediation, you will save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in legal fees. In most cases the total cost for hiring both mediators and lawyers will be less than the cost of hiring attorneys alone.
You have substantial control over both mediator and legal costs. If you can reach agreements with your spouse, both types of fees will be less. If a traditional lawyer-negotiated divorce would cost you (in round figures) $4,000, and instead, you spend $2,000 on mediation (which you split 50/50 with your spouse) and $2,000 on legal services, your total cost would be $3,000. For $1,000 less, you have a better quality agreement and a better basis for your future relationship. Your actual cost will, of course, depend upon the fees charged by your mediator and your lawyer, the complexity of your divorce, the number of disputed issues, and the difficulty of reaching agreement.
Mom left the cottage at the lake to me and my two siblings. It’s been five years since her death and we can’t agree on what to do about it. Mary, who lives in Chicago, wants it sold as she uses it rarely and could use the cash. John, a bachelor who lives in Massachusetts, is a workaholic who gets to the cottage a few times a season. He doesn’t want to pay 1/3 of the cost. My children and I use the cottage at least half of the summer and a few spring and fall weekends. What can we do?
Mediation is a safe place to talk about and resolve issues about jointly-owned property. There are many options for meeting the interests of all three siblings; only the family can design the solution that fits best.
Mediation allows you and your spouse to make the decisions for yourselves and your child or children. A mediated agreement can be customized to your family’s needs. Many mediated agreements are substantially longer and more detailed than agreements drafted by lawyers. That is because the divorcing couple has more say in the mediated agreement.
A lawyer may criticize part of a mediated agreement by saying, “you don’t need this.” What is usually meant is “this is not required for the agreement to be legally adequate.” However, you may wish to retain this part of the agreement for your own purposes.
Perhaps the most important advantage of the process of mediation is that it is one of the two methods (collaborative practice is the other) that are the best preparation for co-parenting after divorce. It may be easier to have your lawyer negotiate your divorce agreement, but if you have a child, you and your spouse will need to communicate and cooperate in the future.
During the marriage, you or your spouse may have made the important family decisions. Or you made certain decisions, and your spouse made others. For example, one of you made decisions about the children and the other made financial decisions. In mediation, the parties make the decisions on divorce issues together. Each spouse explains what he or she wants and why. The mediator uses his or her training to see that both spouses participate in the process. The mediator encourages focusing on the future. The goal is to satisfy the needs of each spouse. (Another method using trained professionals to assist joint decision-making is collaborative practice.)
Mediation requires full disclosure of financial information, so that both spouses can participate in decisions about support, alimony, and property division. Each spouse must be willing to make this disclosure and then must be willing to speak up about his or her needs.
Couples referred to mediation by the court have, by definition, filed for divorce before reaching an agreement. However, most other mediation clients choose to agree first, then file.
This is a common issue in adult family mediation. A typical scenario: My sister wants to take away mom’s car keys. I don’t see how this would work: mom needs to drive, goes to the Senior Center, the doctor and shopping. Mediation is a safe place to discuss safely concern. Each family member has an opportunity to express his/her view of the situation. With the assistance of the mediator, the family brainstorms the options and considers the pros and cons of each. The result may be a family decision to stop mom’s driving and how to do it, to review the question again in a few months, or something else.
Whether the dispute is about divorce or the care of an elder parent, or something else, mediation is likely to produce a better result, sooner, and at less cost. By “better,” I mean a resolution that fits the problem, that the folks involved came up with and thus, are likely to comply with.
By participating together in mediation, the family members improve communication and perhaps even their understanding of each other. This is a good preparation for future family decisions, whether co-parenting or elder care or any other.
Lawyers provide valuable legal advice. Anyone facing a divorce, Medicaid planning, or other law-related dispute should consult with a lawyer. But asking the lawyers to settle the dispute will not be as good for the family as resolving it in mediation.
Parenting Coordination is a new dispute resolution method for divorced parents and other parents who have a parenting plan or other final order. The purpose of parenting coordination is to assist the parents in carrying out the parenting plan (or other court order about the children) and thus minimize the risk of returning to court. The long-term goal is enable the parents to co-parent without the coordinator.
There are 3 key functions of a parenting coordinator:
Parenting coordinators are appointed by agreement of the parents. The specifics agreed to become part of a court order that spells out the parenting coordinator’s role and payment of fees.
The arbitration (decision-making) power of the parenting coordinator is limited to disputes about carrying out the parenting plan and other minor parenting issues. The parenting coordinator may NOT change primary residence, the amount of child support, or other key issues that only a court may decide.
For more specifics on parenting coordination, see my website and The Parenting Coordinators Association of New Hampshire website.
Are you looking to change your New Hampshire divorce or parenting case orders? There are 2 possible routes:
1. Try to resolve matters with the other parent or former spouse.
2. Ask the court to change the orders.
Most parenting plans (required as of October 2005) and some divorce agreements state that, before going to court, the parties will try to work out any disagreement. Some say that they will seek the help of a neutral third party. See paragraph H of the court’s standard Parenting Plan.
If you agree on how to change the order, you may just file the agreement at court. (Since the court is a government branch, certain forms must be completed.) The court will approve the change.
If you are not able to agree on the change, even with the help of a mediator or other neutral person, you can file a “Petition to Change Court Order” available at or your local court. Paragraph 5 of this petition asks you to describe what you have done to resolve matters before filing the petition. If the parenting plan or agreement said that you would do this, the court may not help you until you do.