No one can get under your skin like your own family; when you make the decision to separate from your partner or get a divorce, you may become entangled in legal disputes. Who gets the engagement ring? Where will the kids spend Christmas? Here are three types of family dispute you may need the help of a lawyer to navigate.
Separation and Divorce
The decision to separate or pursue a divorce is be a difficult one, particularly when children are involved. If you and your spouse are attempting to work things out through a separation, you may not need the help of an attorney. Separation does not involve any court proceedings or paperwork. However, you will need to inform your insurance provider, financial institutions, and childcare or schools of the change in your marital status.
If you or your spouse intend to be remarried, you will have to file for divorce. A lawyer can help you correctly file the necessary paperwork, negotiate the division of your collective assets, and defend your interests.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
After divorce or separation there are several other legal disputes that may arise, such as child custody agreement and division of financial assets and property. You may be able to handle these disputes out of court through alternative dispute resolution, or ADR. Out-of-court resolution gathers less attention, is less emotionally traumatic for your kids, and can be faster and cheaper than going to court.
Your mediator may be a social worker, psychologist, or lawyer. However if your mediator is not a legal counselor, you should consult with a family law attorney before attending the mediation. An attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities during mediation.
Mediation is intended to settle the dispute through mutual compromise and negotiation. If you come to a verbal agreement during mediation, have the agreement put into a legally-binding contract. If no agreement is reached, mediation will end and you may choose to pursue another form of ADR or take your case to court. Mediation is free unless you decide to hire a private mediator or legal counsel.
During arbitration, you and your ex-spouse will hire a third-party arbitrator to resolve the dispute. While arbitrators cannot grant divorce, annulment, or separation, you can authorize your arbitrator to make decisions regarding:
- child custody
- child support
- access to children and property
- division of property and assets
If you choose to resolve your dispute through arbitration, you must abide by the arbitrator’s decisions. Many areas require that you provide proof that you have sought legal counsel before arbitration can begin.
Collaborative Family Law
Collaborative family law is the newest form of ADR. In a collaborative family law setting, you and your ex-spouse and your respective lawyers will work together to decide issues of custody and property. Unlike mediation and arbitration, you and your ex-spouse work together without the buffer of a third party. Collaborative family law requires a higher level of cooperation than other forms of ADR. You are required to hire an attorney for collaborative family law proceedings. If no agreement is reached at this stage, you may decide to proceed to court, in which case you will be required to hire a different lawyer.
ADR should not be sought in a situation where your ex was physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive to you or your children before your marriage was dissolved. ADR is not possible in situations where exes are abusive, aggressive, or vindictive. If your ex-spouse has attempted to bully or overpower you in the past, forgo ADR for more traditional method of resolution.
If you and your ex-spouse are able to come to a fair custody agreement, you will not need legal intervention. After you come to a compromise, put the agreement into writing to protect your parental rights in the future.
If, however, custody terms are disputed, you will need the help of an attorney to defend your case in court. Donnell Iain T., a family lawyer in Markham, recommends seeking legal help as early as possible if you suspect there will be a custody dispute, especially if you fear that your spouse will try to abduct your children.
Legal disputes can be difficult, but having the help of experienced and professional legal counsel can make the process simpler and more efficient, reducing the emotional challenges for you and your children.