Finding the Right Process for You
Anna-Maria Pittella was admitted to practice as an attorney in the State of New Jersey in 1973. She became an Accredited Professional Mediator in 1997. She has also been trained in collaborative divorce since 2005. The main focus of her law firm is family law practice.
Over the years when I litigated divorces, I saw the emotional turmoil and financial difficulties of divorce litigants. A court order rarely offered finality and more often than not, more trips back to court. The courts and attorneys have struggled to find ways to assist families.
In the early 1980’s, family law attorneys began to volunteer their time to recommend settlement options to litigants by participating in a Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel. I became a Panelist to help. The program still exists and can be successful. However you will be in court for six to 9 months and, sometimes even longer, before you will appear before a Panel. That is a long time for most people.
Economic Mediation was introduced in to the Family Court in the early 1990’s. I became an accredited Economic Mediator. If you failed to resolve at the Early Settlement Panel, the judge sends the parties to mandatory Economic Mediation. You appear at mediation generally with your attorneys. The mediator assists in your discussions to encourage a settlement. If you have spent many months on different sides of an issue, hostility oftentimes impacts the ability to make good decisions. If you fail in court ordered mediation, you referred to a trial date sometime in the future.
Unfortunately, both of these programs come months after a complaint for divorce is filed. By then the parties are extremely hostile to each other. They have already spent a great deal of money and time away from work which many can ill afford to do. More importantly, children are often exposed to their parents’ worst behavior and suffer the consequences as many studies have shown. The message of the Family Court is clear. Judges strongly encourage parties to explore every opportunity to avoid a trial and a judicial decision. Parties are preparing for a trial that rarely happens, perhaps one in ten cases.
After serving as a Panelist and an Economic Mediator, I knew that DIVORCE MEDIATION in a private setting, not in the court house, before a complaint is filed serves couples better.
PRIVATE DIVORCE MEDIATION is a safe place for your discussions to build an agreement from the moment you start, not for the first time after many months have passed in litigation. You can determine your own outcome with guidance as to all the issues that need to be incorporated into a durable agreement. You then file for an uncontested divorce or no fault divorce with only one court appearance with a great deal less animosity. You will build a level of respect for yourselves and the agreement because you have done it yourselves in a private setting away from the court house.
On Family Collaborative Divorce Process
For some people mediation may not be the best choice. I realize no one process can serve everyone. I became involved in the movement to bring the COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE PROCESS to Monmouth County in 2004. A Collaborative Divorce Process offers couples the opportunity to engage attorneys who pledge to work with them solely to negotiate a separation or marital agreement. If either party withdraws from the process, neither attorney may continue to represent either client.
The thought of “losing” your family law attorney can seem daunting. In a Collaborative Divorce Process it can also act as an incentive for the client and the attorney to continue to move forward. The fact is that you each will have a collaboratively trained attorney committed to helping you reach an agreement without fear of threats or intimidation of a court intervention from the other attorney which so often happens in litigation.
Each participant makes a commitment to the process to use all their skills and tools to stay in the process and reach a durable agreement. The right people will be helping you and you will reduce your overall costs compared to litigation.
You may use the skills of a Financial Neutral for an objective analysis of your finances for a spending plan after separation, review of income or a business or other assets or liabilities.
When there are children you are assured that they are the focus of the process.
You may use the skills of a Divorce Coach to assist in discussions, reduce anxiety or diffuse emotions so meetings are productive. You will have the right person helping you formulate a parenting plan.
This team effort can greatly reduce the costs of a divorce and the time to reach conclusion.
Because this is a unique opportunity for a couple to work in a confidential and supported setting, I worked tirelessly with a group of my collaborative colleagues to promote the passage of the New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act, in effect in New Jersey since Dec. 10, 2014.