Collaborative Law is a non-adversarial process of dispute resolution where each party has an attorney, there is a neutral coach/facilitator, and all involved have an agreement that the negotiation of the conflict will be resolved through discussions around a table (or virtual table), and not in a court room.
Each party has the benefit of the support, advocacy, and advice of an experienced attorney, while at the same time the shared commitment to joint decision making rather than decision making by a judge.
Collaborative Law began in the 1990s in the divorce context. It was developed as an alternative to litigation, which can be extremely financially and emotionally taxing on all involved. Sometimes, one or both spouses need to be represented by an attorney, and yet do not want the adversarial approach. Collaborative Law provides the ideal approach. As much support and protection as the parties and issues call for, without the involvement of an overworked system and third party decision makers.
Mediation is a non-adversarial process where the clients receive assistance from a mediator to have the challenging discussions necessary to come to an agreement to resolve their legal matter. For example, in my work as a divorce mediator, I assist people in understanding the process of divorce, helping them talk through the issues and come to a fair and reasonable agreement, and complete the paperwork necessary to file with a Court. If I am mediating a prenuptial agreement, I assist the couple in understanding the legal rights and obligations that marriage creates, and assist them in discussing what they might wish to do differently.
Self-determination, based on informed decision making, is the foundation of effective mediation. My goal as a mediator is to ensure that each party fully understands what information is necessary to make an informed decision, has the opportunity to think through the implications of that decision; and makes their decision freely and voluntarily.
As a mediator, I am a neutral. I do not represent any party. Depending on the legal rights and obligations that are at stake, my ideal mediation approach is for each party to have an independent attorney, who is used as much or as little as that party feels necessary – but certainly, for reviewing finalized documents.
I often serve in the role of the independent attorney for mediating parties.
FAMILY LAW PRACTICE
My family law practice is focused on finding the best conflict resolution process for each individual client and family. I have been trained in Mediation and Collaborative Law since 2008 and I devote myself to expanding and improving accessibility to peaceful conflict resolution for everyone, through providing and attending trainings, active participation in the professional organizations and communities, and supporting initiatives that promote peaceful conflict resolution.
How a family chooses to address such sensitive issues as divorce, child custody, parenting plans, alimony, child-support, property division and prenuptial agreements has long-term effects on the well-being of the spouses, the children, and close family relations. It is vital that potential clients understand that “peaceful” does not mean without conflict, without pain and uncertainty. Collaborative Law and Mediation are often ideal approaches for very tough, highly sensitive cases, because they both ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the parties involved.
In 2019, I joined the thousands of family law attorneys around the country (and the world) who have come to the conclusion that the adversarial legal system of Plaintiff versus Defendant makes little sense in the context of family law (except in very rare situations).
I was the 2021–2022 President of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. I was also one of twenty-one students from around the country and world invited to participate in the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals 2021–2022 Leadership Academy.
ESTATE PLANNING PRACTICE
In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.Benjamin Franklin
Regardless of wealth, an estate plan provides core protection in life. Whether you have young children to plan for, hope to prevent a lengthy probate process, or just want to be clear on how your estate should be distributed after you are gone — an estate plan is essential.
A health care proxy, power of attorney and advanced directive provides protection to you, in the event of incapacity, and wills and trusts protect your loved ones at the time of your death.
Estate planning has been a natural extension of my family law practice. It allows me to help clients do appropriate planning to avoid future pain and conflict. I love assisting clients in achieving the peace of mind that comes from thoughtful and deliberate planning.
Limited Assistance Representation (LAR)
In 1998, it became possible for attorneys in Massachusetts to unbundle their services. Lawyers have many different skill sets: Legal advice and counseling, legal representation and advocacy, legal research, legal writing and drafting, to name some. This freedom allows me to work with clients in specific areas, thus cutting legal costs. Perhaps you feel fine going to court and speaking before the judge, but you need assistance understanding the legal issues and how to craft the best arguments. Or, you only need help drafting the legal pleadings. Through LAR, you and I can have a limited engagement where I provide the targeted services that you require.
Attorney assisted negotiation
Sometimes, two attorneys with a non-adversarial approach, can help clients that cannot communicate, reach a negotiated settlement. I am happy to represent people in this situation, if a) there is a commitment to remain out of court, and b) the other attorney has training in mediation or Collaborative Law, or has a reputation for being reasonable.
Many family law matters that I have worked on over the past twenty years, even court-based cases, ultimately reached a settlement through attorney-to-attorney negotiation. The vast majority of cases that are court-based, even if they appear headed toward trial, ultimately reach a negotiated agreement. The parties usually do not want trial. The judge certainly does not want a trial. The attorneys can make or break the negotiations.