PRACTICES

Family and Collaborative Law

 

 

 

 

Divorce is a sensitive, complex issue which dramatically changes the lives of every individual involved — so when divorce becomes inevitable, you need legal representation that brings care, experience and deep knowledge to clarify and ease the divorce process.

At McNees Wallace & Nurick, we work with our clients to find creative, innovative solutions to the unique challenges of complex divorce. Our attorneys stand ready to provide you with the types of service best suited for your family’s needs.

The McNees Family and Collaborative Law Center offers you options in selecting the process through which your divorce is handled as follows:

  1. Litigation: Litigation allows the Court to make decisions for you and your family. Litigation is positional in nature and is governed by the rules and law outlined in the Pennsylvania Divorce Code and the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court will make determinations regarding child and spousal support, property distribution and child custody. This process is largely driven by the attorneys and the Court system and removes control from the litigants.
  2. Mediation: A mediator is a neutral individual who does not represent either party. The mediator meets with both parties to assist them in reaching agreements using a needs and interest based model of negotiation. Mediation allows both spouses to maintain control over the process and to make decisions for their family without Court involvement. Legal counsel is not involved in the negotiations themselves, but is retained to review and agreement reached in Mediation.
  3. Collaborative: Collaborative Law is a dispute resolution model in which both parties to the dispute retain separate, specially trained lawyers whose only job is to help them settle the dispute. All participants agree to work together respectfully, honestly, and in good faith to try to find “win-win” solutions to the legitimate needs of both parties. Collaborative Law incorporates the strength of legal representation with the strength of mediation to provide greater potential for creative problem solving and the creation of a true team spirit in obtaining the goals of the family.

 

The Collaborative Law Approach

Frequently Asked Questions

Can decisions regarding my children and custody be decided in a collaborative process?
Yes, in fact it is an option which should be given serious consideration. The collaborative process allows you and your spouse to make decisions about where your children will spend their time and how you will co-parent them. Most parents identify their greatest goal as wanting to make sure their children are healthy and taken care of. No one knows your children, and what is best for them, better than you and your spouse.   The Collaborative process allows you to consult with a parenting specialist on issues involving your children. These can span from issues regarding co-parenting schedules, children’s activities and even how your children are coping with the divorce.

How can a Collaborative Divorce benefit my family?
The process promotes communication between you and your spouse. Participants often comment that they begin communicating better than they have in years. When children are involved, better communication only enhances the parent/child relationships. The process allows families to decide which issues they wish to address and to prioritize those based on what is important to their family.

Is a Collaborative Divorce faster than other approaches?
The length of the process depends on the issues that need to be addressed. If you have parenting issues and economic issues to resolve, then the process will last longer than one in which there are no children and few economic issues. The process also allows parties to move at their own pace. If one or both need time to accept the changes that are unfolding, then he/she will have time to do that.

Can any lawyer handle a divorce using a Collaborative approach?
We have had special collaborative training so that we are fully prepared to engage in the process and provide you with the best possibility of an agreed upon settlement that meets your needs. We will only take a collaborative case if there will be another collaboratively trained attorney representing your spouse. We can certainly work with attorneys who “settle” most of their cases without collaborative training but we will not commit to a collaborative approach with an attorney who has not been trained. Doing so would be a disservice to our clients and our goal is to put your needs first.

What is a Collaborative Coach?
The Collaborative Coach is a vital part of the team. The coach focuses on moving both parties forward. The coach is a therapist who does NOT focus on how you and your spouse got to the point of divorce, but rather on moving you through the process. Coaches assist greatly in the communication dynamics of the team and in working on the parenting issues that couples face.

Can’t we just use one lawyer?
No, but spouses must have a separate collaboratively trained attorney. You will be represented by an attorney who will work with you to identify your needs and concerns and do their best to assure they are met with the resources available to the couple.

Benefits of the Collaborative Law Process

Team Approach: Your collaborative attorney will guide you to invite additional team members as needed.

  • Coaches:  Coaches are mental health professionals who remain neutral and  help divorcing couples through the process. They do not provide counseling, but rather keep the focus moving forward. They assist in identifying issues and with communication difficulties. Coaches can also assist with issues surrounding a couple’s children in the role of a parenting specialist.
  • Financial Professionals: These are professionals who may be added to the team to value an asset, assess tax implications or assist in other ways identified by your attorney.

Is Collaborative Law Right For Your Family?

Read the questions below, if you answer 2 or more of these questions with a yes, then you should seriously consider Collaborative Law.

I would like to be able to have a respectful conversation with my ex when the divorce is done?

I would like my children to be stress free when they see me and my ex together in the future at the same place?

I would like to place my children’s needs first?

I would like to keep my divorce issues private?

I would like to keep my divorce settlement private?

I would like to keep my parenting issues private?

I would like to keep my parenting solutions private?

I would like to maintain control of the divorce process?

I would like to develop my own parenting plan for my children?

I would like to plan for the future.

I own a business and want my personal matters to remain private

I am a professional in the community and want my personal matters to remain private

I don’t want the neighbors to know our personal finances and habits.

I don’t want extended family to know the details of our divorce.

Resources

The Collaborative Way to Divorce by Stuart G. Webb and Ronald D. Ousky, P.A.

Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes for Your Child by Isolini Ricci, PhD

Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move on with Your Life by Pauline Tressler and Peggy Thompson

Taking the War Out of Our Words by Sharon Strand Ellison

 

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