By Debra L. Smith, Attorney at Law and Mediator*
During this COVID-19 crisis, while staying at home, you may decide to make some major changes in your life that involve family law issues. Where do you turn if you can’t get into court for a period of time? What are the best ways to get family law issues resolved amicably? What are five ideas for steps to take now? Who can you hire? Where do you turn?
First, determine what are some family issues you may be considering?
Some could be:
- You and your significant other may decide to get married and want to have a Prenuptial Agreement;
- You may be a parent, unmarried and want to work out a good parenting plan, financial plan and need to decide other important issues with the other parent;
- You are separated from your spouse or are thinking about separating to divorce and want to resolve it in a positive way;
- You are divorced and your income has significantly changed on a long term basis and you are trying to figure out the best plan going forward; or
- You need to figure out what is the best parenting plan to pursue for your children as you are divorced and the children are older now and the old parenting plan isn’t working well now.
Second, figure out what professionals do you want to work with?
There are different types of professionals trained in forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution who work on family law issues, who are lawyers, mental health professionals, financial professionals, mediators and others you may be able to work disagreements out with in an amicable and respectful way.
Third, determine what is the best process for you.
Can you negotiate the issues with your significant other, spouse or ex-spouse or do you need more help? Can you hire two lawyers who can try to negotiate a resolution? Will the lawyers you hire plan to go to court when the courts open for business as usual? Consider other options such as Collaborative Law and Mediation.
Collaborative law uses a team approach and meetings with lawyers, mental health professionals and at times, a financial professional working together to achieve an amicable resolution. It is private process. It may help maintain positive relationships between the parties after the collaborative law process is completed amicably. See https://lawdebsmith.com/collaborative-law.
Mediation uses a neutral professional with 30-32 hours of training in mediation. The process is private. The mediator is a neutral who helps the parties try to resolve matters amicably. The mediator does not make the decisions. The parties are helped by the mediator to determine the best resolution for them and the parties make the decisions. It is also a private process. It may help maintain positive relationships after the mediation is over where resolution is achieved. See https://lawdebsmith.com/mediation.
Fourth, what options can you pursue out of court while the courts are on a limited schedule and you can’t get into court immediately during this crisis?
Many professionals in Massachusetts can do mediation or collaborative law remotely. Here are a list of mediators who are members of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation: https://mcfm.org/find-mediator. Here is a list of collaborative professionals who are members of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council: https://massclc.org/directory.
Fifth, can collaborative law and mediation be done remotely?
There are professionals who have been trained in Mediation and Collaborative Law, who can help during this COVID-19 crisis by working on family law issues remotely. As long as all parties and the professionals have a secure internet connection, zoom,
Gotomeeting or another way of connecting remotely, matters can be worked out amicably using alternative dispute resolution such as collaborative law and mediation remotely.
So stay healthy, follow the federal, state and local protocols during this COVID-19 crisis and consider if you have a family law issue, to contact a family law professional who can work with you remotely.
*This article is not meant to provide legal advice by Attorney Debra L. Smith. It is meant for informational purposes only. Attorney Smith states that one should seek legal advice on their specific case.
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