How much will this process cost?
Each case varies, and fees are charged by the hour. Depending on how complicated the issues are, the level of conflict present, and how much professional time is needed to help parties reach an agreement, fees can vary greatly. In an average mediated case, without complexities, clients may need only two or three sessions with Tonya. Then, Cindy, our paralegal, prepares the legal documents at a reduced rate to keep costs down. We will help each family prepare a roadmap for their divorce using the most cost efficient process that meets the client or family’s goals.
What if my spouse or partner has already hired an attorney?
This may depend on whether the attorney has been retained and filed paperwork with the courts. Sometimes the other party agrees to take a step back and join the other party in trying to resolve their differences in mediation (or to hire a collaborative attorney versus a litigator). If paperwork has already been filed, this can be a little more complicated, but is still possible to reach a settlement out of court.
What happens if we are not able to reach an agreement?
A very high percentage of our cases settle during mediation with only 3% of all family law cases proceeding to trial (per a judicial study in Multnomah County). In the rare instances an out of court settlement cannot be reached, we will help you choose the best fit for a litigation attorney to move ahead with your case through the court system.
Is Mediation or Collaborative Method best for me?
This depends on the family dynamics, what legal issues exist in the case, and level of conflict. In many instances, mediation works well because both parties meet with Tonya as their joint, neutral mediator to sort through their differences (sometimes with the help of other professionals, depending on the issues).
In some cases, though, one or both parties need additional support or advocacy, and prefer to have an attorney to consult with. In this scenario, both parties will choose a collaboratively trained attorney and will not need a mediator. Tonya and another collaborative attorney will work together to guide the family through the legal process through a series of problem solving meetings with interest based discussion led by clients’ goals and needs.
What if we already have an agreement on everything?
This is often referred to as a “kitchen table settlement” and it is still usually the least costly method of divorcing or separating. However, there are many potential pitfalls or mistakes that can be made and not realized until years down the road, and potentially unfixable. We highly recommend at least one meeting with Tonya to review your agreement and help fill in anything missing or necessary to protect both clients’ rights and ensure there are no unintended consequences to your agreement. We can also assist with reviewing documents and/ or drafting documents for filing with the court.
How long does the divorce process take?
The timing of a divorce process is dependent on several factors: the complexities of the case, the individuals involved, level of readiness emotionally for both parties, and whether there is pending litigation; We have seen entire divorces from start to finish take as little as a week or as long as 3 years. As soon as both parties reach an agreement on all issues involved, our paralegal, Cindy Armony, will prepare drafts all of the documents necessary to finalize your divorce through the court. The drafting process typically takes less than a week. The drafts are reviewed by Tonya, typically either as mediating attorney, or collaborative attorney for one party, and then forwarded to both parties for them to review. If either or both parties wish to consult with an independent attorney at any stage, we can provide referrals and outside attorneys can review documents as well as an optional part of the process. As soon as the documents are acceptable to the parties, they make arrangements to sign the documents and we electronically file them with the court. Depending on the county (especially during COVID) it typically takes a couple of weeks to a month (or longer occasionally) for the judge to approve and sign the Stipulated General Judgment and finalize their divorce or legal separation.
What is the difference between a legal separation and getting divorced?
In some instances, couples are ready to separate legally but not yet ready to be divorced. This occurs most often when one of the parties wishes to remain on the other party’s health insurance or sometimes for personal, religious, or cultural reasons. We can help parties divide their assets and debts, reach agreements on child related issues (if applicable), and finalize their agreements in order to move forward in their respective lives by filing legal separation documents with the court and finalizing their divorce at an agreed upon time in the future. There are important legal considerations, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully, know the legal timelines involved, and consult an attorney for advice.
Do we need to have agreements prior to meeting with a mediator?
The short answer is no, a mediator or collaborative attorney can help at any stage of a separation or divorce whether agreements have been reached or the family is still at the very beginning with understanding process options and information gathering. Some clients have already worked through some or all of their issues before seeing a mediator, but that is certainly not a requirement. One of the many services that the mediator provides is to give the parties “neutral” advice to them in working through their issues. In fact, sometimes parties reach agreements without the assistance of the mediator that are contrary to the law or would not be accepted by the court, so it is always a good idea to arrange to meet with a mediator sooner rather later to ensure the contemplated agreement is not problematic in unforeseen ways.
How are meeting being conducted during COVID-19?
We are happy to assist parties in whatever fashion that is comfortable to them, whether it be via video conference or at the office. Please keep in mind that both parties must be “present” for the meeting in the same manner, either both remote or both in person for the best balance in neutrality and process. Due to current state requirements, we request that parties wear a face covering as they enter the building and office; however, our office is not open to the public (by individual staggered appointments only) and our conference rooms are large enough to allow for distancing safely. Thus, face coverings will be optional during mediation sessions and legal consults.