Four Options For Addressing Family Law Issues
Today’s families have many options regarding the forums in which their family’s legal concerns can be addressed. The most commonly recognized is the local county court system but there are also some private alternatives which you might want to consider. A brief description of each is provided below and we are happy to explore further any option that might fit your situation. Whichever option you choose, your attorney is there to help ease your family’s transition.
Local County Courts
During litigation in local county courts, each county provides departments through its Courts of Common Pleas to address the typical issues that arise in family cases. Usually the counties require separate procedural tracks for child custody, for support (child and spousal) and for divorce.
Some counties have adopted a one-judge-one-family arrangement where one judge is assigned to oversee a family’s matters as they move through their respective support, custody or divorce channels. While it is not uncommon for cases to settle while in the court system, if settlement is not reached, the court has the authority to decide how the issues are resolved and impose terms by which the parties’ must comply.
Arbitration is a private process for dispute resolution. The parties hire and pay for an arbitrator – typically a lawyer — who will consider their issues and make a ruling on how the issues should be resolved. The parties usually agree – in advance – to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator and how the decision will be treated for enforcement purposes.
Mediation is also a private process for dispute resolution. A mediator, hired by the parties, is a neutral, third-party professional (most often a lawyer or therapist) who will help the parties identify and discuss their issues so they can be resolved by the parties themselves. Most mediators consider their role to be facilitation of communication between the parties and do not impose their views about specific terms of an agreement.
Collaborative Family Law
Collaborative Family Law refers to a multi-disciplinary process where the parties agree to forgo court and work to resolve their issues through negotiations. Under the Collaborative model, each party retains his or her own counsel and may elect to add other experts to the team to provide financial, therapeutic or child advocacy considerations.