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How Litigation Works

As a proponent of mediation and a mediator myself with over 20 years of experience, I often have to explain to my clients how litigation process works in order to compare it with a mediation process and to underline huge advantages of the latter. In this article I would like to explain to all of my readers, not only to my clients, why litigation is a very expensive, lengthy and extremely emotionally draining process. The break-up of a marriage often involves five issues: property division, spousal support, child support, custody/visitation, and filing for divorce. Let’s take a close look at how does litigation process work in the State of New Jersey. Each of you will be required to obtain a lawyer that will represent you. Once attorneys are retained, all communication between two of you will be channeled through them only. Lawyers must communicate regularly with you and provide periodic updates on your case. Litigation always starts with the filing of a complaint or petition along with a summons by one of the parties. The petition or complaint states the facts of the case and what kind of relief is requested. The summons specifies that the other side has been sued and has a certain time period in which to respond. The other side generally files an answer or a response to these papers. Spouses may need to file additional documents. They may include financial affidavits, stating incomes and expenses of each party, or property inventories, showing what each party claims to be marital or separate property and debts, as well as the value claimed for each item. Sometimes courts will also require parties to file a copy of tax returns, pay stubs, or any other financial documents. Contested divorce cases can take a long time to resolve. While the entire case is pending, temporary, interim, or emergency hearings may be requested by either of the parties. For example, a party may ask for an emergency ruling on issues of custody or visitation, especially when the parents are engaged in a “tug of war” with each other, or when the children are in serious physical or psychological danger. Courts would often consider a need for an interim spousal support or a child support at a temporary hearing in the weeks or months after a case is filed. This is done to protect a financially disadvantaged spouse during a divorce process. After a lawsuit has been filed, a discovery stage of litigation will take place (usually within the first 90 days from filing). A discovery means “finding out information that the other side has.” It is a very time consuming and tedious process to gather the financial information such as documentation of an income, receipts, titles, or deeds from the other side. Here are some examples of a formal discovery: - Document Requests - Interrogatories - Depositions At the end of this long and painful process, should your attorneys finds themselves unable to settle your case through negotiations, four- way settlement meetings, early settlement panel, mandatory economic mediation, or pre-Trial Settlement conference with a judge, a trial will be ordered where a judge will decide your case. Once a decision has been made by a judge, it will be noted in the court records and announced. The next step will be an entry of an order, judgment, or decree. Sometimes a court does this, but more often than not, the attorneys write up a proposed final judgment for a judge to sign. This process can take weeks and often months to finalize. While all these is taking place, both of you are living in a limbo, in a very emotionally charged environment. You can’t go on with your lives until it is over; at the same time you are not communicating with each other to directly address the real issues affecting both of you. The whole process can take months and sometimes even years to complete. You are spending thousands of dollars covering all of your attorneys’ fees and, if your attorneys are not able to settle your case, it will be decided by a judge who is simply not capable of knowing all the important things about you and your particular situation. In mediation you will be totally in charge of your divorce process and will be able to end your relationship with dignity, and a minimum of psychological and financial damage to both of you.

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Your Divorce doesn’t have to be a Disaster

With the statement “I want a divorce” many dreams and plans are destroyed; anger and frustration, guilt and fear, depression and humiliation – these are some emotions that accompany the process of divorce. All of these feelings are normal, for divorce is ranked at the top of the list of stressful events in one’s life. When such strong emotions overpower us, our ability to think straight and make wise decisions is affected tremendously. Unfortunately, this is the time when the most difficult decisions need to be made. The most important one, in my opinion, is the decision on the manner in which to divorce. Will it be bitter or civilized? Will children be suffering the consequences of the divorce for many years or you will be able to minimize the impact of the divorce on them? Will you try to sabotage the process and lose your dignity and sanity or will you handle it gracefully? Will you accomplish your divorce without spending your entire savings or will it be a nasty and expensive battle? Many of you will argue that you do not have such choices, that lawyers decide and impose upon you their decisions, that the process of divorce depends on your lawyer’s experience and aggressiveness. In many instances this is a true statement, as when a couple chooses the path of a traditional divorce. Each year thousands of lives are disrupted and destroyed by the negative effects of a litigated divorce: broken resources, emotionally scarred children, struggling and frustrated parents…Is there any other way to divorce? I believe that divorce mediation is a much better way to negotiate your divorce and in this article I hope to help readers to understand my points on this subject. Family mediation as a profession has emerged in the past decade as a fast-growing alternative expressly designed for the 98% of couples who by statistic will resolve their divorce through negotiated settlement. In the conventional divorce settlement is the by-product of preparation for trial notwithstanding that almost all cases settle. If we assume that the case will settle, it makes little sense to prepare for trial. In mediation settlement is the explicit rather than the incidental objective. Mediation helps a divorced couple to reach an agreement that is the fairest and free of biases to both parties through the guidance and support of an impartial family mediator. The primary objective of a mediation process is a negotiated settlement that meets the real needs of the family. However, before such an agreement is reached, a couple is faced with many issues and concerns that, if handled properly, can be the foundation for a decent end to their marriage. A couple needs to understand how the legal system works in order to make the right decisions, learn how to negotiate fairly and in good faith, learn how to control their emotions, and be responsible for the decisions they are making. Along the way the parties consult their lawyers for information and advice that informs their deliberations. When experts such as accountants, appraisers, or mental health professionals are needed, the couple chooses one neutral expert rather than two adversary experts. It is a process of informed decision-making that leads to genuine agreement rather than concession. Mediation is a process that requires the couple to forego much of the hostile behavior that usually occurs in the early stages of divorce, to separate their emotions form financial and parenting issues – the key issues of every divorce – and to take the responsibility for their own deeds. At first glance, it seems like a burden. Therefore, skeptics of the divorce mediation process ask how it is possible to negotiate with one another in spite of overwhelming feelings of anger, desertion, sorrow, or shame. The answer is simple: a family mediator, a trained professional, will help a couple to restore an emotional balance, help overcome many psychological barriers, get them to focus on their future and facilitate constructive conversation between two of them. What is the benefit of such an arrangement, you may ask, when it is so much easier to hire a lawyer who would take control over your life? It is imperative to understand the following: it appears that, when people are in control of their own lives and making arrangements for themselves and their children, they will not sabotage their own agreements and their conflicts are minimized or eliminated. This situation will allow people to thrive and move on to satisfying and productive new lives after the divorce is completed without unnecessary stress and emotional turmoil. Another very important reason to have your divorce mediated is the amount of time in which the divorce is completed. Traditional divorces usually take up to a year or longer to resolve, depending on how adversarial they become. Most mediated cases, on the other hand, are resolved within a few months because all issues are discussed openly without wasting time on drawing pleadings, making motions, appearing in court, etc. These and many other things that divorce lawyers do have little or no effect on the ultimate outcome of the divorce. They are just part of the legal chess game into which divorce lawyers turn your divorce. Professional fees for divorce mediation are typically a fraction of those for a conventional divorce. Instead of paying a retainer and then an hourly fee to two lawyers, your entire package will consist of the payment of an hourly fee to one mediator, and a fee for drawing a property settlement agreement and filing to court. However, if none of these reasons are impressive enough, you owe your children a decent end of your marriage, for your relationship will not end after the divorce and will be tested again and again. Birthdays, weddings, funerals and other significant events will bring you together and stir up the emotions buried deep inside your conscience. “Good” divorce is a solid base to pass such tests! We have all heard horror stories about divorce battles that have a tremendous effect on the lives of entire families and, especially, the children. Psychological issues vary in scope and intensity and depend on the age group of your child. As a psychotherapist I worked with children of divorce who suffered from depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, bed wetting as the result of nasty divorces. It is extremely difficult to treat such children, for their trust in adults has been shattered; many of them perceive us as traitors and their anger and frustration is overwhelming. Some blame themselves for their parents’ divorce and with that put great strain on themselves without knowing how to handle it. Some feel betrayed and abandoned and as a result lack the ability to foster their own communication skills and prepare themselves for relationships. I often witness the children of bitter divorces sabotaging their parents’ relationships with new partners. To summarize, I do believe that poor choices we make as adults on this subject poison not only our own lives, but can also handicap our children and create the need for many years of therapy and emotional scarring. On the other hand, if the two of you retain the ability to parent well, research suggests that you will maximize your children’s ability to adjust in time. Most long-term studies suggest that parental cooperation is a critical factor in helping children overcome the devastation of divorce. Thus, if the parents handle the divorce well, the children may react well, too. Mediation, as a process, teaches both parties to make the right choices, communicate to each other, respect each other’s opinions and handle issues fairly without any overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame. During a mediation process a couple will hopefully acquire knowledge not to depend exclusively on professionals, but rather be creative and come up with their own decisions, negotiate fairly and in good faith, learn how to experience and express their anger rather than act it out. Therefore, friction can be avoided, thousands of dollars can be saved, and both of you will be able to enjoy your children’s birthdays together for many years to come.

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The secret to finding you life and success is in your failure

I would like to introduce to you my new contributor-Certified Master Couch Dom Campbell. I hope that you will find his input useful and inspiring. I also hope that you will take an advantage of his offer of a free Breakthrough Session with him. Please hear him out in his own words: The secret hidden in your failure – it requires some patience. Patience??? Really? Yes, especially after a divorce! Gosh, how I struggled with it sometimes. After my divorce I was eating like crap, sleeping like crap, & feeling like crap. I was on meds for having anxiety attacks. I was always tired, and my confidence was in the toilet. Being a dad of 2 young boys, I wasn’t a bad dad. But, I also knew I wasn’t being the best role model for them in my daily habits & behaviors. I knew I had the potential inside of me to give them better. I knew I had to make some changes, and it all started with ME! Changes in my health & wellness, but also in my mental & spiritual space too! felt so easy to throw away my goals when I didn’t have any patience with myself. Like most people, I wanted results now! I wanted change now! There were days where I was so frustrated, and even worse, there were several setbacks along the way too (particularly with my lower back & tennis elbow in both arms). Setbacks r-e-a-l-l-y test my patience! THE SECRET: The one little secret I’ve learned since my divorce is that a setback is just a set up for the next breakthrough to occur! I wanted to do things the right way, but the fact is – I’m not perfect. I’m not always gonna get it right. I am gonna fail, and I will likely fail more times than I probably care to think about. But that is OK – cause its not about being perfect. It’s about progress, staying in the game, & breaking through the barriers that have limited me, or kept me in bondage for far too long. It requires some PATIENCE! Breakthroughs occurred when I did 5 things: 1) I DECIDED! I was sick & tired of being sick & tired! I didn’t want to be on anxiety meds anymore! 2) I took ACTION – immediately! I didn’t say “tomorrow”, “next year”, or “some” day. 3) I made a COMMITMENT to myself & made ME a priority every day! 4) My thoughts mattered! I surrounded myself with liked minded people who shared a common goal to be accountable to success! Doing these things require habit & behavior change. Having gone through the journey myself, and have become a certified Master Coach of Habit & Behavior change in overall health & wellness, I know what is required to shift the habits & behaviors that are not serving you well right now into habits & behaviors that are more supportive of where you would like to go. I would LOVE an opportunity to help you make the shift so you can begin moving forward in a refreshing new way! So which direction are you going in? Are you moving forward, or are you stuck in muck? If you’re ready to DECIDE to move forward, reply with a comment or contact me! I want to help you any way I possibly can. I really don’t care where you are starting from on your journey…it doesn’t matter to me. I just want you to have hope, and to get you going in a forward direction. To help you get started, I’m offering a FREE one on one 45 Minute Breakthrough session to all clients of Maryana Kanda! To learn more, or schedule it, visit my page: bit.ly/coachdomfree45 The picture above is when I started 5 years ago vs. now. If I can do it, YOU CAN DO IT too, and I look forward to helping you!

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Common Mistakes Made By Divorced Parents In Raising Their Children

Shielding the children from the pain of your divorce is of paramount importance. I had an opportunity to write about that in the past. However, in my practice I see people repeating the same mistakes which are bound to hurt their children. The most common of those are: Asking a child directly or subtly, “Which of us do you really want to live with, “and thus placing the burden on the child. Allowing a child to take control whenever he or she wants to do so Saying unkind things about the other parent to the child or in the presence of the child. Asking the child to keep a secret from the other parent and in effect, teaching the child to lie. Having the child deliver money or messages from one parent to the other and thus placing the child in the middle. Trying to conduct parental business when exchanging children for visitation. Such exchange times are extremely stressful for the children, and many times they feel like they are living out of a suitcase. Putting on a long, sad face when the child goes from one parent to the other, thus teaching the child disloyalty to that parent. Quizzing the child about what’s going on at the other parent’s home and thus turning the child into a spy or a tattletale. Telling a child who wants a new toy or wants to do something that is costs money and then telling him or her “Ask your father because he doesn’t pay me enough support” or “Ask your mother because I give her lots of child support and she just wastes it.” These are only few examples that, if exercised by one or both parents, are very damaging to your children’s psychological development, no matter how old they are. Your most important role is to help your children to adjust to a single parent family structure. Avoiding those pitfalls will help you to transition and become successful parents despite the fact that you have separated. It is possible to raise successful children for the parents who are divorced!

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Everything You Need To Know About Mortgages

We have a new contributor to our blog! Joe Sheridan of Advisors Mortgage Croup, LLC will be posting on goings-on in the mortgage world on a regular basis. Joe has over 30 years of experience in financial services industry and about 15 years focused solely on mortgages. He has helped hundreds of families deal with the many difficult situations including those related to separation and divorce. I hope that you will find his posting informative and useful. In the interim, should you find yourself in need of a mortgage related information/advice, please see below Joe’s contact information. JOSEPH R. SHERIDAN Sales Manager CELL 973.214.5618 [email protected] Hello my name is Joe Sheridan I have resided in Morris County NJ for more than 60 years. I spent the majority of my adult life working in the financial departments for several Fortune 500 companies. Realizing that I enjoyed helping others with their finances I began working as a loan officer on a part time basis in 1989. With calls from my mortgage clients taking up more and more of my time, I decided to make it a permanent career change in the fall of 2002. Over my mortgage career I have helped hundreds of families deal with the many difficult situations and the intricacies that may seem overwhelming to the novice. I pride myself in customer satisfaction which in turn has resulted in many repeat clients when they choose to move and/or refinance their mortgages due to lower rates, debt consolidation, retirement or simply to pay for a child's college education. I look forward to helping you in your mortgage process and adding you to my long list of satisfied clients. Please don't hesitate to pick up the phone if you are in the market for a mortgage or if you just have questions about the process. I am here to help. My team of dedicated mortgage specialists are eager to assist you with all of your mortgage needs. Here are some of the reasons to choose me as your mortgage specialist. BIG BANK CAPABILITIES WITHOUT THE BIG BANK ISUES. CONVENTIONAL LOANS, W2 ONLY & BANK STATEMENTS FHA (FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION) LOANS VA (VERERANS ADMINISTRATION) LOANS REVERSE MORTGAGES USDA (UNITED STATES DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE) LOANS 203K FHA (FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION REHABILIATION LOAN) HOMESTYLE RENOVATION LOAN REFINANCE JUMBO MORTGAGE CONSULTATIONS ARE FREE! Do you have questions about credit, loan programs? Do you want to know how much house you can afford? I will provide you with free advice and a pre-qualification letter. Each month I will be posting information about what is going on in the Mortgage World. CALL TODAY TO LEARN MORE! JOSEPH R. SHERIDAN SALES MANAGER NMLS # 259780 [email protected] 973.214.5618

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