Most couples enter a marriage or domestic partnership with the best of intentions. Ronda A. Middleton believes their clients should have the opportunity to dissolve them in a similar fashion. She offers clients cost-effective, time-saving and healthier options to a traditional, court-based divorce.
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third person trained in dispute resolution techniques guides couples in divorce through a process of listening, identifying issues, exploring options and coming to a mutually agreeable solution for both parties. Mediation is an excellent alternative to ending a marriage when the parties need to find a way to continue to work together, such as when they have children. Mediation is also helpful in reaching closure, where both parties can articulate their goals, even if they do not desire to remain friends after the dissolution is concluded.
As an alternative dispute resolution process in a divorce, mediation permits the parties to take responsibility for making decisions that affect their lives. The parties are encouraged to consider “out of the box” solutions that a court might not be able to order, to achieve the important goals desired by each party.
Sometimes, where children are involved, two neutral individuals can act as co-mediators. Usually one mediator is a mental health professional with expertise in child development, and the other is an attorney who is knowledgeable about family law. Sometimes having female and male co-mediators is also a more desirable format. The mediator(s) can draw on experts such as accountants to assist the parties and the mediator with the financial issues.
There are various approaches to mediation, but no matter what method appeals to the parties, virtually every mediator advises clients to seek the advice of an attorney prior to finalizing any settlement agreement that has been negotiated.
Ronda A. Middleton acts as a mediator to parties who wish to negotiate a resolution to their family law issue without the necessity of going to court. If parties are interested in the mediation services offered by Ronda, they should call her and schedule a joint meeting so she can have a discussion with both parties about the process of mediation, what they can expect during the process, her fees and costs for mediation, and answers to any questions the parties may have about the mediation process.
Ronda acts as a consulting attorney to parties engaged in mediation. She can begin advising clients from the start of the process so that upon entering mediation they have an idea of what their legal rights are. She can strategize and discuss options and alternatives with a client so they can bring ideas for settlement into the mediation. Finally, Ronda can review and comment on the settlement agreement to make sure that a client’s interests are protected by the language in the settlement agreement, and to insure that the agreement reflects the client’s understanding of what the negotiated outcome involves.
If the parties wish to spend the money, attorneys can accompany the parties to sessions with the mediator. Ronda A. Middleton is available to participate in this type of mediation process as well. Sometimes the parties may wish to retain the services of a private judge. This judge is someone who used to serve as a family law judge in the courts, has retired, and is now available for parties to hire and assist them in processing their case.
As with the collaborative family process, mediation is dependent upon each party’s commitment to full disclosure. If a party has knowledge that the other party is deliberately not disclosing – the existence of an asset or debt for instance – the case may not be appropriate for mediation.
Generally, parties share the cost of mediation. Ronda A. Middleton recommends cost sharing because contributing to the cost of the mediation allows parties to feel invested in the process. In addition, if one party controls all the family wealth, it may be an indication that mediation is not the best option for the couple. Issues in mediation may be complicated if there are domestic violence matters between the parties, issues of substance abuse, differing degrees of financial acumen, and in other special situations. Ronda is also available to discuss with clients whether or not their needs will be served by engaging in the mediation process.
Marriages can sometimes be repaired after a prolonged separation. Often an effective reconciliation requires a support system and a financial plan. Money and property agreements can help to clarify and reduce the risk in a marriage. Ronda A. Middleton can help plan some of the property and financial issues in order to help build more security and trust between spouses.
A separation can present an opportunity to implement sound financial planning strategies. Property and finance actions taken during separation can benefit parties in future property settlements, and married people can seek advice on any changes in property or finances during separation. We often assist parties in drafting temporary agreements that protect rights, should the relationship result in permanent dissolution.
A sensitively planned separation or divorce can save children from undue emotional and psychological harm. During marital difficulties children have physical, psychological and emotional needs that must be addressed. They may require psychotherapy, medical treatment, educational support, children’s legal counsel, and a higher degree of attention from the parents. Legal assistance may help in planning the parenting plan and visitation schedule. Divorce processes that Ronda A. Middleton employs such as mediation and the “collaborative process,” can lead to a healthier outcome for children. Ronda also assists clients in agreements regarding:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- Spousal support or alimony
- Community property valuation and distribution