The practice of family law is facing many challenges during this health crisis, in New Hampshire and all over the country. In New Hampshire, although the Courts are again holding hearings, they have been using video and telephone for hearings and proceedings where possible, instead of in-person appearances. They have had to continue thousands of cases and are now triaging which often means postponing non-emergency matters. The result is that many families are in the midst of a breakdown of their marriage feeling that there is not a good option to move forward.
As with so many things in this pandemic, we need to be looking at different ways to deal with our needs. Now more than ever, Family lawyers and their clients need to consider alternative dispute resolution techniques to avoid these delays and the resulting harm to the parties and their children that are inevitable in the long delays. Fortunately, The Collaborative Law process provides families with a great alternative.
Collaborative Law is a voluntary, contractually based, alternative dispute resolution process, for parties who seek to negotiate a resolution of their matter, without the involvement of the Court. Because the process does not depend on the Court system, parties are able to control the time line and are able to work through their case despite the system’s backlog. In a Collaborative case, the clients have a team of professionals that includes collaboratively trained lawyers, a mental health professional (a “coach”) to assist them through the process as well as a financial professional (“financial neutral”). With the help of the lawyers, the coach and the financial neutral, the parties are able to work through all issues and reach a more durable agreement. With the novel issues surrounding the Covid pandemic, having a mental health coach and financial neutral to help families address the uncertainties can be crucial to having the parties feel safe and comfortable with their resolutions.
Because this process works outside of the Court process, parties are able to use technology, including video conferencing and other remote access tools, to move forward with the divorce process even if they cannot be in the same room together.
The use of the financial neutral will provide the parties with flexibility in determining a financial solution during a time of great uncertainty. Collaborative Law offers families an option to move forward during these difficult times and the ability to participate fully in their divorce process, maintain confidentiality, maintain safe social distancing and complete their divorce process in much less time than they would in the family courts in New Hampshire.