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Family Law and Divorce Mediation Attorneys in Rhode Island

Most of the mediation conducted by Partners In Mediation is Family Law and Divorce Mediation. Divorce Mediation is a non-adversarial process of dissolving a marriage. It is a cooperative and creative problem-solving method in which both parties can inventory marital assets, develop current and future income information, establish parenting rights and responsibilities, and negotiate their own divorce settlement. The mediation process is designed to eliminate competition and hostility associated with divorce, reduce costs and time, and enable both parties to define new lives.

Mediation also provides an environment to resolve other issues related to a separation including dealing with a parenting plan, custody and visitation, and support issues. This process provides the best of environments to resolve these issues amicably and successfully.

The mediation team of Attorney Jeremy Howe and Nancy Johnson Gallagher has a long history of successfully negotiating the most agreeable outcomes for people looking to settle family court and other matters through mediation.

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What Are the Goals of Mediation?

To assist parties in reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable to each while assisting them in letting go of negative emotions and feelings.

Can I Save Money?

Yes! Mediation can be far less expensive than litigation. Family issues can be resolved in mediation rather than hiring two lawyers to litigate in the Probate Court, the Family court or the Superior Court.

How Do I Choose a Mediator?

In Rhode Island, there are mediators who work alone, and mediators who work in teams. They are normally attorneys and psychologists or social workers or other such professionals who have acquired special training in mediation.

In order to be a court-approved mediator in Rhode Island, you must be appointed by the Admissions Committee. The appointment is made only after you have agreed to the standards of practice for mediation developed by the American Bar Association and the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution. You must also carry mediation malpractice insurance and complete an intensive training program of at least forty hours.

You should choose your mediation as carefully as you would choose your divorce attorney or your family physician. Ask: What are the mediator’s technical background, experience, training, and references? Was the mediator’s training approved by the Academy of Family Mediators? Is the mediator an approved mediator according to the guidelines of the Rhode Island Mediator’s Association (RIMA)?

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

Mediators will charge an hourly rate for the sessions which are usually paid as you go. Sessions can run from one to three hours. You will establish this with the mediator at your first session. Typically, mediation costs are divided between the parties. This also will be determined at your first session. The mediator works on your case only during the mediation sessions and you would not ordinarily be asked to pay fees other than the session fees. In divorce cases, we often use “Family Law Software” and there will be a nominal charge for the use of that software.

What Are the Benefits of Mediation?

  • It allows YOU to control the decisions that affect your life

  • It costs less than a litigation

  • It is confidential and avoids public

  • disclosure of personal issues

  • It can be completed in less time than normal litigation or divorce

  • It eliminates a lot of the hostility and pain

  • Mediation promotes communication and cooperation

When Is Mediation Inappropriate?

We at Partners In Mediation find few cases “inappropriate” because of our decades of experience working with clients and mediating parties with serious behavior issues. We do find, however, that mediation can be modified, suspended or terminated when some or all of the following conditions are present:

  • When alcohol or drug abuse is present.

  • When physical abuse has occurred

  • When one or both parties do not want the process to proceed.

  • When extreme personality problems are present (e.g. sociopathic or manipulative behavior or dishonesty).

What if My Spouse Attempts to Control the Mediation Process?

Divorce mediators know that power imbalances exist in many marriages and are trained to deal with that situation. The mediators will enable each party to express his or her wishes in the mediation process and will point out possible inequities so that they may be carefully considered before an agreement is reached.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?

Each party should have a lawyer who will help you understand the law and make informed decisions. However, your lawyer does not usually participate directly in the mediation process.

Will I Have to Go to Court?

In a divorce case, after the mediation process is completed and the Property Settlement Agreement is reviewed by your lawyer, it will be necessary for both parties to make one appearance in court.

Who Will Make the Decisions?

The two parties involved in the divorce. The mediators only define the issues, facilitate communication and suggest alternative methods of resolution. The decision to accept the agreement is solely up to the two parties.

What if Mediation Is Not Successful?

You have lost nothing. Agreements reached prior to the breakdown of mediation are not binding and all information obtained in the mediation process is protected by laws of confidentiality. You will have gathered all necessary data for court, saving time and expenses.

Why Use mediation?

  • To keep communication open.

  • To contain conflict.

  • To keep control and responsibility for decisions with the parties

  • To enable parties to understand facts, issues, consequences, and decisions more fully.

  • To reach agreement tailored to concerns and needs of clients not attorneys or courts.

  • To keep focus on fairness and best interests of children, if any.

  • To develop skills for future use.

Mediation Is Not

  • Arbitration in which a neutral third party is the fact finder or decision maker.

  • Conciliation. When communication is facilitated, conciliation is possible, but it is not a goal of mediation.

  • Therapy. Parties are referred out for therapy, if necessary. Mediation can be therapeutic.

  • Representation. A mediator does not give legal advice or therapeutic advice.

What Makes Our Mediation Practice Different?

In today’s economic climate, many divorcing couples are having a very difficult time dividing their assets because their investment accounts and “qualified” assets such as 401k accounts have diminished in value. At the same time their real estate value has diminished and their debt has increased. Often, they are running a negative cash flow even before they separate and have two residences to support.

When Nancy Johnson-Gallagher and Jeremy Howe of “Partners In Mediation” mediate cases, they use Family Law Software in most of the mediations. The software serves the important purpose of pointing out the true and complete economic position of the couple. Most often, one or both of the mediating couple do not have a clear picture of their economic reality. If the other party or the mediator(s) show that reality, they can be seen as “siding” with the other person (who does understand their reality) or as trying to defeat the desire of the other to be divorced.

Similarly, When Jeremy Howe and Kristy Garside represent a party in a divorce action, we often are met with unrealistic offers from opposing counsel or we want to put forth a fair and realistic offer grounded on facts and not emotion. Our use of the software allows us in all cases to present clear projections of the current and future budgets of the persons with accurate future tax computations. The result is the most accurate picture possible of the economic consequences of an offer or counter-offer.

More importantly, the software allows your mediators or your lawyer to manipulate all variables to determine which solution is the best solution:

  • What is the effect of alimony on their taxes?

  • Can we convert some property division into alimony within the IRS rules?

  • What difference does it make if mother or father takes the dependency exemption(s)?

  • Is the proposed property division fair?

  • Did the division of the assets take into account the tax consequences of the asset division?

  • What long-term effect will the offers have on the individuals?

All of these questions can be answered through use of the software and in many mediations and divorces, the software information has been the key to showing our clients the “bottom” line regarding their future budget and their future estates. Some mediators espouse a type of mediation known as “collaborative” mediation where they bring in attorneys, counselors and accountants with the mediating persons to resolve domestic mediations.

In our case, we bring our legal knowledge (Jeremy Howe) and our therapy experience (Nancy Johnson-Gallagher) into the room with our Family Law Software and we have found that our method is cost-effective and that the parties are in a better position to mediate if they are not mediating in a vacuum. Similarly, a divorcing client can “buy into” a solution if he or she can see the present and future affect of an offer on them personally. In all cases, we offer the mediating persons or our clients the option of validating the data with their own accountant. We submit that we can help customers through the difficult divorce process better through our use of Family Law Software.

What You Should Know About Partners in Mediation

All mediations are facilitated by the impartial mediators Jeremy Howe,JD and Nancy Johnson-Gallagher, LICSW.

Mediation sessions usually take place at 55 Memorial Blvd, in Newport, Rhode Island.

The cost of mediation, at the time of printing this article, is $300 per hour and usually each mediation session lasts two hours. The usual number of mediation sessions necessary to complete a divorce is 5 to 7. Mediation proceeds as slowly or as quickly as the parties choose. YOU are in control of the process and set the schedule.

A common mediation Question: “My spouse does not want to mediate. He or she says that we already have agreed upon the terms of the divorce property settlement. He wants to hire an attorney for a flat-fee price. I want to mediate. What are my options?

Your spouse may not want to mediate because your spouse may see it as unnecessary. The agreement is “done” in your spouse’s mind. If the offer is “fair and equitable”, your spouse could be correct. The “fly in the ointment” is that your spouse may be viewing things through his (or her) own prism or may not have considered all issues. In the final analysis, the offer may not be “fair” to you (or to an attorney you have consulted). In that case, you could still negotiate the terms of the property settlement with the help of your attorney and still do it inexpensively provided that your spouse and attorney are flexible enough to accept a counter-offer or that the “back-and forth” negotiations do not require too many attorney contacts.

“Flat fee” quotations for divorce representation can be problematical because a case can easily move from a $2,000 “nominal” (uncontested) case to a $6,000 to $10,000 case (each) or more. I take it that the flat fee price assumes that you will agree upon the terms of the agreement quickly. When I wear my attorney hat, I do not give flat fee quotations unless and until both parties are represented by counsel and have reached an agreement; or, unless I have prepared an agreement on behalf of one person and the other has accepted it, with or without counsel. The fact is that many clients come in thinking that they have a “done deal” but once all issues are surfaced, they do not. While one person can decide not to engage an attorney, I never advise it. One attorney can never represent two persons with opposing interests, even if they are in agreement.

Mediation tries to assist the divorcing couple to reality-test the offers and counter-offers and to make certain that they understand all issues. We have a high rate of success in guiding couples through the process so that they reach a “Memorandum of Understanding”. That memorandum is then taken to an attorney to draft a Property Settlement Agreement (the contract) and to file all other papers to complete the divorce. Even in that case, we recommend that the non-filing person hire an attorney for at least the limited purpose of reviewing the contract prepared by the Plaintiff’s attorney.

So, my first recommendation is to mediate. It is like an insurance policy because it gives both of you some assurance that you will not end up in a contested divorce. The second option is that you hire your own attorney to review any and all offers from your husband and to negotiate in good faith. There is nothing in this second scenario that prohibits you and your attorney from reaching an Agreement at a reasonable price.

I would not recommend that you proceed without an attorney under any circumstances.

I can mediate for both of you as was originally intended. In that case his attorney can still represent your spouse during the mediation and post-mediation. It might be worth one session of 1.5 hours to discuss where both of you are in the process.

I can also represent you individually and negotiate with your husband’s attorney.