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Alternatives to Contested Family Law Litigation
Several alternatives exist for couples dealing with divorce and child custody, child support and parenting plans.
Mediation facilitates dispute resolution in family law cases and can lead to an amicable resolution of issues.
Collaborative divorce is much less stressful than traditional litigation and has a 90 percent success rate.
“Prenuptial agreements, which are done before the wedding, allow couples to discuss and agree on tough matters such as support and property rights before any marital issues arise,” said attorney Billie Jo Hopwood, a partner with Platt Hopwood Russell & Cole in Melbourne.
Postnuptial agreements after marriage, like a prenuptial agreement, can protect both parties from uncertain results and an expensive court battle.
Hopwood, an experienced family law litigator and a certified family law mediator, can assist in preparing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, serve as settlement attorney in a collaborative divorce or act as family law mediator.
Family law mediation
Mediation is required in most contested divorces and other family law matters before the court will make decisions, giving both parties the opportunity for self-determination.
Florida Supreme Court certified family law mediators remain neutral and do not make decisions with cases; the parties make the decisions.
“Nothing happens unless both parties agree,” Hopwood said.
“A mediator does not force either party into an agreement and ensures the agreement reached is voluntary for both parties,” explained Hopwood.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial agreements
These agreements can protect pre-marital and/or post-marital assets, waive alimony or establish specific expectations regarding alimony, waive rights of inheritance and establish a specific outcome should the marriage ever dissolve. Hard conversations to have, they nevertheless prevent significant emotional and financial heartbreak should the union ever sour.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of having an experienced family lawyer write your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement,” Hopwood said. “The harsh reality is that close to half of all marriages end in divorce.”
In a collaborative divorce, experienced settlement lawyers such as Hopwood help couples negotiate divorce terms without the need for mud-slinging or fighting in court.
The attorney is part of a team that includes other experts as needed, such as a financial expert to help with support and property matters and a mental health facilitator who helps the parties communicate and in cases with children, customizes a parenting plan agreeable to both parties.
“It gives both parties self-determination and your family’s private information does not become public record, which is what happens when you file for divorce in Brevard County,” Hopwood said.
Collaborative divorce is based on transparency so both parties sign a contract where they agree to participate in good faith in the process.
Mediation, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and collaborative divorce share two critical goals. They allow couples to have self-determination and reach an agreement they have approved and help them avoid the uncertainty of a trial.
“Trials are costly and not fun,” Hopwood said.
The law firm of Platt Hopwood Russell & Cole, 175 East NASA Blvd., Suite 300, Melbourne, handles uncontested and contested family law matters, mediation in family law cases, criminal defense, personal injury and wrongful death cases.