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Alternative Dispute Resolution Services

Litigation of disputes in court is essentially a war in which there is a winner and a loser. Win or lose, litigation is expensive, stressful, divisive, and drawn out over many months if not years. The attorneys and ultimately a judge control the outcome and parties are often frustrated because they do not feel that the attorneys and the court have given adequate attention to the issues most important to them.

There are a variety of methods available for people who want to reach resolution of their disputes without the time, emotional energy and cost of litigation. These methods are referred to as Alternative Dispute Resolution or “ADR”. ADR has been widely practiced for over 30 years. Currently it is the preeminent method for resolving disputes out of court and in some types of cases the court will require the parties to at least consider ADR as an alternative before proceeding with litigation.

MEDIATION, ARBITRATION and COLLABORATIVE LAW are types of ADR.

Each of these processes has specific characteristics, strengths and weakness. Please email or call (617) 461-7331 for a complimentary consultation.

Mediation:

In mediation, parties resolve disputes with the assistance of a neutral third party-the mediator. Mediation is a private, confidential, voluntary process. (Both parties must be willing to try mediation.) A mediator's role is to be impartial; she will not take sides and cannot impose a decision. Although the mediator may provide information about what the law is, her role is not to advise the parties on what legal steps they should take.

In mediation, the parties - not the judge and lawyers - decide what they need to have in an agreement in order to resolve a dispute and move on with their lives. In many situations such as divorce cases, modifications of divorce agreements and evictions the parties file their agreement with the court, which enforces it.

Resolving Family Disputes:

Litigation of family disputes in a court can be particularly painful for the parties and their families. The stress, the cost and often the rancor between the parties can do irreparable harm to family relationships. Conversely, when a skillful mediator applies the principles of dispute resolution mediation to the difficult disputes that often arise in families, the participants have a chance to exchange divergent views, lessen resentments and clear the air - all of which can result in better decision making by members of the family. In cases involving children, mediation can result in more cooperative parenting as the family makes the challenging transition to separation and/or divorce.

Family mediation is not psychotherapy, marital counseling or legal representation. As a trained and experienced mediator, Attorney Sullivan facilitates the family’s discussion in a neutral, safe setting, where family members may achieve greater understanding, better communication, often improved relationships and, most importantly, a satisfactory resolution of the dispute.

Family mediation covers issues such as:

Attorney Sullivan also offers dispute resolution mediation in areas including:

How Does The Mediation Process Work?

At the beginning of a mediation session, Attorney Sullivan will briefly explain the component parts of mediation (neutrality of the mediator, voluntariness and preparing a written agreeement) and go over informal rules regarding conduct of the parties during the mediation, breaks etc. She will then carefully listen to each party's description of the dispute; this helps her separate the issues on which the parties agree from those on which there is no agreement and to identify less obvious issues that may need to be resolved.

She will gather additional information about the issues in dispute by asking each party open-ended questions. The answers to these questions help the parties refine their respective positions and underlying feelings about the issues that need to be resolved.

After the parties' respective positions and concerns about the key issues are refined, the parties work together with the assistance of Attorney Sullivan to find common goals (e.g., the best interests of the children) and to generate possible options for reaching those goals. If at this point the parties can agree to how all or most of the key issues can be resolved, and if both parties are committed to resolving the dispute, Attorney Sullivan will assist them in drawing up a written agreement. In cases involving the court, the agreement is filed with the court and the court enforces its terms.

Arbitration Services:

Arbitration is very much like a court process. The arbitrator, like a judge - makes the final decision. As in the court process each side may present evidence. Sometimes the rules of evidence that are used in court apply. Sometimes the rules are relaxed and evidence is admitted on a less formal basis. Before the arbitration begins the parties decide whether or not the Arbitrator’s decision will be binding or non-binding. The Arbitrator, not the parties, controls the outcome.

Limitations Of Arbitration In Family Disputes:

Although Arbitrators can resolve most divorce issues, they cannot resolve child support and other issues relating to children. The probate court retains jurisdiction over the rights of children who are not emancipated. Spousal support may or may not be subject to binding arbitration depending on the particular circumstance of the case, the content of any existing court order and whether the parties already have a separation agreement approved and incorporated by the court.

Collaborative Law Practice:

In Collaborative Law, the parties work with a team of professionals including attorneys, a coach/facilitator and, as needed, mental health professionals and a financial specialist. An attorney represents each party, advising and guiding them about the law throughout the process. The coach/facilitator acts as the neutral and helps the parties to clarify and express their needs, interests and goals. The financial professional analyzes the assets and financial issues and develops a plan to preserve the family’s resources. In Collaborative Law the parties control the outcome in a confidential out - of - court setting.

Limitations Of Collaborative Law Practice:

Collaborative Law can be expensive because of all of the professionals involved. In addition, if the parties are not successful in reaching an agreement through the collaborative process and decide to proceed with litigation they must retain new attorneys to represent them in the lawsuit.

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