How To Speed Up The Divorce Process
Today I had a collaborative case reach and impasse and I advised my client I would assist her with the transition to litigation counsel. This is a very rare and unfortunate event.
The “reason” for the impasse was that things were not progressing fast enough for my client, and she was being advised by her sister how to speed up the divorce process. Her sister convinced her that litigation would a faster and more efficient process.
During the collaborative process, my client and I had met with her husband and her attorney 2 times and I had been retained for 5 weeks, but my client was not satisfied with the speed of financial disclosure and a resolution of a parenting arrangement after separation (they were still living together). I felt we were approaching a framework for separation, but the other attorney and I felt our clients needed to resolve difficult parenting issues with a child specialist who could assist them in reaching a parenting plan that was in the best interests of the kids.
Here is what my client is now facing assuming the best case scenario: She will most likely retain a litigation counsel by November 1. Provided someone moves out of the house (in most cases an action can not be commenced when the parties are residing in the same home) a Complaint will be filed about a week later (November 8) and a Temporary Hearing scheduled for the first week of December. The judge will hear the motion for temporary relief and make a ruling (assuming the judge rules from the bench, and does not take it under advisement for a week or so). At this point my client will have likely spent $3,500 to $5,000 in legal fees.
One of the attorney’s will then write the Order from the Temporary Hearing. This will take another week, at best. Now it is December 15. The order gets sent to the judge who lets it sit on his/ her desk for a week, then signs it and gets it back to the attorney who wrote it. Now it’s after Christmas, say December 28. The order is then served on the opposing attorney by the first week of January.
At this point the attorney’s can now request discovery. It will take another week or so, at best, for my client’s attorney to draft discovery, then serve it on the opposing counsel. We are now into mid January 2014. There is a 30 day time within which to respond, which is extended to 60 days by each attorney as a courtesy. We are now into mid March. My client has now had to wait 5 months for financial documents she just could not wait to have in October 2013.
By this time the parties must go to mediation by court rule. It takes another week to schedule the mediation, and due to everyone’s busy schedule, mediation is scheduled for mid May, 2014. By this time, my client will have spent an additional $5,000 in legal fees.
Mediation is successful, and costs my client another $3,500 to $5,000. Now its time to draft the agreement.
My client’s litigation attorney, cognizant of how quickly my client wants this matter done, gets a draft marital settlement agreement out to opposing counsel in week. Opposing counsel is in no rush, and does not respond for a week. We are now into the first week of June. The attorneys then bicker over the details of the agreement and what was and was not agreed to in mediation. Another 4 weeks go by, and we are now into the first part of July. The drafting and bickering has cost my client another $2,000, but they finally have an agreement by the second week in July.
The court is contacted and a final hearing scheduled for the first week of August. The parties attend court and the Agreement is approved. My client is charged another $1,000.
So, in order to arrive at a faster resolution, my client chose to drop out of the collaborative process, spend between $15,000 and $18,000, and wait nearly one year to go to court. Really?
Oh, and did I tell you that a Guardian ad Litem would also be involved, costing my client an additional $2,500?