What is the difference between legal advice and legal information?
Legal Advice - Hiring a lawyer for representation includes receiving legal advice. When a client hires a lawyer, the client identifies their goals and the lawyer analyzes the law and facts and gives advice to the client on how best to attain those goals. Lawyers are required to be zealous advocates for their clients’ goals without regard for the interests of the other party. Good advocacy includes communicating with the client about the strength and weaknesses of their case, identifying reasonable expectations, and strategizing how to optimize the client's chances for success.
Legal Information - In the IDR process, participants receive will receive legal information regarding the law relevant to their situation and how courts typically apply that law in similar situations. Although there are times that family law provides black and white answers, in many cases the answer to a family law question is “it depends.” This might be because the law is unsettled or because the law grants judges discretion to determine the appropriate outcome. Legal information allows the parties to understand what standards a judge might rely upon to analyze an issue, and identify a range of outcomes that one could expect if one had a trial. This information allows parties to reach informed decisions about how they want to resolve their own disputed issues. In our roles as mediators we do not offer advice to either party about what they should do. Rather, our role is provide information to allow both parties to reach informed decisions.
What are the fees for IDR?
All of our services are charged by the hour at the same rate that we charge for litigation services. Once you have decided to retain us, we will provide you with a written retainer agreement and you will be required to provide us with a $7,500 retainer. We will bill against the retainer on a monthly basis. Any money left in the retainer at the end of the IDR process will either be refunded to the parties pro rata based on each person’s contribution to the retainer, or in accordance with the parties’ express agreement. If the cost of our services exceeds the retainer, the parties will be required to replenish the retainer in order to continue the process. Although the IDR process involves the work and coordination of two lawyers, we seek, as much as possible, to avoid double billing. As with our litigation practice, there will be many instances in which we will communicate with each other regarding your IDR, but will not bill for that time.
Are there limitations on what financial actions parties can take during the IDR process?
When a person files a complaint for divorce, the court automatically issues an order precluding parties from engaging in a variety of financial and custodial actions. At the beginning of the IDR process, we will require the parties to enter into a contract with each other agreeing to these same limitations.
Do you represent one or both parties during the IDR process and if not can I be represented by a different attorney in the IDR process?
When a person retains or consults with an attorney there are strict ethical rules that apply to that relationship. For example, once an attorney-client relationship has been established, the attorney has an obligation to keep all client communications confidential. It is extremely important to understand that we do not represent either party. In other words, there is no attorney-client relationship between either party and our firm. Rather, you should think of the process as a form of mediation and us as neutral co-mediators. At the same time, there is nothing preventing either or both parties from consulting with an attorney at any point in the IDR process. However, unless both parties expressly agree, the IDR process will cease if either party files a complaint for divorce. In addition, although parties are free to retain or consult with an attorney during the IDR process, that attorney would have no direct role in the IDR process. In other words, so long as the parties choose to continue with the IDR process, all communications between us and the parties will be direct and not through a party’s attorney.
Can I Stop the IDR Process at Any Time?
Yes. IDR is a completely voluntary process. If one or both parties decide that they no longer wish to continue with the process, then it will stop. Any funds left in the retainer at the end of the IDR process will either be refunded to the parties pro rata based on each person’s contribution to the retainer, or in accordance with the parties’ express agreement. Our contract requires a party to inform us and the other party in writing if he or she is terminating the process.
How is IDR different from Collaborative Law?
The main difference between IDR and Collaborative Law is that in Collaborative Law both parties are represented by an attorney and the parties, attorneys, and other professionals together make up a “team.” IDR, by contrast, does not involve either party being represented by a lawyer in the process itself. As explained above, parties are not prevented from seeking individual representation during the IDR process, but those attorneys would not have any direct role in the IDR process. Additionally, a Collaborative Law team includes an accountant and often a child development specialist. While the parties may decide to use such specialists within IDR, such specialists would be considered consulting experts as described in the paragraph below. For those comfortable with the idea of IDR, the benefit of this approach is that it simplifies the process and saves money.
What if it is Necessary to Hire Additional Experts During the IDR Process?
Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to hire additional consulting experts to assist in the IDR process. In such cases, we will recommend people with whom we have worked with in the past and who we believe exhibit high levels of integrity and professionalism. We will then coordinate with those experts to insure maximum efficiency. The parties will be responsible for paying all fees associated with these experts and will be required to enter separate retainer agreements with the experts.