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First introduced in Massachusetts several years ago, collaborative law is an innovative approach well-suited to temper the emotionally and financially difficult issues presented in domestic relations cases. It blends the best features of mediation with the power of a zealous, individual advocate more commonly found in litigation. Working together, you and your partner, spouse or former spouse and your separate attorneys resolve conflicts cooperatively by using informal four-way meetings designed to promote agreement with a focus on compromise. Collaborative clients and attorneys execute a written contract which acknowledges their commitment to reach a full agreement without the threat of litigation or traditional adversarial techniques. By jointly hiring experts, such as certified public accountants, financial planners, mental health professionals, and real estate appraisers, as necessary, the collaborative law process ensures that both of you are equipped to make informed decisions for the benefit of your entire family. We have been trained in collaborative law, and we aspire for it to become a greater part of our practice as more and more clients understand its unique nuances.

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Guardian Ad Litem

Often, you and your partner, spouse or former spouse are unable to reach common ground on issues involving your children, especially in situations where one parent seeks judicial permission to “remove” or relocate children outside of Massachusetts. Upon the written request of either or both parents or upon its own initiative, the Probate and Family Court may appoint an attorney or mental health professional to serve as “guardian ad litem” or “G.A.L.” Your guardian ad litem acts as a “next friend” to the court, interviewing parties and children, completing home visits, observing interactions within families, contacting collaterals like child care providers, physicians, and therapists, and gathering other data to provide a judge with findings, impressions and recommendations in your unique situation. The report and possible testimony of a guardian ad litem do not represent a final decision in any custody or parenting dispute; rather, your guardian ad litem essentially gives your children a “voice” in this process without placing them under the strain of “choosing” between parents. We are sought by many of our colleagues to act as guardian ad litem on a regular basis. We also are appointed by the judges of our local counties to fill this role routinely. Our combined professional experience as attorneys who have served as guardians ad litem and who have examined or cross-examined other guardians ad litem at trial further enhances our expertise in custody disputes.

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Some situations require litigation, the more traditional approach where you and your partner, spouse or former spouse seek the intervention of the Probate and Family Court to resolve your differences. We focus on educating you on the law, on the process, and on the procedures of any particular course of action. We help you consider and define your own objectives then work with you as a team to pursue these objectives in a cost-efficient and effective manner. We deliver aggressive but dignified legal services to our clients in a wide range of matters before our local courts, such as Abuse Prevention Orders; Adoptions; Annulments; Child Custody and Visitation; Child Support Collection and Enforcement; Divorce; Guardianships; Interstate and International Custody Problems: Modifications; Parenting Plans; Paternities; and Separate Support. To ensure the best possible results for our clients, we network with other attorneys skilled in their respective fields should a referral for other interrelated legal issues become necessary for you.

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Mediation is a practical alternative for you if you are separating, divorcing, or facing issues after a separation or divorce. Designed to help you and your partner, spouse or former spouse develop options uniquely-suited for your family, this process allows you to preserve an amicable relationship with one another and to avoid the emotional and fiscal costs of drawn-out litigation. Both of you work with one mediator who does not represent either one of you. A mediator is an attorney experienced in family law who has received specialized training in alternative dispute resolution. Our specialized experience in domestic relations cases, along with our sensitivity to the difficult dynamics and struggles presented in such cases, makes mediation a natural part of our practice. Because we are attorneys, we are able to draft all of the legal documents necessary for you and the other party to file with the Probate and Family Court. If you are working with another mediator, then we will provide individual assistance as a mediation coach, assisting you between sessions and reviewing your final written agreement to make sure it reflects your goals and needs.

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Parent Coordination

In other cases, family tensions continue even after the entry of a final judgment with the Probate and Family Court, and one or both parents anticipate struggles with the ongoing implementation of their plan for their children. You and your partner, spouse or former spouse may agree to appoint an attorney or a mental health professional to serve as parent coordinator in your case. As disputes arise regarding the best interests of your children, for example time with one or both parents, compliance with mental health or substance abuse treatment, or introduction of your children to new significant others, your parent coordinator will provide a forum to discuss these disputes without the emotional and financial cost of extended litigation. Depending upon the language entered in your court documents, your parent coordinator may have the ability to meet with you and your children’s other parent individually or jointly, to meet with your children, to talk with professional collaterals, and to implement recommendations without the need for a formal court appearance. You and your partner, spouse or former spouse may reserve the ability to seek the review of a probate and family court judge if you are dissatisfied with your parent coordinator’s recommendations and to request that the other parent bear the cost of this process if necessary. Use of a parent coordinator is a popular and promising way to manage the evolving needs of parents and children in a creative, open environment.

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