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Single Parents - Divorced Adults Group Message Board › Attorney advice: Regular vs. mediated divorce?

Attorney advice: Regular vs. mediated divorce? Any lawyers with particularly good reputations?

Madison, WI
Post #: 1
I am new to town and looking to start my divorce as soon as we establish WI residency in December. (Long story: we are both from WI and wanted to come home, so moved together though we knew the marriage was over.) I like the idea of a collaborative or mediated divorce, but am scared to do it because of past issues. My soon to be exhusband (STBex) is generally recognized within our group of friends as someone that employs "gaslighting" whenever it suits him. Not just to me- he has done it to several others as well, and been busted when witnesses have backed the other party. (He will say X, then a few minutes later either claim he never said that or that he said Y and the other person wasn't listening. Other people in the conversation have stepped in and said he did, in fact, say X.) Given his perception of the truth as malleable, I'm not sure collaborative or mediated divorce will work, but I don't know that we can afford tens of thousands of dollars, either.

We have 1 son, who is almost 4. It is important to me that he get time with Daddy, and my STBex works retail, so I don't know that he can argue for full custody. We don't have much physical property beyond the cars and furnishings of the house- we are under contract to sell the CO house and haven't bought one here. I do have retirement, however, that I would like to protect inasmuch as is possible.

Does anyone out there have experiences with mediated or collaborative divorces, especially one that went south? How did it work, and should I even consider it?

Can anyone recommend a good attorney, ones to stay away from? I realize there are libel issues with the second half of that and understand if you choose not to answer.
A former member
Post #: 6
Hi Amy,

I think collaborative divorce is such a nice idea but I think it's an unusual couple to be able to do that.. If you have good reason to doubt your SBex's integrity through the process, it's probably not a good move. Here's what can happen: You can go through thousands of dollars negotiating with your collaborative attorney, then at the last minute, one of you can say "No go" or like your SBex's reputation seems to dictate, "I didn't say that" and everything is null and void and you are back to the drawing board.

I have an ex who is very unpredictable - sometimes seemed very remorseful and wanting the best for me and the kids, other times vengeful and vindictive. Never knew which part of Jeckyl and Hyde I would get. We both talked about collaborative divorce and even met with a good one - for free (I can give you her name I think) but right after meeting, he thankfully dragged out his nasty side on me, and I quickly realized that this wasn't someone I could honestly negotiate with.

In the end, I got a great attorney, my ex was not interested in spending money and didn't get one. The total bill was around $2500 and worth every penny. She was very good at working with my ex in as amicable way as possible to find a happy middle ground while paying close attention to my concerns (custody of the kids). If you want either names, let me know. I simply recommend doing what's best for YOU. Chances are, given his reputation, he will NOT be considering you in the collaboration.

Good luck!
A former member
Post #: 34
I'm doing the collaborative process... and have to say it is not seeming any cheaper. In fact, it's dragging out longer than I thought it would and costing more. You do need to have a high level of cooperation and trust for that to work as well. Now that I'm almost done, I look back and think I'd have been better off just going with a traditional divorce lawyer.
Madison, WI
Post #: 16
I went through a collaborative process, and it worked out reasonably well. I can't say it was a good experience, because nothing about a divorce is a good experience, but I'm glad we did not go with separate lawyers. I think the cost was about 800 (plus about 150 for another one to handle the special case of splitting my 401K). I will say that it worked because neither of us wanted to drag things out. I will add that I was careful to review the Wisconsin divorce law, and to read the drafts of the settlement very carefully so that I did not get the shaft.

Bottom line, if your stb ex can work with you on this, it may be a better alternative. Just remember to do your homework and read everything very carefully.
A former member
Post #: 5
Hi Amy - you've moved back to of the 50/50 divorce. From what I understand, this is supposed to protect spouses who are being abused - generally women who do not work out of the home - so they can file for divorce and get half of the family assets. Unfortunately, its biting the ass of this woman who was the breadwinner and agreed to allow her husband to be home with the kids part time. He cheated, he lied, he hurt me and our he's getting a huge chunk of my retirement and is asking for child support (!)...all in the name of 50/50.

We intended to do a collaborative divorce, but throughout our separation he was constantly revealing things he had done, and I was just reeling from all the lies and horrid stories. I wasn't emotionally ready to get started, but we had met with the lawyers already, and gave each $3,000 retainers. He wanted to push it through, so he filed - we did not file jointly. But since we had already given intent to do collaborative - I was told by my attorney that we were "locked in" to the process.

Keep in mind, I am no expert...this is just my experience with collaborative.

There is a wide range of ways to collaborate. The couples who can work on their own spend the least amount of money: they hammer out the agreements themselves (child care, split of finances), give the lawyers the info, and the lawyers put it into legalese for the courts. A couple could probably get away with spending less than $1,000 each in that process, and if there are few or no adjustments, I could see the process being completed in a few months.

My husband and I did fine on our own with the child care, but we are having a back-and-forth on the finances. I am really pissed off at him in this part of the process, so it is so good to have my lawyer speak for me and eliminate all the drama. We will come out of this spending between $2,000 and $3,000 each.

The other nice thing about collaborative: instead of spending a couple hundred dollars an hour asking my lawyer questions, I can spend $60 talking to her paralegal, and save the big stuff for a meeting with the lawyer. Our lawyers also have connections to financial, family and personal counselors which can help save money (again these people charge much less than the lawyer for info and help).

I don't trust my almost ex at all. We are great parents together, but outside of that there is nothing. Collaborative has been good for me. I have taken my sweet time - waiting to set appointments with my lawyer and responding to my husband's proposals until I'm emotionally strong and clear-headed. Our divorce proceedings have lasted just over a year since he filed. That hasn't had any bearing on the cost for me (i.e. longer = costlier), so this pace has felt very safe for me.

I like my attorney, Janice Wexler - 836-7667. Her office is in Middleton just off Old Sauk Road (near middleton Nitty Gritty). She and my husband's lawyer work "together' in the same office.

Good luck to you. It all sucks. But the more level-headed you can be, the better off you are financially.
A former member
Post #: 98
Amy, I originally got help from the Hope House, which is a battered women's shelter but keeps an attorney on staff to help walk women through representing themselves. You can call and get a copy of all the papers necessary from her. I think you can also look them up online. I didn't hire a lawyer until I had to (that was as long as he didn't hire one). He did and we each spent $8K and he accomplished nothing, so hope it works out better for you. I'd say try it as your eyes are wide open and you sound like you will recognize as soon as he isn't being reasonable whether you will need a lawyer or not.
A former member
Post #: 4
I will definitely keep track of this thread as I'm in the very early stages and hope I can get through it all with the least amount of lawyer fees.

If anyone who has used a lawyer and is/was really happy with them could mail me their name and number to keep in my mental rolodex (remember these?), I would be eternally grateful.
Optimistic C.
Madison, WI
Post #: 36
My ex & I did a "collaborative" D... although at the time and in retrospect it wasn't exactly collaborative. I stuck to my guns a lot and came out pretty well.

This offer goes out to anyone interested...
I am happy to white out the personal info on my Marital Settlement Agreement if anyone wants one as a guide - instead of recreating the wheel. It's not perfect but I could indicate the possible changes I might make in retrospect.

It would provide a good starting place for a discussion of what your divorce might look like... or not!

Drop me a line if you (or anyone is interested).

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