Understanding Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law Cases

The easiest, most inexpensive, and least painful way to finalize a divorce or custody case is to reach an agreement. Of course, it is always an option for the parents to reach an agreement through talking directly with each other, but that is not possible in all cases. Time spent in court results in attorney fees being incurred, and the co-parenting relationship being damaged. If your case goes to trial, it will take months or a year to get to trial because of the number of other cases that are scheduled for trial, and the trial itself may last for days. For this reason, the court orders Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in contested cases. mediation-photo

The first method of ADR is mediation. This consists of the parents meeting with a neutral third-party, who tries to help them reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, the mediator types the agreement and sends it to the parents and their attorneys. It is important for the parents to review the agreement with their attorneys to make sure that no legal issues were overlooked. The agreement is then signed and filed with the court to finalize the case. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the mediator notifies the court that that the parents reached an “impasse.” Mediation concludes at that point, and anything that was discussed in mediation is confidential.

The most common month of ADR in Sedgwick County is Limited Case Management (LCM). This process differs from mediation in that it is not a confidential process and, if no agreement is reached, the LCM writes a recommendation regarding what he or she believes is in the best interest of the children. The LCM may meet with the children, speak with witnesses, and review documents, such as police reports and text messages. The parents may agree to the LCM recommendation being adopted as the court order or set the case for trial. The LCM’s role in the case terminates when the recommendation is issued but, if the case proceeds to trial, the LCM may testify as a witness. This process is more expensive than mediation because of the amount of time and work involved in investigating the allegations and writing a recommendation.

Case Management is the final form of ADR. Case Managers are permanently assigned to help resolve conflict in cases in which other methods of ADR have been unsuccessful and the parties have been in court on new motions more than twice within six months. Case Management recommendations become court orders if neither party files an objection within 10 days of receiving the recommendation.

The partners at Cameron & Herrman, P.A., are court-approved Limited Case Managers. We are familiar with all methods of ADR and can advise you on how to achieve successful outcomes through these methods. To find out how we can help with your case, please call (316) 265-0650.

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