Customizing your divorce through collaboration instead of fighting in court

KDKA reports on the benefits of collaborative divorce and the growing number of couples seeking divorce with dignity.

Sonni Abatta reports (excerpt):
It’s divorce without the judge.

The collaborative divorce takes that third party out of the process and keeps control strictly in the hands of the couple.
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Many more divorcing couples are discovering this option as they look for peaceful and sometimes quicker ways to divorce.

“It’s basically self directed,” said collaborative lawyer Jackie Stevens. “The attorneys sit there as advisers. That’s their sole purpose.”
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Tailoring their finances to their exact preferences is one benefit of going the collaborative way.
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There are some things to keep in mind if you’re considering divorcing collaboratively:
1. If you can’t hash it out in collaboration, you’ll be sent back to court to litigate with a judge.
2. Hourly billing: It’s the same as if you were in court. But since you determine the pace of your case, theoretically, cost savings can be a reality.
3. The process works best for amicable couples.

SOURCE FOR POST: Domestic Diversions Blog

Top 10 list: Top 10 questions to ask a divorce lawyer in the first consultation

Dreamstime_3367704 If you are contemplating divorce, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney. Once you set up a consultation, be prepared for the first meeting, and have a list of questions to ask the lawyer. The following questions should help you understand the divorce process, how your lawyer’s office operates, and if the lawyer is a good fit for you and your case.

  1. How experienced are you in family law? All lawyers have law degrees, but many lawyers practice in several fields other than family law. You don’t want a generalist. Family law is a specialized field, and you will likely be better served by a lawyer who focuses on family law. Make sure that most of their cases are family law cases. Ask the lawyer if they have handled cases like yours before.
  2. What steps are involved in the divorce process? Your lawyer is there to educate you and guide you through the process. Have the lawyer clearly explain the process to you, from filing the petition, negotiating temporary orders, and the trial process.
  3. How will you charge me? If you hire the lawyer, you should expect to sign a retainer agreement that covers how you will be charged. Ask about the hourly rate, and how often you will be billed. Ask if you will be charged for time spent with paralegals and other staff in the office, and at what rate. Ask what will happen if you cannot pay your bill in full every month. Ask if you can pay by credit card, and if payment plans are available.
  4. How will we communicate? Ask your lawyer if they prefer phone contact over email, and how long you should expect to wait for a return call. Is your lawyer tech savvy enough to email you draft documents as PDF files? Is your lawyer’s office set up to scan and email incoming and outgoing correspondence? Do you automatically get a copy? The last three are essential if you live out of state, or a distance from your lawyer’s office. 
  5. How long will the process take? Ask your lawyer about what is their estimate for how long the case will take depending on if you settle quickly, settle after protracted negotiations, or have a trial.
  6. Can you estimate the cost of my divorce? This is an important question, but a very difficult one to answer. Don’t worry if your lawyer is hesitant to answer. The cost of a divorce depends on what you ask the lawyer to do, the level of conflict between you and your spouse, and the reasonableness of your spouse and their lawyer. Many of the cost factors are outside your control.
  7. What kind of resources do you make available to clients to make the divorce process less difficult and painful? Divorce is a difficult time, and good lawyers provide information and resources to help deal with the human side of the impact. Does your lawyer provide information about the process for self education? Are they patient with you? Do they offer referrals to other professional services if you request them? 
  8. Do you recommend mediation? Ask your lawyer if your case is appropriate for mediation. Ask about private mediation, and about how often the lawyer uses private mediation with clients. Good lawyers try to settle their cases once they have analyzed the case. A lawyer that does not use private mediation or other alternative dispute resolution tools may be doing you a disservice.
  9. What fees and costs can I expect other than charges for your time? Your local county . . . will charge a filing fee to open a case. You will likely have to pay a process server to server your spouse with divorce papers. Your case may require experts, such as appraisers, actuaries, accountants, social workers, or psychologists. Ask your lawyer what costs to expect, what experts may be needed, and how you will be charged for these additional services.
  10. How would you predict a judge would rule on the issues in my case? While no lawyer can guarantee specific results, listen closely to the analysis behind the lawyer’s answer. Understanding the facts that would make a favorable ruling more likely will help with strategy during the case.

SOURCE FOR POST: The Oregon Divorce Blog

Georgia Child Adoption Laws

Before starting to search for a child to adopt or an agency to assist you, it is important that you understand how the adoption laws in Georgia may affect your decisions. Making informed decisions is the best way of increasing your chances of adopting a child.  By way of example, we have listed below a few of the important parts of Georgia child adoption law including such topics as advertising, adoption expenses, and the critical issue of ending the biological parental rights (called a Consent, Relinquishment or Surrender).

Use of Advertising and Facilitators in Adoptive Placements
Use of Advertisement
Citation: Ann. Code § 19-8-24(a)

It shall be unlawful for any person, organization, hospital, or association that has not been established as a child-placing agency by the department to advertise, whether in a periodical, by television or radio or any other public medium or private means, that the person, organization, hospital, or association will adopt children or will arrange for children to be placed for adoption.
Individuals seeking to adopt a child or to place their child for adoption may communicate by private means, which include only written letters or oral statements.

Use of Intermediaries/Facilitators
Citation: Ann. Code § 19-8-24(a)(2)

It shall be unlawful for any person, organization, corporation, hospital, or association of any kind, which has not been established as a child-placing agency by the department to directly or indirectly hold out inducements, including any financial assistance except medical expenses, to parents to part with their children.

State Regulation of Adoption Expenses
Birth Parent Expenses Allowed
Citation: § 19-8-13(c)

Medical expenses related to the pregnancy
Hospital costs for the birth of the child
Expenses related to the placement and adoption

Allowable Payments for Arranging Adoption
Citation: § 19-8-13(c)

Payments for services related to the adoption or the placement of the minor are permitted.

Allowable Payments for Relinquishing Child
Citation: § 19-8-24

It is unlawful for any person or entity to directly or indirectly offer inducements to a parent to relinquish their child.

Accounting of Expenses Required by Court
Citation: § 19-8-13(c), (d)

Each petitioner must file a report fully accounting for all disbursements made or agreed to be made.
Each attorney must file an affidavit detailing all legal fees.

Consent to Adoption
Who Must Consent to an Adoption
Citation: Ann. Code § 19-8-4(a)

A child who has any living parent or guardian may be adopted through the department or any child-placing agency only if each such parent and each such guardian:
Has voluntarily and in writing surrendered all of his or her rights to the child to the department or to a child-placing agency and the department or agency thereafter consents to the adoption
Has had all of his or her rights to the child terminated by order of a court of competent jurisdiction, the child has been committed by the court to the department or to a child-placing agency for placement for adoption, and the department or agency thereafter consents to the adoption

Age When Consent of Adoptee is Considered or Required
Citation: Ann. Code § 19-8-4(b)

In the case of a child age 14 or older, the written consent of the child to his adoption must be given and acknowledged in the presence of the court.

When Parental Consent is not Needed
Citation: Ann. Code § 19-8-10

Surrender or termination of rights of a parent shall not be required as a prerequisite to the filing of a petition for adoption of a child of that parent when the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the parent:
Has abandoned the child
Cannot be found after a diligent search has been made
Is insane or otherwise incapacitated from surrendering such rights
Has failed to exercise proper parental care or control due to misconduct or inability
Surrender of rights of a parent shall not be required as a prerequisite to the filing of a petition for adoption of a child of that parent if that parent, for a period of 1 year or longer immediately prior to the filing of the petition for adoption, without justifiable cause, has significantly failed:

To communicate or to make a bona fide attempt to communicate with that child in a meaningful, supportive, parental manner
To provide for the care and support of that child as required by law or judicial decree, and the court is of the opinion that the adoption is for the best interests of that child

When Consent Can Be Executed
Citation: Ann. Code § 19-8-5

Consent may be executed any time after the birth of the child.

Revocation of Consent
Citation: Ann. Code § 19-8-9(b)

A person signing a surrender shall have the right to withdraw the surrender by written notice delivered in person or mailed by registered mail or statutory overnight delivery within 10 days after signing. After 10 days, a surrender may not be withdrawn.

The surrender document is not valid unless it states the right of withdrawal.

Rights of Presumed (Putative) Fathers
Registry/Paternity Requirements to Receive Notice
Citation: §§ 19-11-9(d)(2); 15-11-96

The putative father may acknowledge paternity before or after the birth of the child in a signed writing, or indicate the possibility of paternity without acknowledging paternity.
The putative father must file a petition to legitimate the child within 30 days of receipt of notice of termination proceedings.
Notice of termination proceeding is given if:
The putative father’s identity is known to the petitioner or attorney.
Any of the following is true of the putative father: he is on the putative father registry, he lived with the child, he made any attempt to legitimate the child, or he provided support or medical care for the child’s mother.

SOURCE FOR POST: Adoption Services

Spirited Away: Japan Won’t Let Abducted Kids Go

Dreamstime_414403_2 American Parents Have Little Hope of Being Reunited With Children Kidnapped to Japan

Kaya Wong’s parents never imagined they would be able to have a baby.

Born three years after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Kaya, now 4 years old, was a miracle.

But for Paul Wong, Kaya’s father, the unimaginable soon became the unthinkable. Months after the cancer fatally spread to his wife’s brain in 2005, Kaya, he says, was kidnapped by her maternal Japanese grandparents.

Despite being his daughter’s sole surviving parent, he has few options available to him as an American in Japan – a historically xenophobic country that does not honor international child custody and kidnapping treaties. It’s also a nation that has virtually no established family law and no tradition of dual custody.

He knows where his daughter lives, where she goes to school and how she spends her days, but despite the odd photograph from a family friend, he has not seen his daughter once in the last six months.

Wong is one of hundreds of so-called "left-behind" parents from around the world whose children have been abducted in Japan, the world’s only developed nation that has not signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

‘Heartbroken’

There are currently 39 open cases involving 47 American children spirited away to Japan, a key American ally and trading partner, but many more go unreported. Not a single American child kidnapped to Japan has ever been returned to the United States through legal or diplomatic means, according to the State Department.

"This entire experience has left me heartbroken," Wong told ABCNEWS.com. "We always wanted children. My wife and I talked about starting a family for a long time, but because Akemi was sick we kept having to wait. When Kaya was born, I promised my wife that we would move to Japan so that our daughter would know about her Japanese heritage and Akemi, despite her own illness, could care for her elderly parents."

Wong, a 41-year-old lawyer, says he does not regret keeping his promise to his ailing wife, but his pledge set into motion a series of events that have kept him from seeing his only child.

"She’s very energetic, outgoing, active, inquisitive innocent little girl. She is simply perfect, and sweet as can be. She is not afraid of anything," he said of his daughter during a phone interview from Japan. "I’m breaking up just thinking about her and talking about her. She loves to laugh and has a smile just like her mother’s."

Kaya was born in San Francisco in 2003 and is a dual citizen of the United States and Japan. The young family lived in Hong Kong, with Akemi making occasional trips to California for treatment until she and Kaya moved in with her parents in Kyoto, Japan to rest after a treatment. Shortly thereafter, she passed away.

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How Collaborative Practice Benefits Children

Other than perhaps the death of a parent, divorce is often the single most traumatic event in a child’s life. In America 60% of all marriages end in divorce and a third of those divorces involve bitter conflict. One million children in our country are involved in divorce each year. These children are twice as likely as children from intact homes to develop behavior problems, psychiatric illness and addictions. Children of divorce are 50% more likely to divorce than children from intact homes, perpetuating the cycle and driving statistics up each year.

As typically practiced in America, divorce rips asunder the very foundation of a child’s world. It shatters the family structure, destroys communication between the parents, and irrevocably changes the child’s relationship with each parent. Children suffer not only their own fears and misery over the loss of the family but, too often, are used as pawns by one parent to hurt the other. Out of anger or emotional need, one parent may seek to monopolize the child’s time and affection to the exclusion of the other parent. There are no winners in a divorce. Everyone loses, but the children lose most of all.

Divorce professionals and researchers alike have concluded that how a couple conducts themselves during a divorce has far greater impact on their children than the separation itself. Weary of acrimonious divorce battles that dragged on in court and the expense and emotional damage they cause, attorneys and clients sought a more constructive way of divorcing. The sad reality is that divorce involves far too many complex personal and family issues to be adequately addressed and appropriately resolved by an already overwhelmed judiciary. People wanted to maintain control over their lives, not have decisions that would have such a major impact on their future dictated by an uninvested third party through the courts.

Collaborative Practice (also called Collaborative Law and Collaborative Divorce) became the answer. Founded in 1990 by Minnesota attorney Stuart G. Webb, collaborative practice focuses on the fact that divorce is not just a painful ending but can also be a new beginning. Stressing cooperation over confrontation and resolution over revenge, collaborative divorce is quickly transforming how couples dissolve their marriages, divide their assets, and reinvent their post-divorce parenting relationships. "Collaborative practice promotes respect, places the needs of the children first and keeps control of the process with the spouses," explains the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) website (www.CollaborativePractice.com).

An alternative to traditional litigious divorce and child custody proceedings, collaborative law is a commitment to a principled, negotiated settlement that focuses on client empowerment. It harnesses the problem-solving skills of both attorneys and their clients to arrive at creative settlements that address the needs of each parent and their children without the threat or use of court action. The collaborative law method provides the tools, resources, and professional assistance in a specialized and structured framework to achieve effective outcomes for families in transition. Interest in collaborative law is growing and is now practiced in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Switzerland.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

As defined by the IACP: "Collaborative Law, Collaborative Process, and Collaborative Divorce are terms often used interchangeably. However, they are all components of Collaborative Practice, which has these key elements:

  1. the voluntary and free exchange of information,
  2. the pledge not to litigate and the withdrawal of both attorneys – and in most cases all of the other professionals on the team – should either party initiate litigation in spite of this pledge, and
  3. the commitment to resolutions that respect the parties’ shared goals.

"Collaborative Law describes the legal component of Collaborative Practice, made up of the parties and their attorneys. Collaborative Process means the key elements of the process itself."

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