March 14, 2016
My Final Uncontested Divorce Hearing, Will You Be There?
Clients often ask me this question at our initial consultation and sometimes once again as the final hearing date approaches. The short answer is “Yes, if you want me to be there with you, I’ll be there”. But read on for a more thorough response.
Generally, when I serve a couple as their divorce mediator, my attendance at the final hearing is not “required” by the court. However, most judges appreciate the mediator’s presence, especially if the couple’s settlement agreement is unusual or complex. Even if not required, sometimes my mediation clients want me to attend the final hearing to – present the agreement to the judge; explain what is happening; provide support; direct him or her to the correct courtroom; help answer confusing, stressful or difficult questions posed by the final hearing judge. When asked by mediation clients to attend the final hearing, I’m pleased to do so.
On the other hand, I expect to and almost always attend the uncontested final hearing with my collaborative divorce clients. (In fact, I often drive with my client to the courthouse!) Our relationship is typically close and strong, having developed over months of working together. And while most judges do not require the collaborative lawyer’s attendance, many hope and assume that we will be there to assist the judge and guide the divorcing spouse through the hearing.
These are the general guidelines. But remember that each client is unique with individual concerns, objectives and settlement agreements. Remember too that what is standard in one courthouse or in front of one judge is not always identical to what is standard in a different courthouse or in front of a different judge. Let’s discuss what makes the most sense for you in light of all the circumstances – your comfort or anxiety about being in court; type of divorce; judge; courthouse; complexity of settlement agreement; cost; who will be appearing on your spouse’s behalf- so that you can make the right choice.
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