Family law attorneys in Madison, Wisconsin

Family law attorneys in Madison, WisconsinAt Musial & Friedrich, S.C., our skilled team offers collaborative family law services to our clients throughout Madison, Wisconsin, and surrounding areas.

In collaborative family law, a team of professionals helps parties reach a resolution of issues between them without the threat of litigation. Separating or divorcing couples may use collaborative law to deal with co-parenting, financial, legal, and emotional issues. The collaborative model also works well for unmarried couples who are separating and have property and/or child issues, and for couples who are crafting premarital agreements.

Each person retains an attorney who is trained in the collaborative process. The parties and their attorneys sign an agreement that includes promises to be forthright and committed to the process and to refrain from using the court system to resolve any disputes. If one party later decides to quit the collaborative process, then each party’s collaborative attorney must withdraw, and the parties must seek separate litigation counsel. This provides a strong incentive for all involved to remain in the collaborative model until all of the couple’s issues are resolved. Other potential team members include mental health professionals who may serve as coaches or child specialists, and financial specialists. The entire team has the goal of assisting the couple achieve a positive resolution of all issues between them, a resolution that meets the needs of all family members while minimizing the negative emotional and economic consequences of any separation and divorce.

1. Collaborative team

  • Begins with the couple, at least one of whom decides s/he no longer wants to be with the other. Some couples come to a mutual decision to separate. Both must agree to use the collaborative process. The couple may then meet with an attorney or other team member as the entry point to the process.
  • Each party retains an attorney who is trained in the collaborative model, and each may work with a coach.
  • If there are children, a child specialist is brought in to help the parents address their children’s needs and interests.
  • A neutral financial specialist is brought in to assist with valuation and division of assets and debts, monthly support, expense allocation and tax issues.
  • The team works together to help the couple work through the emotional, financial and legal aspects of their divorce or separation.

2. Goals

  • Achieve a positive resolution that meets the needs of all family members.
  • Minimize the negative emotional consequences.
  • Maximize the economic, social and emotional potential of each person in the family.

3. Ground rules

  • Both parties and their attorneys pledge to reach a settlement of all issues between the parties which meets the highest priorities of both of them, and which protects the best interests of their children.
  • Professional team members agree they will not continue with the case if either party decides to turn to the court system and adversarial approach to decide any issues.
  • Both parties and their attorneys agree to a full, honest exchange of all pertinent information.
  • If the parties need the assistance of a child specialist or financial consultant, they hire the professional together, as a neutral, to help both of them understand the issues and fashion their agreement.
  • Although collaborative team members may share information with each other to help the couple meet their goals, the information may not be used in court.

4. Role of the coach

  • Identify and prioritize the concerns of each person.
  • Help each person communicate effectively.
  • Assist the couple in issue identification and problem solving.
  • Support development of effective co-parenting skills.
  • Work collaboratively with the family and involved professionals to enhance communication and reduce misunderstandings.
  • Keep the collaborative process moving toward resolution.

5. Role of the collaborative attorney

  • Represent the individual client, while supporting the overall goals of the collaborative process.
  • Educate and counsel the clients about legal issues and settlement options.
  • Work collaboratively with the other attorney and team members.
  • Help the client articulate his/her interests and reach an agreement that meets the needs of the entire family, including both parties and their children.
  • Draft legal documents, including the settlement agreements, and accompany the client to any final hearing.

6. Role of the financial specialist

  • Assist in gathering and analyzing income, expense and asset and debt information for the parties.
  • Provide ongoing practical financial expertise in valuing assets, planning, projecting incomes, calculating support and budgeting through the negotiation process.
  • Explore financial options and provide information regarding tax consequences.

7. Role of the child specialist

  • Provide the child with an opportunity to be heard regarding the divorce or separation and family issues.
  • Provide parents with developmental information, emotional insights and guidance to help them meet the needs of their children.
  • Support an effective co-parenting plan by providing information to the parents and coaching team.

8. Role of the client

  • Work for the best interests of the entire family.
  • Listen and communicate honestly and respectfully in discussions among the team.
  • Fully and honestly disclose all relevant information needed to resolve the issues.
  • Reach agreements that meet the needs of all family members.

To find out more information about this model, please see the web site for the Collaborative Family Law Council of Wisconsin at www.collabdivorce.com, and see the website for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals at www.collaborativepractice.com.

Principles and guidelines

Goals

We acknowledge that the essence of "Collaborative Law" is the shared belief by participants that it is in the best interests of the parties and their families in typical family law matters to commit themselves to avoiding litigation.

We therefore adopt the collaborative law conflict resolution process, which does not rely on a court-imposed resolution, but on an atmosphere of honesty, cooperation, integrity and professionalism geared toward the future wellbeing of the family.

Our goal is to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative economic, social and emotional consequences of protracted litigation to the participants and their families.

We commit ourselves to the Collaborative Law process and agree to seek a better way to resolve our differences justly and equitably.

No contested court proceedings or formal discovery

We commit ourselves to settling our case without contested court proceedings.

We agree to give full, honest and open disclosure of all information, whether requested or not. There will be no formal discovery.

We agree to engage in informal discussions and conferences to settle all issues. We agree to direct all attorneys, accountants, therapists, appraisers and other consultants retained to work in a cooperative effort to resolve all issues without resort to litigation or any other external decision-making process except as mutually agreed.

Cautions

We understand that there is no guarantee that the process will be successful in resolving the issues between us.

We understand that the process cannot eliminate concerns about the disharmony, distrust and irreconcilable differences which have led to the current conflict.

We understand that we are still expected to assert our respective interests and that our respective attorneys will help each of us to do so.

We understand that we should not lapse into a false sense of security that the process will protect each of us.

Participation with integrity

We will work to maintain the privacy, respect and dignity of all involved.

We shall maintain a high standard of integrity and, specifically shall not take advantage of each other or of the miscalculations or inadvertent mistakes of others, but shall identify such miscalculations or inadvertent mistakes when discovered.

Experts

If experts are needed, we will retain them jointly unless both parties and their attorneys otherwise agree in writing.

In the event that the Collaborative Law process terminates, all experts will be disqualified as witnesses, and their work product will be inadmissible as evidence, unless the parties agree otherwise in writing.

Children’s issues

In resolving issues about the enjoyment of and responsibility for our children, the parties, attorneys and therapists shall make every effort to reach amicable solutions that promote the best interests of the children.

We agree to act quickly to mediate and resolve differences related to the children to promote a caring, loving and involved relationship between the children and both parents.

Negotiation in good faith

We acknowledge that each of our attorneys is independent from the other attorney, and each attorney represents only one party in our collaborative family law process.

We understand that the process, even with full and honest disclosure, will involve vigorous good faith negotiation.

Each of us will be expected to take a reasonable position in all disputes. Where such positions differ, each of us will be encouraged to use our best efforts to create proposals that meet the fundamental needs of both parties. If necessary, each of us will compromise to reach a settlement of all issues.

Although each of us may discuss the likely outcome of a litigated result, none of us will use threats of litigation as a way of forcing settlement.

Abuse of the collaborative process

The parties understand that both Collaborative Law attorneys shall withdraw from this matter as soon as possible upon learning that either client has intentionally withheld or misrepresented information or otherwise acted so as to undermine or take unfair advantage of the Collaborative Law process. Examples of such violations of the process are: the secret disposition of assets, liabilities or income; failure to disclose the existence or true nature of assets/and or obligations; failure to participate in the spirit of the collaborative process; abusing the minor children of the parties; or planning to flee the jurisdiction of the court with the children.

Disqualification by court intervention

We understand that our attorneys' representation is limited to the Collaborative Law process and that neither of our attorneys can ever represent us in court in a contested proceeding against the other party.

In the event the case returns to court in a contested proceeding, both attorneys will be disqualified from representing either client in the matter.

Pledge

Both parties and attorneys hereby pledge to comply with and to promote the spirit and written word of the document).