ADR for Family Matters During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis has interrupted life as we know it, and it has impacted how the Virginia courts are operating. While each county has different orders, most “non-essential” matters have been “continued” (i.e. postponed), in some cases until June, and in others, indefinitely. Among the matters impacted by these orders are ordinary family law trials. Similarly, custodial disputes are on hold. Quite simply, it is too risky to have hearings and trials at this time. Unfortunately, this has placed couples, particularly parents, in untenable positions. Questions of visitation, support, and asset division are vitally important to the people disagreeing over these issues, but the courts aren’t available to resolve matters. Now, more than ever, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a useful way to manage family law matters.
What’s the Rush?
Family law issues often involve critical questions that impact daily life. While sheltering in place, child custodial arrangements have likely been disrupted, and it is doubtful that any existing custodial order contains provisions addressing this unique situation. For example, one of the parents might be in the health care field, and the other parent may want to avoid exposing the children to potential infection. The parties need help coming up with a safe, reasonable alternative to allow continued contact. In a divorce, asset allocation and usage is a major issue, and one of the parties may find themselves in a difficult financial predicament without some modification of existing arrangements.
What options are there?
Parties with a family law dispute can consider either mediation or collaborative family law at this time. Mediation involves disputing parties working with a trained neutral, who will help them reach an agreement on family law issues. Collaborative family law is a process in which parties who want to come to an amicable resolution to the termination of their marriage can work with trained professionals to resolve the many issues at stake in a family law matter.
Additional Benefits of ADR
Unlike a court proceeding where the judge is the ultimate arbiter of the outcome, ADR is a voluntary, cooperative process. Nothing gets decided without both parties being in agreement. This allows for creativity, options and resolution that lessen the acrimony so often involved in family law disputes. In addition, ADR of any sort tends to be less expensive than a court trial.
How Would It Work?
Rather than appearing in court, ADR offers virtual alternatives. The meetings of the parties and professionals can happen via video conference or telephone. As a result, the pandemic doesn’t represent a significant disruption in the process. Mediation and collaborative law require that the parties come together. Committing to be present and available for virtual meetings also has the benefit of taking less time your of your day as there is no commute.
Family life has its challenges, and the COVID-19c crisis has had the effect of magnifying some issues. However, sheltering in place prevents access to the courts to resolve these issues. Rather than escalate or abide by ongoing disputes, particularly those that have been caused by the pandemic, consider using ADR to find the resolution.
Reese Law has excellent ADR options available. We can represent parties in a collaborative setting or in mediation, and we have trained, experienced mediators and collaborative professionals in both arenas. For more information, contact us for a consultation today.
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