Progressive Divorce

Progressive ® Divorce is a staged or incremental approach to NJ Family Law. The approach is outcome-focused; based upon the parties’ individual levels of ability and willingness. The progression from unwilling and unable to willing and able requires careful facilitation. Finally, this cutting edge approach to Divorce involves a definite, well articulated consulting methodology.

The Four Phases

Progressive Divorce moves through a progression of phases:

1. Value-Added Divorce Facilitation;

2. Trial Collaboration;

3. Recusal Pact and

4. Conclusion.

Value-Added Divorce Facilitation. Phase I is a step by step value-added process guided by one NJ Divorce Lawyer Reconciliationist. The goal is to make as much progress as possible – in terms of reconciling sub-issues – prior to filing initial Divorce pleadings, if in fact they even become necessary. While Phase I reconciliation work is ideally done by NJ Divorce Attorneys trained in the process, it does not involve conveyance of legal advice. Rather, it focuses on establishing a negotiated problem-solving framework, including skill transfer and inter-relational work. Jointly retained experts may be retained as required.

Discovery, which can always be reopened should the matter ends up in litigation, is ideally completed here. Stipulations of fact may be entered into, particularly agreements concerning evaluation of assets and liabilities, plus agreement as to the intact family budget and standard of living. The process accomplishes the requisite amount of data compilation, with a far better Value-Adding Work to Elapsed Time Ratio than can typically be achieved within the pendency of a matrimonial action.

Phase I fosters trust – if fact gathering successful – while providing a “Red Flag” should fact gathering be blocked by any party, thereby signaling bad faith and the necessity for litigation. Upon Phase I conclusion, the parties will have working skill set. They may even reconcile. A partial Divorce agreement may be reached, requiring independent involvement of NJ Divorce Attorneys in next Phase. The parties may reach complete accord, which is then memorialized in plain language memorandum, much in the same way a mediator might draft such a memorandum.

Trial Collaboration. At Phase II, the parties each retain an independent NJ Divorce Lawyer, both of whom are open to collaboration and the possibility of entering into a mutual “recusal pact” at some point. Note, however, that the recusal pact is not indispensable and, if used, may never even be exercised.During Phase II, attorneys can stipulate to coverture (the term of the marriage or civil union), review and formalize prior stipulations, check the adequacy of discovery, craft Property Settlement Agreements or Matrimonial Settlement Agreements, Parenting Plans and proposed

Custody & Parenting Time Orders, and then proceed directly to Phase IV to conclude the matter. Jointly retained expert involvement can be continued or arranged as needed.

The scope of the NJ Divorce Attorneys’ work here and subsequently depends upon how much was accomplished at Phase I. Apart from picking up where the NJ Divorce Lawyer Reconciliationist left off, during Phase II, the attorneys can conduct legal research and draft legal memoranda on specific points requiring decision making information of an applied legal nature, while advising both parties of their legal entitlements and risks absent a negotiated agreement. They can check the adequacy of discovery, craft property settlement agreements and proceed directly to Phase IV to conclude the matter.

Jointly retained expert involvement can be continued or arranged as needed. Attorneys might argue isolated disputes before a mutually retained Private Arbitrator to resolve any deadlock. The NJ Divorce Lawyer Reconciliationist may stay on – as required or desired – to coach, encourage and coordinate the balance of the divorce effort.

Recusal Pact. Phase III is virtually identical to Phase II, except that all are confident enough with the progression to responsibly enter into a recusal agreement – but only if it would make sense or create perceived benefits to do so.

Conclusion. Phase IV consists entirely of winding-up activities, including those case-specific details handled both before and after putting the divorce through as an uncontested matter with a property settlement agreement.

The Role of the NJ Divorce Lawyer Reconciliationist

The Family Law Reconciliationist helps the parties and their NJ Divorce Attorneys achieve settlement through the use of “mental models,” a term coined by Scottish psychologist Kenneth Craik in the 1940s. Learning how to use mental models quite effectively does not require any formal training whatsoever in psychology. The concept is more closely based on philosophical discourse skills than anything else. It closely examines how people get from observing data to deciding what to do – all through a rapid-fire chain of inferences. Through training and practice, the use of this and other

allied skills in the context of facilitating settlement efforts can achieve remarkable results.

NJ Divorce Attorneys must be trained in these skills, along with the related practice of balancing advocacy with inquiry and reflection, inasmuch as Family Law attorneys and other professionals are often pre-disposed to giving opinions and arguing points of view, rather than giving their all to creative problem-solving and learning about the overlapping needs of the parties they represent. A Divorce Reconciliationist can be called in as a matter of course, or from time to time as desired, to provide a source of feedback and coaching concerning the flow of the process. How the Divorce Reconciliationist is used beyond Phase I is entirely up to the parties and their NJ Divorce Attorneys.

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