Should I Try to Settle with My Spouse or Go to Court and Let a Judge Decide?

justice_siemensfamilylawgroupOnce you have made formal arrangements to retain a divorce attorney, usually indicated by signing a fee agreement and paying any required retainers, your attorney will begin work on your legal matters. The legal claims related to divorce may include such matters as child custody, child support, postseparation support, alimony, and equitable distribution of marital property and debts. Depending on your circumstances, your attorney may contact your spouse’s attorney, or your spouse directly if he or she is not represented by an attorney, to determine whether or not some or all issues related to your separation and divorce may be settled without filing a lawsuit. Negotiating a settlement usually involves a series of offers and counter offers with both parties being willing to make certain compromises. If you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement regarding some or all issues related to your divorce, your agreement can be memorialized by entering into a valid written contract, commonly referred to as a separation agreement. Any issues which you and your spouse are unable to agree upon can be brought before the court for determination.

There are many advantages to entering into a separation agreement, or otherwise settling your matters outside of court, including those listed below.

  • Negotiating a settlement is almost always less expensive, less stressful, and less time-consuming than going to court.
  • You and your spouse can reach an agreement regarding financial matters and child related issues that best suits your needs based on your particular circumstances.
  • Reaching an agreement through informal negotiations or at mediation eliminates the uncertainty of going to court and letting a judge decide your case. If you go to court and let a judge decide, neither you nor your spouse will have any control over the outcome of the case.
  • A negotiated or mediated settlement fosters a spirit of cooperation which can help to reduce hostility and conflict. This may enable you and your spouse to preserve certain aspects of your relationship which can be especially important if you are the parents of a minor child.
  • A separation agreement provides a greater degree of privacy and it can remain private and confidential unless it is merged into a judgment of divorce. Legal documents filed in a divorce related case are a matter of public record.
  • You and your spouse can agree to things in a separation agreement or a private contract that a judge does not have the statutory authority to impose. For example, parties can agree that one or both of them will pay the college expenses for their adult child, that the noncustodial parent may claim the dependency exemption of the minor child for income tax purposes, or that an obligation to pay child support or alimony will be secured by a life insurance policy insuring the life of the supporting spouse or parent.

Although settling outside of court may be your preferred method of resolving your family related legal issues, there are a number of reasons your attorney may recommend that you file a lawsuit (known as a “complaint”), including the following:

  • the opposing party (your estranged spouse) is not negotiating in good faith, e.g. is making unreasonable demands, refusing to voluntarily provide pertinent information and documents, or not responding to settlement proposals;
  • to preserve the court’s jurisdiction (authority over your case);
  • if there has been domestic violence or there are concerns for your safety; or
  • if it is necessary to obtain a restraining order or an emergency child custody order.

Filing a lawsuit does not mean that your case will have to go to trial. In fact, the vast majority of family related legal matters in Buncombe County, North Carolina are settled outside of court. Both before and after your lawsuit has been filed, you and your attorney can continue to explore settlement possibilities through informal negotiations or by attending mediation.

Entering into a separation agreement has serious legal consequences that may impact your life for many years into the future, particularly as it may relate to paying or receiving child support or alimony, or the division of certain assets such as pension and retirement accounts. Therefore, it is imperative that you have an experienced and competent family law attorney representing you in negotiations, offering qualified legal guidance, and advocating on your behalf. Moreover, it is crucial that you fully understand the terms and conditions of any agreement or legal document that you are signing.

When you are facing the uncertainty of divorce, the family law attorneys at Siemens Family Law Group can help you understand your options, and legal rights and obligations. Whether your case is resolved through settlement negotiations or litigation, you can count on us to provide quality legal services that keeps your best interests at heart at all times. Our firm’s commitment to professionalism and client satisfaction has earned us an exceptional reputation as one of the preeminent family law firms in Asheville and the Western North Carolina area.

Choosing the Right Lawyer for Your Divorce

Going through a divorce that involves claims for child custody, child support, spousal support, and/or division of marital property and debts involves making difficult decisions that can impact your life for years to come. One of the most important decisions that you make will be your choice of an attorney. The attorney you choose can make a big difference in the experience you have with the legal process, as well as the outcome of your case. Hiring an experienced and qualified attorney to represent you before or soon after separation can help to ensure that you make informed decisions and that your rights and interests are protected.

According to the North Carolina State Bar’s website that provides real-time information, as of October 24, 2016, there were 750 lawyers in Buncombe County who were active and licensed to practice law. With hundreds of lawyers in the Asheville area, how do you choose the attorney that is right for you?

The following suggestions can provide guidance to help you choose an attorney for your divorce or family related matter that you are compatible working with and who has the background and experience to effectively handle your legal matter:

  • Choose an attorney who focuses their practice on family law – the area of the law in which you need assistance. Laws and legal procedures are always changing. Attorneys who devote their practice to family law are more likely to be up-to-date on changes in applicable laws, more familiar with local Family Court rules and procedures, and in general, more equipped to provide you with seasoned advice and guidance.
  • Ask family and friends for referrals. However, remember that each case is unique. An attorney may be successful in helping a friend resolve a child custody dispute, but it does not mean that attorney is the best fit for representing you in a complex or high net worth divorce.
  • Do your research. Check out a potential attorney’s background, education, certifications, and other qualifications.
  • If you are relying on information on the Internet to find a divorce lawyer in the Asheville area, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of attorneys and law firms. Pay attention to websites that rely on “client review” or “peer review”, such as Martindale.com or AVVO.com to rate attorneys. Those websites provide reviews and ratings from other attorneys and clients, not just paid advertising.
  • If your finances permit, have a consultation with two or three attorneys so that you have a baseline for comparison.
  • Choose a family law attorney that you feel you can trust to give you good advice, guidance, and legal representation. Listen to your instincts.
  • Be wary of an attorney who offers an unqualified assurance that he/she can get you a certain result. In North Carolina, it is unethical for an attorney to guarantee a client a specific outcome. No one can predict what a judge or jury will do or how a case will be resolved.
  • Before you hire an attorney, make sure you clearly understand how you will be charged for services provided by the attorney, associates, paralegals, and other staff, as well as for any expenses for which you may be billed, such as postage, copies, and depositions. If you have concerns about how you will pay your attorney’s fees, talk to your attorney upfront to see if any special arrangements can be worked out.

Divorce is complicated. Choosing an attorney should not be. The attorneys at Siemens Family Law Group focus their practice exclusively on family related legal matters. Our team of experienced family law attorneys and trained support staff work hard to ensure that your needs are met throughout the legal process. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators and experienced trial lawyers who are committed to helping you achieve fair and effective remedies to your family related legal problems. If you are in need of legal representation for a divorce or other family related matter, contact our office. We can help.

SFLG Moves to Patton Parker House Oct. 3

Siemens Family Law Group is proud to announce its move to the Patton Parker House.

95 Charlotte

Siemens Family Law Group’s new office at 95 Charlotte Street.

The Patton Parker House, at Charlotte and Chestnut St., offers a distinguished history and character that suits the firm’s clients and style of practice.  The history of this location will be thoughtfully displayed, and available to you and to our community.  We look forward to greeting you there.

Siemens Family Law Group will be open for business at the Patton Parker House October 3rd, 2016, with parking and entry from the front or the back of the home.  The firm’s new mailing address, effective October 3rd, will be 95 Charlotte St., Asheville, N.C. 28801.

Reflecting on a Shared-Custody Childhood

In “The Secret Superpower of a Shared-Custody Kid,” a New York Times contributor reflects on her joint custody childhood. She explains that despite the anxiety she experienced switching from one house to another, she now understands how her parents worked hard to stay connected, and the benefits she has today from that experience. Growing up as part of two distinct households helped her develop what she describes as “real agility: a knack for adapting, switching gears, understanding the language of families, blending in.” Read more about what she learned from her joint custody childhood on the New York Times Well blog.

Representing the Dependent Spouse

Jim Siemens and Brenda Coppede recently presented at the North Carolina Bar Association’s Family Law Section Annual Meeting in Charleston.  Jim and Brenda’s CLE topic was Representing the Dependent Spouse, and you can take a look at their presentation materials below.

 

Ana Prendergast honored for pro bono work

Ana Pro Bono Awards

Ana Prendergast was honored at the 28th Judicial District Bar luncheon for her pro bono work

Ana Prendergast was honored at this month’s bar luncheon for her pro bono work for clients of Pisgah Legal Services.  Ana is one of the local nominees for the North Carolina Bar Association’s annual statewide Pro Bono Awards, along with other Asheville attorneys Evan DeWandler, John Noor and Kevin Radey.  Ana was nominated for the NCBA’s 2016 William L. Thorp Pro Bono Service Award. The 28th Judicial District Bar and Pisgah Legal Services co-sponsored the nominations.

Ana was nominated for generously volunteering her time and services at no cost to help clients of Pisgah Legal Services with cases involving domestic violence and estate planning.  Pisgah Legal Services works to provide legal assistance and advocacy to low-income people in Western North Carolina.

Brenda travels to Montrouis with Consider Haiti

Brenda, Consider Haiti

Brenda Coppede with a child at a Consider Haiti clinic in Montrouis

Earlier this month, Brenda Coppede traveled to Montrouis, Haiti as part of a Consider Haiti volunteer team that provided clinics for children in several Haitian communities.

Consider Haiti is a non-profit organization here in Asheville that has been working for over 15 years to promote the health and welfare of children in Haiti. The organization provides resources and support for grass roots efforts to create sustainable nutrition and medical support through its four core programs in Haiti.

Jim Siemens serves as Treasurer on the Consider Haiti board and has been on several trips with the group in recent years. Siemens Family Law Group is thankful to be involved with others in the Asheville community in Consider Haiti’s work. You can learn more about Consider Haiti at considerhaiti.org.

 

Jim Siemens named 2016 Super Lawyer

Jim Siemens has been honored as a 2016 Super Lawyer, included again in North Carolina’s Family Law category. Jim was first recognized by Super Lawyers in 2012.

The Super Lawyers selection process combines peer review and evaluation with independent research.  Once nominated, lawyers are evaluated based on indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement, then reviewed by practice area.  The final Super Lawyers list includes no more than 5 percent of North Carolina lawyers.

More information about Jim and the Super Lawyers honor can be found on Jim’s Super Lawyers profile.

Jim Siemens honored in 2016 Legal Elite

Jim SiemensSiemens Family Law Group is pleased to announce Jim Siemens’ inclusion in Business North Carolina’s 2016 Legal Elite.  Each year, Business North Carolina honors the state’s top lawyers in business-related categories.  Every active lawyer in the state is given the opportunity to participate by selecting peers they feel are at the top of their fields.  Fewer than 3 percent of the state’s lawyers made this year’s list.  Jim is included in the Legal Elite Family Law section for the third year.  The complete list and more information about the selection process can be found on Business North Carolina’s 2016 Legal Elite website.

Help Support Local Domestic Violence Agency: Helpmate

Julyan Davis, Helpmate Benefit

Julyan Davis, Black Balsam Oil on canvas

Local Artist Julyan Davis is hosting an art sale from which 100% of the proceeds will go directly to Helpmate, a local organization devoted to helping victims of domestic violence in our community.  Helpmate provides emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis line, case management and court advocacy services, along with counseling and domestic violence prevention education for victims of abuse and their children.  Come enjoy beautiful art and live music for an excellent cause.

OPEN STUDIO HELPMATE BENEFIT

Friday December 11th, 2015 5-8 PM
Saturday December 12th, 2015 10-4 PM

A sale of artwork to benefit Helpmate, Asheville’s domestic violence agency. Landscapes and other oils, from Maine to Asheville to Charleston, by Asheville artist Julyan Davis.

Live music performed by Greg and Lucretia Speas.

100% of proceeds to go to Helpmate. Checks payable to Helpmate.

Julyan Davis Fine Art
2004 Riverside Drive #Z
Asheville, NC 28804
www.julyandavis.com

Facebook: Open Studio Helpmate Benefit