Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Change of Address

PLEASE NOTE THAT EFFECTIVE JUNE 10, 2013, MEDIATOR AND COLLABORATIVE LAWYER, LESLIE K. HOWELL, HAS CHANGED HER ADDRESS TO:

LESLIE K. HOWELL
AMICABLE DIVORCE SERVICES
225 SOUTH LAKE AVENUE, SUITE 300
PASADENA, CA  91101

(626) 568-1900
www.pasadenamediationlawyer.com

SETTING THE TONE FOR A NEW CASE

When one or both spouses decide that the marriage has ended, it is imperative that a peaceful tone is set from the very beginning if settlement is the goal. In my opinion, when a client retains a collaborative lawyer for a potential collaborative case and the other spouse does not have an attorney, it is the duty of the collaborative lawyer to reach out to the other spouse and offer the collaborative process and some web sites that may be helpful to educate themselves on the process. This must be done before the Petition is filed. If the Petition is filed first, positions are set forth on the Petition and the Responding spouse may react with the fight or flight reaction. Frequently when the other spouse is served with a Petition, they become afraid, angry and confused. Our job as collaborative professionals is to attempt to alleviate those feelings right off the bat. Generally speaking, the Petition should not be filed until it is determined whether the case will indeed be collaborative or a different process.

Personally, I write an amicable letter to the other spouse explaining the collaborative process in a concise nutshell, and I offer websites for collaborative groups which list other collaborative professionals to consult with.

Most importantly, filing the Petition before making attempts with the other spouse to choose the collaborative process can destroy any chances of the case being collaborative. So if you hire a collaborative lawyer in the hopes of using this process, make sure that your attorney has reached out to the other person at least twice in a friendly manner to give the other spouse a chance to research the process and interview some collaborative professionals before filing a Petition.

Note that if you do not hire a frequently trained collaborative professional, then they may not have made the change in their attitude from bulldog litigator to peacemaking collaborative teammate. This too can prevent the case from being amicable and end up costing tens of thousands more in attorneys' fees. From my experience, many bulldog litigators do not have the ability to work on a peaceful team due to their desire to fight to win, rather than defuse the situation and do what is best for the entire family.

For more information, schedule a $50 initial consultation with Leslie K. Howell by calling 626-568-1900. (Note consultations had been no cost in the past, but due to increasing costs a $50 fee is now required for initial mediation and collaborative consultations.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

10 Courthouses Closing in LA County; Another Reason to Avoid Court Like the Plague

In Spring 2012, we saw numerous courtrooms close, such as the family law courtroom in Burbank, Dept. C. The family law cases in Burbank were all transferred to the two Pasadena family law courtrooms. These court closures mean more backlog for the remaining courtrooms and filing clerks. The court system in Los Angeles County was already fighting backlog and large daily court calendars/dockets, but with the state budget cuts in 2012, it will be more difficult for everyone: parties, judges, court clerks, attorneys, etc. For those people facing a divorce or custody matter, now is definitely not a good time to schedule court appearances, which are necessary in litigation.

What are the alternatives to litigating in the court system? Parties can opt for mediation, co-mediation or the collaborative process. These processes will be much quicker and far less expensive than going to court. Learn more by visiting www.pasadenamediationlawyer.com and these processes can be explained more in-depth at a free initial consultation at the Law Offices of Howell & Howell, (626) 568-1900.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Peacemakers for Lower Income Clients

Pasadena Affordable Divorce offers collaborative law, co-mediation and limited scope/unbundled services to clients with lower income. These peacemaking services have historically been available to the upper middle class and wealthy clients. Not any more.

Pasadena Affordable Divorce consists primarily of minority professionals, including lawyers, divorce coaches and a financial specialist, all of whom are mediators. The group includes professionals who speak Spanish and Armenian and we come from all kinds of backgrounds. This diverse group of well-trained professionals is committed to serving clients regardless of their socio-economic class, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and we serve at reduced rates.

Pasadena Affordable Divorce was founded by Leslie Howell, Esq. and George Bryant, LCSW, and we are honored to have Forrest "Woody" Mosten as our senior advisor.

For more information on Pasadena Affordable Divorce, visit www.pasadenaaffordabledivorce.com or call (626) 389-2235 to schedule an initial consultation.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Choosing Your Mediator

There are a few decisions you will need to make in order to settle your case. Besides what method to use (such as co-mediation, mediation and collaborative law), you will need to make sure that you and your mediator and/or lawyer are a good fit. Experience, training and a passion for settlement are all qualities to look for. If you have children, you may want to know whether your mediator has raised any children. In addition, you may have an idea of what you are looking for in a peacemaker, and then change your mind because you have found someone who is a good fit in other ways. For instance, you feel at ease and trust her. This could very well be the most important factor above all others.

Another factor to keep in mind is whether your peacemaker still litigates. Her answer may change your mind. Maybe you want a professional who only mediates and practices collaborative law. This may show that the professional has dedicated her life to the peacemaking process. On the other hand, you may want someone who still litigates because they are in the trenches and may know what the current trends are in the courtrooms. They may also have a working experience with your judge and know her or his quirks. That way, your mediator or collaborative professional may be able to lend a little insight as to what might happen if you were to appear in that courtroom.

Maybe you have a case with no assets and debts. Or you have substantial assets and debts. Different professionals have different experiences or choose to accept certain financial levels. I am an example of a peacemaker who has been trained in high profile cases, but I choose to resolve lower and mid-income disputes. If you and your ex earn $75,000 or less in combined, gross, annual income, you may qualify for reduced rates through Pasadena Affordable Divorce: www.pasadenaaffordabledivorce.com .

Remember, this is your mediation or collaborative process. You need to make sure that you choose the right professionals for your family to guide you through each step of the process.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Choose a Peacemaker, Not a Bulldog Attorney

If it is time for you to deal with your divorce or custody matter, there are different kinds of professionals you can hire to help you through the process. If you want to go to court and make your spouse and children suffer with intense stress, then you can hire a bulldog attorney to make several court appearances and write lots of letters threatening the other side. This will surely make your spouse stop communicating with you and will cost both of you tens of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees.

The other option is to hire a peacemaker to settle your case. You can hire a peacemaking litigation attorney whose focus is on settling the case for you, but has courtroom experience in case you cannot settle. Not all family law attorneys are peacemakers in nature. Some attorneys are used to bullying and rarely settle their cases. By the way, this does not mean that you will get the best outcome for yourself. I've even attended mediation where the attorney on the other side announced that she would not allow her client to participate in the mediation and that attending mediation was a bad idea in the first place. The only reason she and her client showed up that day was because the court ordered us all to attend. It was appalling to me that she did not even attempt to reach a peaceful resolution.

Bulldog attorneys who claim to mediate frustrate the settlement process and cost both parties an enormous amount of unnecessary attorney's fees. If you prefer to avoid the anger and hatred involved in bulldog litigation, make sure that you select an attorney who has a reputation for being a peacemaker. How do you know? Many peacemakers belong to local collaborative law groups. For instance, I belong to the Pasadena Collaborative Divorce group, Coalition of Collaborative Professionals and Collaborative Divorce Professionals of the Inland Empire, all of which have websites that you can browse through when looking for a peacemaker. I am confident that the attorneys in my groups will refrain from "churning" your case. In other words, we do not create lots of animosity for the sole purpose of driving up your attorney's fees to line our own pockets with your money the way a bulldog attorney will.

For more information, call the Law Offices of Howell and Howell at 626-568-1900 to schedule an appointment to discuss the differences between litigation costs and settlement costs. For more information about us visit http://www.pasadenamediationlawyer.com/ .

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What is Co-Mediation?

There are different forms of mediation in family law. The traditional method is for one neutral mediator to meet with both spouses (either with or without their lawyers). The mediator does not make any decisions but helps the spouses find a way to compromise so that they can reach an agreement. This is a great method when the parties have already made most of their decisions together and there is a very low level of conflict.

A newer method is co-mediation. Co-mediators can be lawyers, divorce coaches, financial specialists or trained mediators other than the above. The combination of co-mediators selected will be based on your concerns. For instance, if the subject of child support and child visitation creates tension, then you might consider having a divorce coach and a lawyer mediate together in order to reduce tension on those issues. Or, if you have a substantial amount of property, need to determine how much property you have, or need to create monthly budgets then one of your mediators should be a financial specialist and the other may be an attorney. There could be more than two co-mediators depending on the divorce.

Co-mediating is far less stressful than going to court or having one mediator. In addition, the children and other family members could be positively affected by using this method. Furthermore, co-mediation is far less expensive than going to court. Hiring more than one mediator may seem expensive but if you look at the big picture, then it will be obvious that co-mediation is tens of thousands of dollars less than litigating in court.

Please make sure that your mediators have intensive training and are peacemakers rather than bulldog litigators who occasionally mediate.

For more information, contact the Law Offices of Howell & Howell at 626-568-1900, or visit http://www.pasadenamediationlawyer.com .