When clients come to Kristen Amonette and Joshua Lindsey of Lindsey Amonette Nemer + Glassford, PLLC, they are often at one of their lowest points. Making the decision to end a marriage is never easy, and it often affects more than just the two parties involved. “We very much care about our clients and feel a heavy burden to walk with them through this process,” says Kristen, a Tennessee-native who has lengthy experience in all areas of family law.
In addition to the traditional courtroom divorce, which too often has the potential to breed an adversarial environment, Lindsey Amonette Nemer + Glassford, PLLC, offers two alternative approaches: mediation and collaborative divorce. Both divorce styles are structured to allow parties to reach a mutually satisfying agreement outside the courtroom. By taking these alternative approaches, Kristen says the emotional load of a divorce can be lightened, something the law practice always strives to achieve. “Really, what we’re trying to do is keep people flexible and for them to understand that to settle a case, both sides are going to have to compromise,” Kristen says.
The Mediation Process
Thanks to many initiatives made in the last couple of decades (championed by former Tennessee Judge Marietta Shipley), the mediation process is now required before divorces are tried in a courtroom. “I would say mediation is a form of dispute resolution that allows the parties more control than litigation,” Kristen says. Using mediation first helps avoid what could be a long, litigious battle.
Joshua agrees, adding, “When you go into a courtroom, even if you ‘win’ a hearing, your client and you very rarely feel vindicated when you leave. Part of that’s by design. We do everything we can to try and avoid going to the courtroom. There are times when we must go to court to protect our client’s best interests, of course, and we’re certainly not afraid to do so when necessary. But, whenever possible, we first seek more efficient and amicable resolutions and view court intervention as a last resort when we cannot reach a reasonable agreement.”
Through mediation and collaborative processes, clients are given the opportunity to express their desires and goals with their attorneys, a mediator and the other party involved. Often times, in the mediation process, a “caucus style” is employed. Joshua explains, “The parties sit in separate rooms with their individual attorneys. There’s another attorney, a mediator, who ping-pongs between the rooms and tries to get the parties to settle.”
The mediator is there to provide experiential advice and encourage a settlement so time, money and emotion aren’t spent in the courts. “The mediator’s job is to help everyone come up with options,” Kristen explains.
Once a resolution is made, the courts finalize the agreement and the divorce is granted.
The Collaborative Divorce Process
While engaging in the mediation process is typically easier than a traditional courtroom divorce, Kristen and Joshua say it’s always great to take the process one step further and try to make a collaborative-style divorce. The two main differentiators between the two is with collaborative, both parties work on a resolution in the same room and commit to settling their divorce without the court’s intervention. Negotiating at the same table eliminates the possibility for parties’ intentions and “tone” to be misunderstood during the caucus-style rhythm of the mediation process, and agreeing to settle the case without court intervention keep “dirty laundry” and potentially damaging information private and contained.
This style of conflict solving, Joshua says, requires both maturity and patience. “If you’re going to successfully engage in a collaborative divorce process, you have to be able to pull yourself out of a zero-sum-game method of thinking,” Joshua says. “You have to be able to hear what your spouse is saying and you have to be able to compromise in order to reach a settlement. I often call collaborative the ‘grown up’s divorce’ because it takes a room of mature people to make it work successfully. In the end, it gives parents the best chance at a healthy and successful co-parenting relationship when the divorce
Along with the parties and their respective attorneys, a collaborative divorce also affords the opportunity to bring in two more specialists — the coach and financial neutral. The coach serves as the standing mental health professional, ensuring everyone’s emotional needs are met and the room maintains a balanced atmosphere. (This person is professionally trained in the collaborative divorce process.) The second individual, the financial neutral, is a CPA who is also trained in the collaborative divorce process and is provided with all financial histories from both spouses. “Their importance cannot be overemphasized,” Joshua says.
With all these professional, experienced representatives in place, the collaborative divorce process often provides clients with a smooth, pain-free outcome. It’s what Kristen and Joshua encourage their clients to pursue, if possible.
Even if cases still require court intervention, Kristen and Joshua say they are committed to preserving as much emotional health as possible. At the end of the day, they seek to counsel clients on how to reach the best possible resolution. “When you need a divorce attorney, you’re usually at one of the lowest moments of your life, so you need someone who’s really going to listen to you and care for you and connect with you on a human level,” Joshua says. “I feel like it’s a responsibility, and I take it seriously.”
This article is sponsored by Lindsey Amonette Nemer + Glassford, PLLC.