The attorneys at Schoonmaker, George, Colin & Blomberg, P.C. offer a full range of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services. The ADR practice group is led by Thomas D. Colin Superior Court Judge (Ret.), an experienced trial lawyer, trial judge and mediator.
- The best ADR professionals are those with significant experience working in the courtroom trenches as trial lawyers who can draw from their unique experiences with clients and who know what does and does not work in the litigation process.
- They also know the risks and pitfalls of litigation and are able to empathize with the parties and their lawyers.
- All of the attorneys at SGCB actively handle traditional client representation, including litigation and negotiated settlement, in addition to being available for ADR services.
- For the full biographies of Thomas Colin and the other attorneys at SGCB, please go to the Attorney Page.
ADR services can include mediation, arbitration and special master projects (discovery or neutral case management, for example). For many reasons, ADR is now an increasingly popular and effective method for resolving family law and matrimonial disputes, including, but not limited to:
- Sophisticated financial matters, such as those involving the valuation of a closely held business, hedge funds and commercial real estate;
- Complex child custody cases that may include issues of substance abuse; and
- Other divorce related matters, such as those involving the validity and enforceability of a prenuptial agreement.
Seven Crucial Reasons to Consider ADR:
(1) CHOICE: The parties and their attorneys can personally select the ADR professional that they wish to use to resolve their dispute.
- When parties appear at a courthouse for a pretrial settlement conference or a trial, they frequently do not know whether a judge will be available to handle their case.
- They also may not know to whom the case will be assigned until that very day.
- Furthermore, the level of family law experience of each judge varies widely from very experienced in the field to a complete novice since many judges come from government service (prosecutors, public defenders, etc.) or other diverse legal backgrounds.
- You pick your own plumber, electrician or doctor, for example, so why not personally select the family law professional who will help you resolve a dispute that involves the most important aspect of your life – your family?
- You and your attorney (if you have one) can carefully select the specific ADR professional you want to assist in an out-of-court resolution of your case.
(2) FLEXIBILITY: You have much more flexibility in scheduling the time necessary to deal with the important issues you face.
- Meaningful court business generally takes place from 10 AM to 4:30 PM in most courthouses with breaks in the morning, afternoon and at lunch that often exceeds 90 minutes in total.
- Many ADR professionals, including those at SGCB, are available on “off hours” such as extended days, weekends, evenings, early mornings, etc.
- With ADR, if the matter will require more than one day, then it can be carefully scheduled to accommodate that necessity. This allows parties to plan around their work, family and other obligations outside the confines of strict government building hours.
- Obtaining consecutive court days at the courthouse is not always guaranteed due to the size of court dockets and the number of judges and staff to handle a busy caseload.
- The flexibility of ADR also permits you to select the location of your sessions instead of being required to always appear in the stressful and anxiety provoking courthouse environment. Parties can choose the ADR professional’s office, or their attorney’s office, or another convenient location such as a hotel or other conference room facility. This type of flexibility simply does not and cannot exist in the court system.
(3) RULES: ADR gives parties more flexibility in setting the ground rules.
- In court trials and hearings, the rules of evidence and civil procedural rules strictly apply.
- However, with ADR, parties can decide to “opt out” of certain procedures in order to handle matters more efficiently. **(For example, they might decide to be less formal in their presentations than the rules of evidence and procedure might otherwise permit, or agree to not have the ADR proceeding recorded as it would be in a courtroom setting. On the other hand, the parties can agree to strictly follow the same rules that would apply in a traditional courtroom setting.)
(4) FOCUS: An ADR proceeding will focus on your, and only your, case.
- In a courtroom, a busy judge is often interrupted by other court business, emergencies, staff persons who require assistance, etc.
- This is not the case with an ADR proceeding such as a mediation or arbitration.
- The ADR professional can devote their time and energy to your case alone. This likely will result in a very careful, appropriate and fair resolution.
(5) PRIVACY: An ADR proceeding provides a significant advantage in allowing parties to maintain their personal privacy.
- A courtroom proceeding is open to the public. Anyone can sit, watch and hear the details of your family situation.
- This creates the additional risk of certain information being posted on the Internet, including actual transcripts of testimony during court proceedings, for the entire world to see, including friends, family, co-workers, potential employers, etc.
- An ADR proceeding permits parties to keep private the details of their family situation; this may include embarrassing details surrounding the break-up of the relationship, substance abuse issues, tax problems and other unflattering information.
- This factor is often a major motivation in deciding to follow the course of ADR resolution.
(6) SPEED: An ADR proceeding is much more likely to result in a faster resolution than a courtroom trial or hearing.
- Experienced ADR professionals, like those at SGCB, can help create an amicable out-of-court resolution of your case, through mediation.
- If, however, an arbitration proceeding is used, where the ADR professional serves as the arbitrator and will issue a ruling in compliance with the law, it is highly likely that the arbitrator will decide the matter much more quickly than a busy trial court judge would issue a ruling.
- Judges in Connecticut have up to four months to decide your case, and they are never handling only one case.
- On the other hand, the parties can themselves determine how much time the arbitrator has to issue a ruling; in many cases, that period is thirty days.
- A family law or divorce related dispute is a stressful process and a faster resolution will only serve to benefit the entire family system.
(7) COST: ADR proceedings will generally be less expensive than the traditional court process.
- Even though there is a cost to hire the ADR professional, family resources are generally saved through the out-of-court process due to the avoidance of expensive litigation, a reduction in wasted wait time, the avoidance of court delays, including the problems associated with government staffing shortage issues, availability of judge issues, etc.
- This is true whether the ADR process involves a mediated settlement or an arbitration proceeding.
- It is also worth noting that an ADR proceeding can be helpful in certain cases even if an overall and complete resolution is not achievable through ADR; in these instances, a skilled ADR professional can be helpful in resolving one or two narrow discrete issues, such as the valuation of a closely held business, the validity of a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, the amount and length of alimony or even the appointment of an ADR Special Master to manage the case or handle discovery disputes. This type of Special Master assignment can, in turn, lead to an amicable resolution of the entire case once the narrow issues in dispute are determined through the ADR process.
If you or your attorney is interested in the ADR services at SGCB, please contact the firm at 203-862-5000.