Author(s): Ann Stuursma, Tara Velting

As we start a new year, a difficult one to be sure from an economic
standpoint, we have re—evaluated our role as your advocates. At this time of
financial insecurity we are all wary of losing ourjobs, our homes, our retirement
funds, and our ability to provide for ourselves and our children.

Many of you have considered how you will live apart if divorced and are
nervous indeed. The equity in your home may now be non-existent, business
incomes and salaries may be lower, pensions, 401K’s and lRA’s are losing
ground daily. It is up to us to maximize your financial security yet zealously
represent your interests. While the legal system is by its very nature adversarial,
we need not always proceed that way. We have found that early “four-way
meetings” between attorneys and parties as well as early “mediation” are
effective tools in reducing the emotional and financial costs of the divorce
process for both parties. We will urge you from the beginning to work toward
achievable, reasonable goals, i.e., compromise where appropriate. Please do
not think we are or wishy—washy if we encourage you to compromise to
help settle the case.

Additionally, Kent County Family Court has instituted a new pilot program
(to begin February 1, 2009) aimed at making the divorce process much less
adversarial. A series of new forms will be using designations such as “filing
parent” or “non-filing parent”, “mother” or “father” rather than “plaintifi°’ or
“defendant”, “regarding the marriage oF’ instead of “divorce”, “summons and
request to dissolve marriage”, “mutual parenting plane”, etc. The three main
innovative domestic relations procedures ofthe Cooperative Parent Pilot Project
include the non-adversarial language and the requirement that the two parents
work on and file a “parenting plan”. The third is the early use of mediation to
settle cases. Our representation of you in this process will be to emphasize
compromise, moderation and cooperation in order to help reach
resolution and protect your financial well being at this time of economic
instability.

For more information, contact Ann Stuursma and Tara Velting.