It is not uncommon in these difficult times for one ex-spouse to seek a modification of the divorce decree.  COVID has caused changes in everyone’s life. A party may have lost income or even their job and seek to decrease alimony and child support. Or concerns over the safety of unvaccinated children or the failure of an ex-spouse to receive a vaccination may lead a party to seek to modify visitation.

Litigation over these issues was already time consuming before the pandemic caused a backlog of matters before the courts.  You and your family may be better served by bringing your issues to mediation with a retired judge. During my 27 years on the bench I served 6 years as the Family Presiding Judge where I tried hundreds of cases and assisted in the settlement of many more. These cases involved alimony, child support, equitable distribution and custody. I also ruled on hundreds of post judgment applications. I believe my experience can be beneficial to ex-spouses who wish to reach a mutual resolution of their family law issues in a timely manner.

In the latest article for WealthManagement.com, the Honorable Judge Katherine Dupuis, (Ret.) of Lindabury’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice Group offers insight on how mediation can be a viable way to achieve cost savings and justice during estate-planning disputes. This write-up addresses both what can go wrong and how to move forward through the process. To read it in its entirety, click here.

We are pleased to announce the Honorable Judge Katherine Dupuis (Ret.) of Lindabury’s Alternative Dispute Resolution practice group has been named been as the 2020 Professional Lawyer of the Year by the Union County Bar Association. This award is presented to lawyers who are honored by colleagues for their exemplary conduct, competence, diligence, and demeanor.

Judge Dupuis (Ret.) concentrates her practice on mediation and arbitration in the areas of commercial disputes, probate mediation, and divorce mediation. To contact Judge Dupuis (Ret.) or to learn more about the services she offers, please click here.

Probate disputes often reflect the worst aspects of family law coupled with issues of undue influence.

At the time of a will probate dispute the court system is seeing the litigants at a trying period in their lives. They have lost a loved one and tensions are running high as to the actual intent of the deceased person. While the parties may be furious with one another, there is always the hope that some degree of familial ties can be preserved. Mediation is uniquely suited to resolve these tensions. The litigants can tell their sides of the story to the mediator, who has the time to listen. In my experience, it is very important for all litigants to feel as if their side of the dispute has been properly told. It is after this emotionally draining experience that they are ready to find common ground and solutions to the problems presented.

Challenges frequently arise when all heirs are not treated equally. One child may feel they had the burden of caring for the aging parent and should be compensated. A variation of this story arises when the elderly parent has given a power of attorney to only one family member. After death disputes arise as to assets that may have been spent by the child with the power of attorney. Rarely have receipts been saved, and frequently large amounts of cash have been paid to home health aide. Expensive litigation and a trial will only serve to reduce the assets. A mediator can help the parties narrow their actual disputes and discuss the cost of proving the righteousness of a position. The insight of a neutral third party is invaluable.

ALTERNATE Dispute Resolution of Business Claims

Business conflicts arise in a myriad of different situations, such as:  minority shareholder claims, dissolution, allegations of  self dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of restrictive covenants. Additionally, minority partners may allege they have been shutout of the business, or a stockholder may seek greater access to internal investigations. Individuals may also seek to have their interests bought out. Even where there is a governing document dealing with dissolution, there is frequently a dispute as to how it applies in a given situation. Any of these claims expose the business entity to damages and the high cost of litigation. Beyond that, there is the concern that corporate secrets or methods of doing business will be exposed to competitors. There may be concern that questionable tax practices may come to the attention of the court.  Even if there is a confidentially order in effect, it is likely that the competitor will learn of the dispute and take advantage of the turmoil within the company. Similarly, an individual suing a business entity risks being labeled a trouble maker and having their business reputation compromised.

Mediation presents a more efficient, less expensive, and confidential method to resolve these disputes. The parties can agree on the ground rules for the mediation. Mediation can be undertaken immediately with the mediator permitting some discovery, or it can be started after the parties have already commenced litigation. The mediator can work with accountants, as necessary. Mediation is a viable solution when dealing with a problem of a small business and also when dealing with more complex issue such as interlocking corporations and closely held family businesses.

The Honorable Judge Katherine Dupuis, (Retired) and Nicole A. Kobis, partner at Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook, & Cooper, P.C., explain how divorce can be handled virtually

If classroom lessons and workout classes can be conducted virtually, does the same hold true for divorce proceedings?

The short answer to this is yes. Virtual alternative dispute resolution will result in a faster divorce process during times like these when the courts have limited capabilities and a back log of matters to be heard.

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