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Louden Law, PLLC Blog

September 2021

Get the Most out of Divorce Mediations in Oklahoma

Mediation is without question one of the most powerful tools available to you in a divorce or custody case. Not only can mediation minimize your legal expenses, but it also gives you a say in the outcome of your case. Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize the importance of mediation, leading to a half-ass effort and a failure to prepare appropriately. If you go to trial, the JUDGE makes the decision. In Mediation, YOU get to decide

I feel that mediation is so pivotal that I have taken the time to put together these must-know mediation tips. I still learn something every time I mediate a case, so my mediation guide continues to evolve every year. I share these tips with my clients to help prepare for mediations, and now I will share these tips with you.

Divorce Mediations
Pete D. Louden

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party (the Mediator) helps people find mutually agreeable solutions to their legal issues. For example, in Oklahoma divorce and custody cases, the issues can include custody, visitation, property and debt division, child support, alimony, and other issues..

The Mediator is there to identify issues, help you understand one another, and help you reach agreements. The Mediator succeeds if you walk out of the mediation with an agreement. You succeed if you walk out of the mediation with a deal acceptable to you. Whether you choose mediation or the court has ordered you to mediate, the decision to settle is always up to the parties. The Mediator has no authority to impose a settlement on the parties.

There are generally two options for mediation:

Early Settlement is a court-sponsored mediation program. Early Settlement is an excellent program I have used extensively over the years and have had great success getting cases resolved. I find this option to be most effective for low conflict cases where the parties can sit in the same room and, with the help of a mediator, work out the details of an agreement. However, not every case is the right fit for this option.

The other option is to hire a private attorney to serve as a Mediator. This is my go-to mediation method for contested property and debt division issues and higher conflict custody cases. The advantage of hiring an attorney familiar with the judges is that the Mediator can guide the process and let a party know if what they are requesting is reasonable or likely. Offering this "reality check" can go a long way towards steering a mediation towards a settlement. However, unlike Early Settlement, it is not free and involves paying a mediator. Still, a successful mediation will save thousands in legal fees compared to taking a case to trial.

Can Both Parties in a Divorce Use the Same Attorney?

I have been a divorce and family law attorney for nearly a quarter of a century. As a result, I get calls from people with all sorts of Oklahoma divorce and family law questions. One scenario I hear often involves both parties in a divorce matter visiting an attorney (or even worse, a paralegal) who promises to help them do a quick and cheap divorce. I will explain why you should avoid such schemes.

Although I have framed this in the context of a divorce case, everything I write here will equally apply to any other proceedings such as paternity, custody, visitation, and child support cases. So, before you and your opposing party decide to meet with an attorney together, you must first understand how this works.

CAN BOTH PARTIES IN A DIVORCE USE THE SAME ATTORNEY?
Pete D. Louden

If there an attorney is involved, that attorney represents one person or the other. There is simply no way around this fact. The attorney is either his attorney or her attorney. There is no such thing as "our" attorney in an adversarial proceeding.

If you and your spouse meet with an attorney and you are unsure which one of you the attorney is representing, that means you are not the client. So, why is this an issue if you agree on everything? Because that attorney is not trying to protect your legal interest or ensure you get a fair deal. That attorney cannot answer your legal questions or give you legal advice. Instead, that attorney is ethically obligated to represent their client's best interest. So, if you are not the client, this means the attorney is looking out for the other party, not you.

Here is the bottom line: There is no legitimate way for one attorney to give legal advice to or represent both the Petitioner and the Respondent in a divorce case. You each need your own attorney, even in straightforward uncontested matters. Don't give in to the temptation to cut corners.



Oklahoma Fathers' Rights in Paternity Cases 

In Oklahoma, when a child is born to parents that are not married, the law recognizes the Mother as the custodial parent, at least until a district court orders otherwise. Even when the Father is listed on the child's birth certificate. 10 O.S. § 7800.

I see two common scenarios involving paternity cases. The first example is the Father, who has relatively consistent contact with the child or even lived together as a family but never married. Things may be fine for a while, but they are denied contact when there is a disagreement with the other parent. The second example is the Father who has been denied all contact with the child. Although the cases are factually different, they both land in the same place, not having access to the child.

Father and Son Image

The good news is that a Father can establish his rights and obtain an enforceable court order. However, it is up to him to initiate legal proceedings to make this happen. The first step in this process is to establish paternity.  Establishing paternity can be accomplished by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (most people refer to this as signing the birth certificate,) or genetic testing can establish paternity.

After paternity is established, the next step to solidify an Oklahoma Father's rights is to request an Initial Child Custody Determination. Then, the court will establish custody and visitation based on what the court believes to be in the child's best interest. Once there is a court order in place, that order can be enforced. The Father is no longer at the mercy of the other parent begging to spend time with the child.

Every case is different and dependent upon the specific circumstances. For example, in a case where the parents have lived together, and both actively raised a child, the starting point for a visitation order will be much different from a case where the Father has had only limited contact with the child.

It is even possible for a Father to be awarded custody or joint custody in the right circumstances. Whatever the starting point, the court is tasked with acting in the child's best interest. A child is entitled to having two involved parents, and the courts will support this. The key is that the Father must take the proper legal steps to make this happen.

Talk to us to learn more about fathers rights in Oklahoma.


RECENT POSTS

Get the Most out of Divorce Mediations in Oklahoma

Can Both Parties in a Divorce Use the Same Attorney?

Oklahoma Fathers' Rights in Paternity Cases

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