Articles Posted in Mediation

Thumbnail image for CMD close.jpgAttorney Christine Douglas will be volunteering with the IndyBar Alternative Dispute Resolution division at the 5th annual Mediation Day on Friday, September 26th. Mediation Day provides a service to the courts and community by volunteering to mediate several screened cases for litigants who qualify for modest means mediation. These litigants will have the use of a registered mediator at no cost to resolve their disputes. A judicial officer will be on-site to approve the mediated agreements.

Christine Douglas practices solely in the area of family law and is a Certified Family Law Specialist, as certified by the Family Law Certification Board. Christine helps individuals resolve a variety of issues that arise in non-traditional and traditional families. Her practice includes: adoptions, custody disputes, domestic partnership agreements, divorces, grandparent visitation, guardianships, parenting time enforcement, paternity cases and premarital agreements. She has extensive mediation and trial experience and completed the American Bar Association’s Family Law Trial Advocacy program in Denver, Colorado. She has been practicing for over sixteen (16) years and has extensive litigation experience managing heavy volume caseloads in complex, contested family law matters. Christine is also a trained parenting coordinator.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact Leah Potter at 317.569.0770 or

In the current economy, many couples are searching for cheap, fast ways to process their divorces. With access to the internet, spouses have found online websites offering divorce packages and forms to “do it yourself”. LegalZoom is one such service. In the interest of saving time and money, people are sometimes willing to compromise, and without more understanding of the law, they often don’t realize they could be compromising their legal rights.

Most people have a tendency to underestimate the work that goes into preparation for divorce proceedings. Achieving a fair and equitable divorce requires a great deal more than simply printing off forms. Low-cost divorce websites and other such services reinforce the public opinion that legal processes such as divorce or estate planning may easily be accomplished by generating simple forms. But, if a consumer is considering the use of such services, one should carefully read the service provider’s disclaimer – the “fine print”. In the case of LegalZoom, the service provider is not acting as an attorney, does not review the documents the buyer prepares for compliance or legal sufficiency and does not guarantee that the documents are accurate or correct. Also, considering that divorce laws and procedures vary by state and are frequently revised, it is possible that forms on online websites are not up to date on each state’s current requirements.

Preparing legal documents without the benefit of a legal opinion may result in unintended consequences that could be even more costly to correct in the future. At JHDJ Law, we receive a number of calls from prospective clients who for various reasons chose not to have representation in the interest of saving money and then received unfavorable court orders. Unfortunately, the cost to appeal or attempt to modify an unfavorable order is usually 2-3 times the average cost to retain a divorce attorney at the beginning of the proceedings.

Divorce Rates Increasing as Economy Rebounds (Select Link to watch CNN video report)

Interesting report from CNN. Most divorce attorneys reported a decrease in the number of new clients during the recession. It was rather unprecedented for the industry as financial woes typically precipitate or occur in connection with a divorce filing (people typically divorce due to issues involving sex, money, or children). The decrease in new divorce cases during the economic downturn occurred because of the higher rates of unemployment and the dismal housing market. Many couples felt trapped because they couldn’t sell their homes or were upside down, and for many, it was their most significant asset.

Transitioning into two households also seemed daunting for couples who were struggling to make ends meet in one. With job losses and concerns about relocation costs or child support, many couples chose to remain in unhappy marriages, or would “informally” separate (sleeping in separate bedrooms, alternating child care schedules or house-sharing), cohabiting as roommates due to the financial strains. Rarely did this arrangement lead to reconciliation. In fact, this forced cohabitation resulted in more stress and deteriorated communication as couples struggled with redefining their new living situations and relationship interactions while attempting to move on emotionally from their damaged marriages.

Divorce attorneys and family therapists are seeing an increasing number of couples over 50 deciding to divorce. If the parties have been in a long-term marriage, the emotional and financial impact can be devastating, and the parties’ ages make it more difficult to recover, especially if there has been a disparity in income or education. While much of the marketing of collaborative divorce is geared toward younger couples with children, the process has distinct advantages for many couples over 50 regardless of whether they have children or significant assets.

The first advantage is control, as the spouses are directly involved in negotiations and decision-making. A common misunderstanding is that it is better for a judge to make decisions if spouses cannot agree. The reality is that litigation should be a last resort because it limits the decision-making of both parties. In a hearing, your marital history, behavior and personal financial information are presented to a stranger via testimony and exhibits compressed into a few hours. In a collaborative divorce, spouses control the timeline and number of conferences needed to exchange information and negotiate a settlement. The process even incorporates certain business elements, with each settlement meeting including an agenda and minutes to minimize surprise and encourage preparation.

By age 50 or older, most spouses have retirement assets and real property to divide. By using an agreed financial advisor, spouses get a realistic idea of what their changed futures look like as a result of the property division. Couples can be creative with asset distribution and find that they have more flexibility with terms compared to most litigated court orders.

Members of JHDJ Law spearheaded a joint effort with the Indiana State Bar Association’s Women in the Law Committee inaugural entitled “Lady Justice” on Saturday, March 26. The event was an educational program for the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana and took place at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis with the help of 15 volunteer attorneys and judges.

Seventy-five Girl Scouts in third, fourth, and fifth grades participated in the program, with 23 troop leaders and parents. The

Scouts completed projects, listened to a panel discussion, shared lunch and watched a mock trial. Their participation will culminate in the Scouts earning a “Lady Justice” badge.

Among family law attorneys, January is a peak time for new clients.  The first Monday after the holiday break has even earned a nickname known as “Divorce Day”.  It isn’t meant to be insensitive, but reflects the real statistics that many couples are motivated after the holidays to seek a solution to their marital difficulties.

Separations and divorce filings typically slow down in the months of November and December as spouses attempt to maintain their relationships for the sake of their families and children through the holiday festivities.  However, the winter holidays can be very trying for marriages that are already experiencing serious problems.  The additional stress created by financial pressures, family dynamics or unfulfilled expectations can accentuate rather than mend the cracks in a relationship.  The long holiday break is often the final straw for many couples who have postponed separating.  Once children return to school and spouses return to work, many are resolved to proceed with a fresh start for the new year.

Initiating a divorce may seem overwhelming, but alternatives to traditional litigation provide more options for spouses who are concerned about the emotional and financial burden of the divorce process. After the holiday expenses, some couples may not feel that they can afford to divorce, even if they are struggling with ongoing marital conflict.  Remaining in an unhealthy situation can be more even more damaging, especially if parties have attempted counseling and have not been able to repair their marriages.  But options such as collaborative law and mediation are methods which are often less costly, financially and emotionally, and empower couples to have more control over the divorce process.  It can facilitate the transition into the next stage and help preserve the co-parenting relationship, minimizing some of the negative effects of divorce.  The Family Law Practice Group at JHDJ Law offers comprehensive legal services including litigation, collaborative law or mediation for clients considering a fresh start and contemplating divorce or separation.  To learn more about our services, contact 317-569-0770 or visit

On December 2, 2010, Elisabeth M. Edwards and Holly J. Wanzer, attorneys and domestic mediators in the Family Law Practice Group at JOCHAM HARDEN DIMICK JACKSON, presented a seminar to fellow mediators at the Indianapolis Bar Association.  The continuing education program was designed to help mediators identify and discuss potential ethical dilemmas encountered in mediation cases.  Edwards and Wanzer discussed sample conflict situations and offered practical solutions while helping mediators gain a better understanding of the applicable rules.

Edwards and Wanzer are both active members of the Indianapolis Bar Association and have served in several capacities on the Executive Committee of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section.  In addition, both are trained as collaborative law attorneys and are committed to providing prospective clients with alternatives to litigating their family law cases.  Edwards has indicated she has seen as much as a twenty percent increase in the number of  divorce clients who are seeking options to an adversarial court battle.  Mediation and collaborative law provide cost-effective options for spouses, which also helps them minimize the emotional trauma of a divorce by encouraging cooperation and negotiation.  Wanzer also shared that mediation is an effective tool for other types of family law matters – not just divorce.  She has recently mediated paternity cases and relocation issues.

For more on mediation, collaborative law, or the other legal services offered by the Family Law Practice Group, visit the practice areas page or call 317.569.0770, or

Holly Wanzer, an attorney and mediator with the Family Law Practice Group of Jocham Harden Dimick Jackson has been helping law students survive law school.  The latest issue of the Indiana Lawyer discusses Wanzer’s participation in the Indianapolis Bar Association’s “What You Need to Know” series, which was constructed to offer straightforward strategies and tips on topics including transitioning to law school and preparing for exams.  The sessions serve as a kind of “how-to” manual to minimize stress and help students succeed.  Wanzer participated in the first 2 of the 3 planned sessions for the year, with her presentations being well-received by the students.  Reviews by students said  Wanzer’s were “the best sessions on the subjects” of the many that were offered by the school.  Wanzer volunteered her time for the clinics, even repeating the sessions for evening students.  Wanzer earned her Juris Doctor summa cum laude in 1999 from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, and is an active member and volunteer for the IBA, having served on the Executive Committee of its Alternative Dispute Resolution