Mediation

The attorneys at the Law Office of Shaunna L. Browne, PLLC can assist you through the mediation process by providing you with the legal knowledge and assistance that will allow you to make fully informed decisions during the entire mediation process.   It is important that you know your legal rights and responsibilities before executing any type of documents which will have long standing effects on your family’s future.

In addition to providing you with legal representation when you are working with a third party mediator, Attorney Shaunna L. Browne can also provide you with mediation services.   Attorney Shaunna L. Browne has been practicing in the area of family law since 2000.    She can utilize her knowledge and negotiation skills to assist you and your spouse and/or the parent of your child(ren) to reach a negotiated resolution to some, if not all, of the issues that need to addressed in order to finalize a pending divorce or parenting matter.  If you are interested in mediation services, then please contact the office so that an initial consultation with both parties can be scheduled during which Attorney Browne will meet with both parties together, explain the mediation process, the terms of the Agreement to Mediate, and obtain each party’s input with respect to their expectations and potential issues to be resolved.   At the conclusion of the consultation, each party will be provided with items and forms to be completed prior to the next mediation session.   Mediation is customized to each family’s needs so it is impossible to estimate how long the process will take and how much it will cost.  However, any and all efforts will be made to minimize the duration and costs, however, a lot will depend upon each party’s commitment to the process.

Should I Hire an Attorney or a Mediator?

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution.  A mediator will receive and review brief position summaries from the parties, and then meet with them in a controlled setting in an attempt to bring about some mutually acceptable resolution of a pending claim.

The Family Division system requires all parties that have minor children to participate in at least one mediation session with a Court Appointed Mediator, who may or may not be an attorney.   The Court’s goal is to resolve cases quickly, with minimal use of Court time and resources. While mediation has its place, in my opinion it is forced on parties way too early in the divorce process, at a time when they are emotionally fragile and vulnerable, when one party may be seeking to “please” or not further “anger” their spouse.

BEWARE OF ATTEMPTING TO MEDIATE YOUR DIVORCE BEFORE YOU HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET WITH AND HIRE A TRAINED AND EXPERIENCED LAWYER TO PREPARE AND ASSIST YOU IN THAT PROCESS.

Parties also have the option of hiring a private mediator.    This is when the parties agree upon and hire a mediator to work with them outside of the Court system.   Private mediation can occur prior to anything being filed with the Court or even after a matter is pending.    Private mediation can provide parties with the ability to work through all of the various issues that need to be discussed and agreed upon in a neutral setting.   This allows the parties to have more control over their future and tends to decrease the overall acrimony that can be created when a divorce or parenting situation is left for the Court to decide.

Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Mediation Attorney

While mediation may have its benefits, parties have to be on completely equal footing, in terms of emotional strength, objectives, full and equal knowledge of their financial situations and histories, and willingness to be fair and reach an even handed resolution.

You should also know that a mediated agreement is binding and cannot be easily changed or modified, without great expense and delay. Oftentimes, mediators give bad or incomplete advice (they are not supposed to give any!) and many of them seem concerned with moving cases along and pleasing the Court so they can receive more mediation appointments. They are not your friends and are not concerned about the long term consequences of a mediated agreement upon you, your children, and family.

If parties have discussed divorce and believe that they can reach an agreement regarding all issues that the Court would address in a divorce matter then my firm can assist you by preparing the necessary documents to finalize your divorce matter. Again, do not simply rely upon the check box forms provided by the Court as they are often ambiguous and create misunderstandings which can and most likely will result in costly post divorce litigation.

As a small firm I understand the financial struggles that each of my clients’ face when dealing with divorce and parenting issues. While I do not encourage clients to enter into any type of legal proceeding without legal counsel, my firm is able to provide limited representation (a.k.a. Unbundled Services), which is discussed further on our Unbundled Services Page.

“When family matters you need to call”
Shaunna L. Browne Law PLLC
102 Bay Street, Suite #2 Manchester NH 03104
For a Free Initial Consultation Call – 603-626-8080
e-mail: shaunna@shaunnabrownelaw.com

Modification of Parenting Rights and Responsibilities

A lot of time and effort by both parents is needed to create a parenting plan that will work best for the parents and the children.  The goal should always be to establish a parenting plan that will work for the immediate situation and in the future.  However, as we all know, it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the future.   Many things can change in a person’s life from year to year, not to mention what can change when you are dealing with multiple people in different households.  People can change jobs, move into a different home, get married or remarried, have additional children or new step children, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  The New Hampshire Legislature, knowing that changes occur in everyone’s lives, has made it possible for parents to modify their parenting rights and responsibilities according to the NH Revised Statute 461-A:11-Modification of Parental Rights and Responsibilities.

Currently under RSA 461-A:11 there are nine ways in which a parenting plan can be modified:

  • By agreement. If the parties agree to the modification then the court may grant the modification;
  • If the parent with the residential responsibility continuously interferes with the other parent’s parenting time without having warranted reasons to interfere and the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child to have parenting time with the other parent, the modification can be granted;
  • If the child’s current environment, by clear and convincing evidence, is detrimental to the child’s emotional, physical and mental well-being and it would be detrimental to the child not to have the modification than a modification can be granted;
  • If there is roughly equal residential responsibility between the two parties and it does not seem to be working, then a modification can be granted in the best interest of the child;
  • If the minor child is determined to be a mature minor by clear and convincing evidence then the opinion of the mature minor of where he or she wants to reside will be taken into consideration. The court would also take into consideration any factors that they believe would influence the mature minor’s decision; and
  • If the change will be minimal or there would be no change at all to the allocation of parenting time and it was in the best interest of the child to have the modification.
  • Travel Distance: if the allocation of parenting time was due to the distance between the two parents homes and that has now changed (either further or closer to each other) then if the current order is not in the best interest of the child a modification can be ordered;
  • Work Schedule: if the existing order was based on one or both parents working hours and that has now changed making the existing order not in the best interest of the child then a modification can be ordered; and
  • Age of Child: if the existing allocation or schedule was based on the young age of the child, making the schedule outlined no longer feasible, it has been more than five years since the prior order and it is in the best interest of the child then a modification can be ordered.

While the information needed to modify your parental rights and responsibilities as outlined above seems to allow the parents to modify the parenting plan due to a variety of changed circumstances, it should be noted that the person seeking a modification has the burden of proof and must demonstrate, through testimony and other evidence, that any proposed change meets one or more of the above requirements.  While some of the reasons to modify seem straight forward, others are vague on the exact details that need to be presented to the Court when asking for a modification.  Even the straight forward criteria set forth above, requires the parent seeking a modification to prove that any change is in the best interests of the child(ren).

When seeking a review and modification of an existing Parenting Plan, it is important that you seek the assistance of an attorney who is well versed with respect to what the Court needs in order to issue an order modifying an existing plan.   The Law of Shaunna L. Browne, PLLC, has several attorneys and an excellent staff ready and willing to provide you with the legal assistance that you will need in order to seek and obtain a modification of an existing Parenting Plan in New Hampshire.   Call today for your free initial telephone consultation.

“When family matters you need to call”
Shaunna L. Browne Law PLLC
102 Bay Street, Suite #2 Manchester NH 03104
For a Free Initial Consultation Call – 603-626-8080
e-mail: shaunna@shaunnabrownelaw.com

Parenting Rights and Responsibilities

In August of 2018, the New Hampshire Legislature revised RSA 461-A, which is titled “Parental Rights and Responsibilities”. The statute is intended to provide the courts and parents with guidance as to how to best address issues relating to children. The purpose of the statute as stated in RSA 461-A:2 is to encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of raising their children and to develop their own parenting plan with minimal court involvement, with the assistance of attorneys and through the use of mediation.

In Family Division Courts, one of the first Court appearances will be for a “First Appearance”. This is a time scheduled by the Court for parents, whether involved in a divorce or parenting dispute, to appear before the court so that they can be scheduled for a two (2) hour mediation session, at a minimum, to address parenting issues. (But see the Mediation session, below).

The First Appearance is intended to allow parents to focus upon issues relating to their children relatively early in the process. The goal is for parents, with the assistance of counsel and a Court Certified Mediator, to reach an Agreed upon Parenting Plan. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement after the first mediation session, then either parent can request a temporary hearing to address any unresolved issues.

Parenting Disputes & Responsibility

In an effort to soften the effects of divorce and/or parenting disputes upon the parties and their children, the State of New Hampshire no longer uses terms such as “custody” and “visitation”.  As of August 7, 2018, there is also no longer a “primary” parent or “primary” residence.  The New Hampshire Legislature decided that neither parent should be given preference, even in name, in parenting plans.

Under the current rules, parents are encouraged to work together to agree upon a Parenting Plan which establishes the parents’ respective rights and responsibilities. The terms “legal custody” “physical custody” and “visitation” are now referred to as “Parenting Decision Making Responsibility”, ” Residential Parenting Time”, “Non-Residential Parenting Time” and “Routine Parenting Schedule”.  The revisions to the law require that Parenting Plans include a detailed schedule.

In New Hampshire (and again in most of the fifty states) an initial parenting schedule determination is based upon the “best interest of the child” standard. This means exactly what it says, and, absent an agreement between the parents, our Courts will attempt, to the extent humanly possible, to encourage a shared parenting plan.  If the Court finds that a shared parenting plan is not in the child’s best interests, they must state the reasons they have made such a decision.

The current statute indicates that its purpose is to allow parents to share in parenting responsibilities; however, it falls short of indicating that a shared parenting schedule is the main objective. As can be seen by this shift in policy, the Courts and society in general are evolving and recognizing the increasingly involved and important roles played by both partners in today’s family.

Finally, the current rules do not allow a parent to move with their child(ren) without a court order unless the new home is closer to the other parent or within the same school district or the move is to protect the parent, child, or both.  Designating the child(ren)’s school district is, therefore, an important decision when creating a long-term Parenting Plan.

Our Commitment

Whether you believe you will be able to reach an agreed upon Parenting Plan with the other parent of your child(ren) or if you believe that parenting issues will be highly disputed, the Law Office of Shaunna L. Browne, PLLC is ready to represent your interests with the highest level of professionalism, understanding and courtesy.

We strive to meet every client’s needs and will do whatever possible to ensure that a father or mother who has legitimate concerns and issues relating to their child(ren) is given the highest level of attention and representation in an effort to convince the presiding judge or marital master that they are the parent that will best meet their children’s needs. We also strive to maximize our client’s parenting time with their children and minimize the impact of divorce upon them.

Let us put our collective experience concentrating in family law to work for you and your family. Contact us today!

“When family matters you need to call”
Shaunna L. Browne Law PLLC
102 Bay Street, Suite #2 Manchester NH 03104
For a Free Initial Consultation Call – 603-626-8080
e-mail: shaunna@shaunnabrownelaw.com