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How long will the process take?

If the parties choose to file the Complaint at the initiation of the process, it could take as little as 60-75 days to get resolved. All efforts will be made to expedite and shorten the times between sessions in accordance to the parties’ collective needs and desires. An average time frame would be 4-6 months.

How are the parties legally bound by the process?
Participation in Stages I and II are by the mutual agreement of the parties. Either party is free to remove themselves from the process at any time. Once the parties enter Stage III, the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding, as would be a decision by the Courts. The parties will also be waiving any rights to appeal this decision.

Are the parties able to seek independent legal advice?
Yes. This is a collaborative process where the attorney is seeking to find a resolution, but is not going to give either party legal advice. Parties may have the initial representation and waiver of conflict Agreement with Shepard & Read reviewed by their own attorney. If a resolution is reached, and a settlement agreement prepared, either party would be free to have that agreement reviewed by separate counsel.

If the parties can’t get all their issues resolved, what are the advantages of an arbitrated decision over having a district court decide the case?
An arbitrated decision by an experienced divorce attorney has the advantages of ;

  1. Time
  2. Cost
  3. Quality of the decision
  4. Reduced Stress


1. Time:

For many people life gets put on hold until the divorce is finalized. It will take at least year and most times a lot longer, to get a final divorce hearing in district court.

  • Trials are typically scheduled on what is called a “trailing docket” meaning that your case can be called to potentially go to trial several times in a given month. It could take several times being on the trial list before the case is heard. Meanwhile your attorney has to be prepared and you are left hanging as to whether it will happen or not. This bost costly and stressful.
  • After the trial, it can take weeks and sometimes months for the court to issue a written decision, which can be challenged by motions for reconsideration or an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. This is why it can take years to receive a divorce in Maine.
  • With an arbitrated decision, you have total control over the timing of the process and the decision is final.

2. Cost:

  • By the time you get to trial in a contested divorce in district court, you would have already gone through at least one mediation, the process of discovery, and a judicial settlement conference.
  • Discovery alone could cost each party the $7000 fee for the Flat Rate Divorce.  Discovery is the ability for each attorney to require the other party to answer every written question that can be conjured up, and produce every conceivable document from the other party that could be “possibly” relevant. This process sends parties chasing down old bank and credit card statements as well as disclosing emails and text messages.
  • In the discovery process each side can be brought into a deposition by the opposing attorney to practice the grilling session for cross-examination at trial. So before you are even at the courtroom steps the parties are typically into fees that are in the tens of thousands of dollars, and that is before a day(s) in court where the combined hourly rates will typically exceed $500 an hour.

3. Quality of the Decision:

  • Most District Court judges in Maine are good quality jurists, but not all of them.
  • You have no control as to who hears your case, and no divorce attorneys would deny that the differences between how judges decide cases are considerable.
  • More importantly, there is no family court in Maine. The judges that first get appointed in district court may know nothing about divorce law. There are many former prosecutors that are serving as district court judges that have to learn from square one about divorces. But even as they work up the learning curve, they lack the knowledge of the profession that comes from years of representing both sides of a divorce, and understanding the impacts that these decisions have on divorce clients.
  •  A district court judge also spends only a small portion of their time on divorces, as their daily workload typically consists of criminal cases, protection from abuse and harassment, child protective proceedings, evictions and debt collection. Some simply do not like divorces.
  • An arbitrated decision in a Flat Rate Divorce is done by a specialist in family law with a better working knowledge of the issues, and a better sense of what is fair and reasonable, then what you will find in most decisions by a district court judge.

4. Reduced Stress:

  • In an attempt to get a client to consider settlement, I have often stated that if you go into a courtroom, and are cross examined, and have your spouse cross examined, there will be things that are said that will never leave your memory. It is a life altering experience with no winners.
  • The goal of a Flat Rate Divorce is not only cost efficiency but de-escalation of the stress and hard feelings . Our goal is to complete a divorce in a way that causes the least amount of harm to an already strained relationship.





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