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Our Practice

CLAIRE SANDERSON HANNA LAW FIRM, P.C.

Practice limited to family law and mediation

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Initial Legal Consultation

An informative meeting with Claire Sanderson Hanna where she presents an overview of New Mexico family law and the facts of the individual’s assets and debts, financial, familial, and legal issues, needs of the children and personal and legal goals.

 

Individuals obtain an enormous amount of information at this initial legal consultation: including an understanding of New Mexico community property law, child support, alimony estimates as well as an understanding of the legal processes available:  collaborative divorce, mediated divorce, settlement facilitation and litigation.  The initial consultation provides vital financial and legal information individuals need in order to make informed decisions and to develop safe plans and strategies for moving forward in their lives.

 

It is an interactive meeting with the prospective clients able to ask questions pertaining to their particular situation and with Ms. Hanna making suggestions for settlement options and recommendations of how to proceed.  The fee for this is one hour of attorney time plus gross receipts tax and the meeting typically lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

 

Consulting Attorney

If an individual is already participating in mediation with another mediator, he or she may need to periodically consult with a family lawyer for advice during the mediation process or to review financial summaries or documents the mediator has drafted.

 

An individual could then retain Claire Sanderson Hanna as a consulting attorney to serve in this advisory role without retaining her for extensive services such as litigation or document drafting.  The fee for this is based on the hourly rate of plus gross receipts tax and the total number of hours will depend on the number of meetings and the complexity of the tasks assigned to Ms. Hanna.  Estimated ranges can be provided upon meeting with the individual and assessing that person’s situation.

 

Another scenario when you might retain Claire Sanderson Hanna as a consulting attorney would be when you believe your divorce is simple, straightforward and you and your spouse have already agreed on all or most of the issues pertaining to your divorce.

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Second Opinion Consult

Sometimes an individual already has another family lawyer but the match between the two is problematic or there are concerns and questions about the quality or nature of that current legal representation.  Most often this is due to a breakdown in communication and not any actual mistake or inappropriate action on the part of the current lawyer.  However, in order to repair the relationship and/or decide whether it might be time to change attorney representation, it is advisable for the individual to schedule a Second Opinion Consult with another family lawyer BEFORE any changes to legal representation are made.

 

One should bring copies of all court filed documents (“Pleadings”), copies of any financial statements (assets and liabilities worksheets), any written settlement offers or counter offers to the Second Opinion Consult with Ms. Hanna.  She will review the file and meet with you to address your questions and concerns.  Two hours should be allowed for this meeting.  If additional services are required such as co-counsel role to supplement the current attorney or additional review of materials, then additional fees will be assessed at the attorney’s hourly rate plus gross receipts tax. 

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Mediator

Claire Sanderson Hanna is an experienced mediator in all issues pertaining to divorce, post-divorce and family related matters.  As a mediator, she is neutral and does not represent either party.  Her role is to assist both the parties to reach a fair and mutually acceptable settlement of all issues pertaining to their legal matter.

Because she is acting as a neutral in the role of mediator, Claire Hanna requires that both parties obtain legal advice from family lawyers during the mediation process.  At a minimum this means Ms. Hanna’s mediation clients need to meet with his and her respective consulting family lawyers to review any divorce documents Ms. Hanna is hired to prepare for the parties as part of the mediation process.

The role of the individual family lawyers can be as great or as small as the parties wish as long as they meet with the attorneys for legal advice prior to finalizing any settlement reached at mediation.  Typically parties attend mediation sessions without their attorneys present; however, the parties are welcome to invite their attorneys to attend any and all mediation sessions.  The parties are in the same room with the mediator and the mediator typically does not meet individually with the parties.  Mediation appointments are scheduled in blocks of 2 hours and parties are assumed to each be responsible for half the cost unless they reach an agreement otherwise.

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FAST-TRACK Mediation: 

A recent innovation Claire Sanderson Hanna is developing in the area of mediation allows the parties the opportunity to “fast track” the mediation process in order to make more progress more quickly and more economically.  It operates a bit differently than the more-standard mediation process.

 

First the parties cooperate to select a neutral financial consultant who works for both parties to compile all the relevant financial materials needed for a divorce such as:  income tax returns, pay-stubs, retirement plan information for IRAs, 401ks and pension plans, information pertaining to assets and debts and current monthly living expenses.

 

The parties may contact Claire Sanderson Hanna who will provide referrals for these neutral financial professionals or she can provide a list of the necessary materials and the parties can select their own financial consultant to gather these materials.  However, Ms. Hanna suggests that the parties use a financial neutral familiar with family law matters and one whom she has recommended, because in her experience this will be faster and less expensive for the parties.

 

Then the next step once the financial materials have been compiled and provided to Ms. Hanna is for the parties to schedule a preliminary two (2) hour mediation session with Ms. Hanna.  By ‘fast-tracking” the organization and compilation of the financial information, the parties will be able to “jump right in” at the first mediation session and begin to start making immediate progress in the negotiation of the matters pertaining to their family law situation.

 

Settlement Facilitator: 

The role of settlement facilitator is similar to that of mediator, but there are a few significant differences.  Mediation can take place before any court action has occurred or at any stage in the divorce legal process.  Settlement facilitation typically takes place towards the end of a litigated divorce case prior to trial.  Each party has a family lawyer representing him or her, and it is the attorneys who select the settlement facilitator or the court appoints the settlement facilitator.  The length of settlement facilitation is typically either half a day (3 to 4 hours) or a full day (7 to 8 hours). 

 

The parties, their lawyers and the settlement facilitator participate in the settlement facilitation and the settlement facilitator often shuttles back and forth between meeting with each party and his/her attorney who are often in separate rooms.  Some time may be spent with everyone together in the same room but often the majority of the time is spent divided.

The settlement facilitator’s hourly rate plus gross receipts tax depends on the length of the scheduled settlement facilitation.  It is assumed that each party will pay one half of the settlement facilitator’s fees unless there is a written agreement or court order otherwise prior to the settlement facilitation or unless another such agreement is reached as part of the settlement facilitation itself.

 

The benefits of settlement facilitation can be profound from both a financial and an emotional perspective.  Settlement facilitations are often the “last gasp” before an expensive and potentially acrimonious trial.  A skilled settlement facilitator can be the difference between a failed settlement and an expensive trial or a successful settlement and an end to the dispute.

 

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Collaborative Family Attorney

The role of collaborative family lawyer is an advocacy role, but it is a method of advocacy which is based upon negotiation, fairness, respect and the goal of reaching a settlement which addresses the needs and interests of both parties. 

 

It is a team approach and often involves not only two collaboratively trained attorneys, one for each party, but also a neutral collaborative communication coach (a mental health trained professional proficient in the collaborative method), and a neutral financial consultant (often a CPA proficient in the collaborative method).  The collaborative process is communication based and relies upon significant interaction and participation of the parties and the team members.  A collaborative divorce is uniquely tailored to the specific needs of the divorcing couple.  Although this process is typically more expensive than the mediation process, it is generally significantly less expensive than a fully litigated divorce. 

 

Professionals charge hourly rates and team members request retainers in varying amounts. Each case is unique and the initial retainer for each case will vary.

 

The benefits of collaborative divorce are impressive.  Since a communications coach is typically an essential team member, a superlative benefit of the collaborative process is a smoother transition from married life to divorced life for the entire family. Each collaborative divorce is uniquely tailored to the needs and goals of the particular divorcing couple and their family. The cost of a collaborative divorce is significantly lower than a litigated divorce as well.

 

Litigation

If Claire Sanderson Hanna recommends litigation as the approach in your matter, then she has identified it as a relatively high conflict matter based on her communication with the individual client or the client has retained Ms. Hanna after the lawsuit has already been opened with the court.  Ms. Hanna had a litigation-oriented practice for many years, but for the last several years she has decreased her active involvement in litigation and has focused more on settlement-related legal activities such as mediation, consulting attorney role and settlement facilitation.

 

However, often clients wish to have Ms. Hanna involved in their litigation case because they know that the vast majority of all divorces ultimately settle even if they begin as hotly litigated divorces.  Therefore, Ms. Hanna accepts litigation cases and brings in a litigator as part of the legal team to handle the actual courtroom work and litigation-related aspects of the matter and Ms. Hanna acts as the co-counsel for all settlement and advisory and strategy work related to the lawsuit.

 
In order to provide litigation services to the clients at reasonable rates, the client receives the assistance of two attorneys (Claire Sanderson Hanna and the litigating attorney) for a blended fee which is the cost of one attorney and one paralegal rather than the cost of two attorneys.

 
It is a team approach and often involves not only two collaboratively trained attorneys, one for each party, but also a neutral collaborative communication coach (a mental health trained professional proficient in the collaborative method), and a neutral financial consultant (often a CPA proficient in the collaborative method).

 
The collaborative process is communication based and relies upon significant interaction and participation of the parties and the team members.  A collaborative divorce is uniquely tailored to the specific needs of the divorcing couple.  Although this process is typically more expensive than the mediation process, it is generally significantly less expensive than a fully litigated divorce.

 
Professionals charge hourly rates and team members request retainers in varying amounts.  Each case is unique and the initial retainer for each case will vary.

 

The benefits of collaborative divorce are impressive.  Since a communications coach is typically an essential team member, a superlative benefit of the collaborative process is a smoother transition from married life to divorced life for the entire family.  Each collaborative divorce is uniquely tailored to the needs and goals of the particular divorcing couple and their family.  The cost of a collaborative divorce is significantly lower than a litigated divorce as well.

 

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Contact Me

One Executive Center
8500 Menaul NE, Suite B-550
Albuquerque, NM 87112
t: (505) 243-0900
f: (505) 243-5785
Email: channa@nmdivorce.com

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