Many divorces in Alabama today are handled through mediation. This means that the parties agree to hire an independent lawyer with extensive experience in Alabama family law and the local County Court. The parties should have their own lawyer, who represents them throughout the trial. Under Alabama law, only one lawyer cannot represent both parties. In addition to lawyers and mediators, parties can also have access to independent experts to help them understand complex issues of taxation, finance and child welfare. In these circumstances, the judicial authorities` approval of detailed agreements cannot give a party the right to apply for an order under the terms of the agreement. “The position as I see the law is set out in my remarks that day. I think that is very clear. Part of what happened before the qualified judge at the FDR was a familiar type of conventional negotiations, which resulted in broad agreement between the parties. But no more than that. I think it is quite wrong to say that the oral proclamation of terms to the judge after this type of hybrid hearing (of which I would like to say a little more) resulted in something other than what it was, namely a broad consensus on the conditions under which the parties would agree. To say that the judge gave his “consent” to these terms, no matter what it means and what may appear in the skeleton of the junior councillor or not, I think the investment of the exercise that Bennett J made on this special occasion, with a much more status than it deserves.
The judge had read the documents and expressed an opinion. He was told what the terms were, and he gave his blessing, so to speak. He would undoubtedly have said the conditions if he had felt that the conditions were entirely inappropriate. It was obvious that he would bless the terms on the whole, because they were very close to the terms he himself had proposed. It would therefore have been extraordinary if he had done nothing but congratulate the parties for arriving within one or two percentage points of what he himself had proposed. But he certainly did not accept the technical order because he did not give the order to approve it. But sometimes and inevitably there will be times when, I think, the parties will say that they have been unfairly overwhelmed by a combination of opportunity, justice and difficult legal advice. This is by no way a critique of this very useful system, much less a critique of this experienced judge. But I think we have to make sure that the parties, when they make agreements with these FDRs, do so on a totally voluntary basis. A respite or a time for reflection can sometimes be a wise precaution before drawing any final conclusions. For uncontested divorces, we are able to offer a fixed fee. Talk to us today for an offer.
33. In this context, I address the crucial question: what was the outcome of the hearing before Bennett J? Was it just a contractual arrangement between the parties or was it an imperfect court order? In my view, the product was clearly an imperfect court order.