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Alternative Dispute Resolution And Keeping The Client’s Life Private

Rockville, MD—David  Bulitt says that any spouse considering divorce needs to be very careful about whom they pick as their attorney.

“This is not like hiring an electrician or a plumber,” Bulitt explained in a recent interview.  “This is someone who you have to be comfortable talking to, listening to and trusting their judgment.  You have to be willing and able to work with this person through one of the toughest times in your life. Who’s going to be in the captain’s chair?  You wouldn’t hire Joe Smith because he is a friend or was in a magazine. Hire him because you trust his judgment”

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Bulitt says that he originally went into family law because he wanted to be a trial lawyer, and at the time when he went into practice, divorce cases went to court almost all the time.  “Now I don’t try nearly as many cases, due to alternative forms of conflict resolution,” he says.

This switch to alternative dispute resolution has led to fewer trials, but is often better for divorcing couples, according to Bulitt.  “I used to revel in going to trial, but now people who don’t want their names in the newspaper and don’t want reporters rummaging through their lives come to me,” he says.  “I do the best I can to move them through as painlessly as possible, so that their private lives don’t become public.”

For Bulitt, this philosophy has led to a number of awards and accolades.  For more than a decade, he is included as one of the top divorce lawyers in the Washington DC area by Washingtonian Magazine, Best Lawyers in America and other publications. He is also recognized as one of the best in his field by Super Lawyers.

When it comes to one of the latest trends in divorce law today—collaborative divorce—Bulitt says that he’s something of a skeptic.  “I took the course and am certified. Personally though,  – and some of my friends who do it aren’t going to like this,” he explains, “but I can do the same work in the same way but without all the ropes and chains of a “collaborative divorce”.  If you know how to settle a case, you don’t need the whole collaborative framework to get it done. I find that a collaborative divorce is often more costly than a more traditional model.  In fact, some of the clients who have paid me the most were those whose collaborative divorce failed and their lawyer referred them to me to litigate the case.” 

In the collaborative process, the couple has to agree not to go to court.  “If the process falls apart, the lawyer leaves, and you have to get a new lawyer,” Bullitt says, which makes collaborative law a costly option for anyone who suspects that their disputes may need to be resolved through trial.

While divorce trials still happen, Bullitt says that they’re much less common, thanks to new approaches to settling divorce cases.  “There are now a lot of structures in place that try to get people to settle before getting to a judge.  You find a lot more of these instances in family cases where there are individuals with high net worth,” he says.  “Folks who have worked hard for their money tend to be more pragmatic.  They can understand the risks of letting a judge make decisions about their marriage, and these folks see utility in deciding their own destiny.”

Due to changes in family laws, Bulitt says that couples with custody disputes in Maryland today can expect their case to take less time than it may have in the past.  “The time it takes to litigate a custody case has shortened over the years.  It could take two years to litigate back in the day—now we have a general timeline here in Maryland that the entire case has to be done by the time a year has passed.”

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