Getting divorced is often described in terms of war and battle. There is an assumption that a divorce will be (and even has to be) acrimonious. Part of the reason for this belief is that for much of the history of legal divorce in the United States, litigation was the only way to go about it. While litigation is an appropriate model for other types of court cases, it isn’t always the best model for divorce.
Thankfully, alternatives exist that many couples find to be faster, cheaper, less adversarial and less stressful. In today’s post, we’ll discuss two such options: Mediation and collaborative law. Our firm is proud to offer guidance and representation in both.
Working toward consensus in mediation
When you participate in mediation, there isn’t a courtroom or a judge. There isn’t even a third party issuing final decisions. Instead, you and your spouse are encouraged to sit down and reach agreements for yourselves with the help of a neutral third party, known as the mediator.
A mediator cannot and should not make decisions for you. Rather, he or she is there to keep dialogue open and ensure that discussions are productive. When you have gone through all areas of disagreement and resolved them, the decisions you’ve made will be formalized in a document and presented to a judge for approval. In mediation, neither party is required to have their own attorney present, but it is an option.
Structured negotiations with collaborative law
Couples are ultimately the decisionmakers in collaborative law as well, but there is no mediator. Instead, each spouse is represented by his or her attorney, and the attorneys help keep discussions moving forward while also advising clients. A similar process sometimes occurs prior to litigation, but collaborative law tends to be more focused on working together rather than sizing up one’s opponent for litigation.
What if these don’t work?
For either of the above methods to be productive, both spouses need to be willing to negotiate in good faith. If they cannot negotiate, or cannot manage to resolve all differences, litigation becomes the next option. And if litigation becomes necessary in your own case, you can at least be sure that you have exhausted lesser options before deciding on this strategy.