Looking for an Alternative to the Contentious Divorce?
When you think about divorce do you imagine a sterile conference room with you and your spouse facing each other with your lawyers by your side? Or worse, a courtroom with accusations flying? Are you worried about getting stuck in a long, drawn-out battle that makes an already difficult situation that much worse? Divorce does not have to be this way. Sure, it’s probably not going to be easy, but there are ways that you might be able to improve the experience and reduce your stress.
The first simple thing you can do, if you are represented by an lawyer, is to communicate clearly with your attorney about what is most important to you during the divorce proceedings. The most significant things may be more than who gets the house; you have emotional needs as well. It may be that your emotional well-being is more important than some of your other goals. Let your attorney know what your priorities are. Is a quick resolution most important? Is avoiding harm to the children number one? Next time you go to your attorney’s office think about what really matters to you and make sure your attorney understands that. The goals of litigation are set by the client; the attorney merely makes the tactical decisions.
If the whole idea of litigation bothers you then there are many legal alternatives that don’t require going to court. Here are some of the major alternatives:
In order to officially dissolve a marriage it is necessary to file a lawsuit but that doesn’t mean that you have to go to court or engage in the formalities of litigation (which involves gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses). You can always settle the case before trial. One way to do this is just to reach an agreement with your spouse. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on your own then you might want to try mediation.
Mediation involves a neutral third-party who tries to facilitate communication between the parties to see if they can come to a mutually acceptable agreement. The mediator tries to provide a safe environment for the parties to talk. The mediator is not there to determine who is at fault for the break-up of the marriage. If there is tension between the parties, they can be separated and the mediator can go back and forth between the rooms. If the situation is amicable everyone can meet in one place.
If the parties can reach a mutually acceptable agreement then they sign a legally binding settlement agreement. If the parties can’t come to an agreement then they still have the option of going to court.
The collaborative divorce process works by bringing each party, along with their respective attorneys, to the table. Together, the parties and their attorneys try to reach an agreement that works for everyone. The objective is to resolve any conflicts without going to court. If the parties can reach an agreement they can create a legally binding separation agreement and if they can’t reach an agreement then the spouses can still go to court. The lawyers which represent the parties in the collaborative divorce cannot represent the parties in the lawsuit, however, because as part of the collaborative divorce process they have to agree that they will not pursue litigation. This helps to ensure that the lawyer will focus on the objective of peacefully resolving the dispute through the collaborative process.
Arbitration may be an option in a divorce situation but it is rarely used for this purpose. In arbitration, there is a neutral third party that hears both sides of the argument and will ultimately make a decision in the case. The decision is meant to be binding on both parties but some arbitration could be followed with litigation later. Arbitration may not be an appealing alternative to traditional divorce litigation because it shares many of the same characteristics. The process is adversarial and requires the parties to gather evidence to support their case. Depending on the situation, arbitration could be less expensive than going to court and some people might find the process less intimidating.
Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences that a person can ever go through. This big change in your life does not need to be made worse by the divorce process. By communicating clearly with your attorney and by choosing the right method to reach a suitable agreement you can make the divorce process a little more bearable. People who feel that they had some control over the divorce process often feel more satisfied with the results. If both parties feel good about the process then the likelihood of future conflicts goes down. This is valuable to any divorced couple- especially those with small children and ongoing relationships.
Collaborative Divorce and Mediation Compared
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