Can you divorce without a courtroom battle?

Typically, when people think of divorce they imagine a drawn-out courtroom battle. While litigation is an option, it is not the only option.

Many Hawaii families are considering alternative dispute resolution models to facilitate their divorces. These alternative methods can include: collaborative divorce, mediation and arbitration. How do these options differ from traditional litigation?

Understanding all your available options

Alternative dispute resolutions allow couples to end their marriage in a way that meets their unique goals and family’s needs. A few of the most popular methods include:

  • Mediation: couples work together to determine the terms of their divorce. With evaluative mediation, a neutral mediator works with both spouses to explain and evaluate divorce options without favoring one spouse over the other. Mediation can allow divorce disputes to be settled much more quickly than traditional litigation, and at a fraction of the cost. It can also facilitate a less rancorous process that encourages a positive relationship moving forward. This can be especially beneficial for couples sharing custody of children.
  • Arbitration: couples explain their case to a neutral arbitrator then the arbitrator, who serves the same role as a judge, determines the final outcome of your divorce. Divorce arbitration in Hawai'i usually is binding, which means the spouses will not have a chance to revisit the arbitration decision with a family court judge unless there is proof of serious wrongdoing by the arbitrator. Although this method does not give couples the decision-making power that mediation allows, it can be a useful option to pursue if you would like to avoid court but struggle to reach agreements with your spouse.
  • Collaborative divorce: couples negotiate the particulars of their divorce outside of court without engaging in expensive investigations that courtroom litigation requires. Each spouse has his or her own attorney to serve as an experienced advisor and advocate. Divorcing spouses regularly meet, along with their attorneys, to negotiate a settlement. Like with mediation and arbitration, spouses who use the collaborative divorce method maintain the option of going to court if the alternative methods are not working well. However, if collaborative divorce spouses go to court, they both lose the attorneys they used for the collaborative divorce process. That provides a strong incentive to continue using the collaborative divorce model to resolve disputes outside of court.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution

Divorce is a very personal process. What works well for one family may not work for another. It is important to evaluate all of your options in light of your situation. An experienced divorce attorney can be a valuable resource to discuss your options and provide advice on which method they think will best serve your divorce needs and goals.

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