Is alternative dispute resolution right for your divorce?

Splitting up with your partner is never easy, but when you are married, a breakup becomes even more complicated. Not only are you dealing with complex and sometimes conflicting emotions, you are also trying to handle legal issues like property division, spousal support and child custody. You want to make sure you get what is fair, but you also may want to avoid a courtroom battle that pits you and your soon-to-be ex against each other.

You could explore alternative methods of resolving your divorce disputes, like divorce mediation or collaborative divorce. These options keep you out of the courtroom and may allow you and your spouse to avoid the adversarial nature of a court case.

Divorce Mediation

A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who is trained to help former couples come together and compromise. The mediator will help you and your ex communicate, and keep you both focused on the issues at hand. If arguments arise, a mediator will redirect the conversation and help you both get back on track. A mediator will help guide you and your former partner toward reaching agreements through compromise. For more complex issues, a mediator may call in others to assist, such as an accountant, tax professional or child custody evaluator.

The mediation occurs in a more informal space, like a conference room or an office. The mediation could last a few sessions or go on for a few months, depending on the complexity of the issues you and your former spouse must settle. It typically costs less than going to court and results in a more detailed solution than what you would get from a courtroom proceeding.

Collaborative Divorce

With a collaborative divorce, you and your ex each hire an attorney. You will want to make sure you hire an attorney that is experienced with the negotiation process of a collaborative divorce. You, your former partner and both attorneys will sign a contract that states you are committed to working together to reach an agreement through the collaborative process.

You and your attorney will then exchange financial and other information with your ex and his or her attorney and will meet to negotiate settle terms. This negotiation will take place over the course of several meetings. Unlike a neutral mediator, your attorney will be advocating solely for you and your best interests, but again, the focus will be on compromising and finding terms that you and your former partner can accept. You may also call in outside professionals like accountants, child specialists and even a mediator, if the need arises.

Typically, a collaborative divorce is less expensive than going through with a court case. It should also move more quickly.

If you and your former spouse cannot reach an agreement, or one of you wants to proceed to court, then both of you will need to find new attorneys for the court proceeding. Collaborative divorce attorneys must commit fully to the process, so they sign away their rights to represent you, in the divorce proceeds to court.

Everyone’s situation is unique, and everyone has different needs. If you want to avoid fighting with your ex in court, choosing divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce may make sense for you.

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