The knee jerk reaction when one is facing divorce has been for each spouse to go out and hire the toughest “bull-dog”attorneys they can find. This would be followed by drag-out court battles where there is only going to be one “winner,” and both sides will run up hefty legal bills. While this model might be appropriate for some situations, there are other options that these expensive court battles can be avoided. Attitudes are changing and people are realizing they may not want an expensive and adversarial divorce, yet they aren’t familiar with the alternatives. We hope this quick guide provides the direction needed for you and your spouse to find the right path.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method where you and your spouse, as well as your respective attorneys , meet with a neutral third party mediator who works with both parties to assist in voluntarily resolving as many issues surrounding your divorce as possible. These issues include decisions on child custody, child support, spousal support, the division of property (equitable distribution) and any other issue related to your case. The mediator wouldn’t have the ability to make any decisions in the event there was disagreement, but would instead just try and focus on where common ground can be reached.
The collaborative divorce process first begins with a conversation between divorcing spouses to ensure that both are willing to negotiate and work together in the collaborative process. If they are, they can contractually agree to attempt to settle things collaboratively. In a formal collaborative divorce, the parties agree that they will not litigate matters unless and until they have completed the entire collaborative process and are still unable to settle their case. Often, a collaborative divorce team is assembled, including a divorce coach, financial specialist, and specialists related to any children. These specialists will work with both you and your spouse, so they will be joint specialists. You may not need all three types of specialists, and may only be necessary depending on the size of the marital estate.
This process involves filing a lawsuit and submitting any contested issues to a Domestic Court Judge in order to resolve them. However, even after a lawsuit has been filed, there are still often negotiations between the two sides and most cases end up settling before a hearing. At Hill, Evans, Jordan, & Beatty, we recommend families choose litigation if they cannot reach an agreement through other divorce options.