Sensible Alternatives To Litigated Divorce

 

Sensible alternatives to litigated divorceAs each marriage is unique, every divorce proceeding comes with its own set of unique issues and outcomes. Therefore, if you are considering ending your marriage, it is wise to become educated on the various options available. Many people believe inaccurately that litigation, the process where an action is brought to court by filing a Complaint and Answer, is the only option. It’s important to know, however, that other alternatives exist, which include do-it-yourself divorce, mediation, and collaborative divorce.

Do-It-Yourself Divorce

A DIY divorce may be appropriate in situations in which the marriage has been short-lived, there are no children, and the spouses have little to no assets or debt to split between them. In such circumstances, if the parties can work together amicably, a DIY divorce can save on expenses.

Mediation

In this alternative process, the spouses work with a mediator who remains neutral and facilitates the spouses in reaching a divorce agreement that satisfies the needs of both of them.

The mediator is often an attorney or retired judge, but may include a mental health professional where custody and parenting time issues are to be resolved. Ideally, each spouse would consult with his or her own attorney throughout this process, and may choose for their attorneys to be present during the mediation. Mediation may work well for couples who wish to remain on good terms, keep proceedings discreet, and save on attorney fees.  The distinct advantage of mediation is that spouses work together to reach their own resolutions rather than having a court decide their outcome. Potential drawbacks to mediation include the inability to compel financial disclosure by one or both spouses, and there are often no lawyers to advise spouses on the law during the mediation process.

This method is also not a viable option for a couple in which one person is withholding information on assets, debts, and liabilities.

Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse will retain an attorney with training in collaborative divorce. The role of the lawyers in a collaborative divorce is significantly different than in a conventional litigated divorce. For instance, during the collaborative divorce process, the attorneys will assist and advise their respective clients in negotiation for a settlement agreement. The collaborative method may also include the use of a neutral professional such as a financial planner or accountant, to advise on the financial implications of scenarios involving alimony or division of assets and debts. The collaborative divorce team may also include a divorce coach, a trained mental health professional to facilitate efficient movement of the case and to assist when emotional barriers arise. The chief benefits of the collaborative divorce process is that in addition to being much more cost-effective than litigation, the spouses control the outcome rather than the court. In addition, the divorce coach can be extremely effective in guiding the spouses to manage their emotions and communicate effectively.

The primary drawback associated with collaborative divorce is that in order for the process to be considered a “true” collaborative divorce, each spouse and their attorneys signs an agreement that requires each attorney to withdraw from representation in the event litigation arises. Spouses may choose, however to “opt out” of this requirement and proceed to a negotiated agreement while still retaining the benefits of this process.

The collaborative divorce process works well where either both spouses have knowledge of or are agreeable to being completely forthcoming with their assets, liabilities, and incomes. The collaborative process can be a highly efficient method to working out an equitable marital settlement agreement, and it can offer far less stressful and emotional ways to achieve mutually satisfactory outcomes.

Collaborative divorce ebook

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