If there’s one thing that people most associate with divorce, it’s conflict. Every divorce involves the legal and financial disentangling of two people’s lives, or at least as much as is possible. Inherent to figuring out this process is the tension that generates whenever the wants and needs of one spouse are weighed against those of the other. This is the conflict at the core of every divorce, but resolving it doesn’t require it to boil over into the courts.
The mistake most people make when they think about divorce, however, is assuming that this conflict has the be resolved with a legal brawl. Divorces can certainly be painful, especially for spouses who resent each other. The belligerent divorce has become such a trope that people often assume that all or at least most divorces involve long, drawn-out affairs rife with petty skirmishes over minor details.
Fortunately, such divorces – although they happen – aren’t the norm and are far from being the only way to resolve the inherent conflict a divorce presents. When spouses are generally agreeable to working out a settlement together, they can pursue alternative divorce methods that avoid divorce litigation and amicably resolve conflict.
One alternative divorce method is collaborative divorce. This is a legal process that permits a couple to negotiate terms of their divorce without a mud-slinging fight in court. Collaborative divorce typically involves a combination of mediation and negotiation to achieve agreements on matters such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
If a couple wishes to pursue a collaborative divorce, each must be willing to work with the other for the whole process to function. If one party is unwilling to cooperate, then this method will not work.
Should spouses agree that they want to pursue a collaborative divorce, they should each seek legal counsel to represent their interests. When selecting an attorney for a collaborative divorce, it’s important to find someone who is willing to facilitate one. Some attorneys are keen on litigation, which is a quality that should rule out an attorney from consideration. Attorneys experienced in alternative divorce methods are preferred because they can achieve win-win settlements that would have been win-lose scenarios if matters were left to the courts to decide.
After legal counsel is secured, the ensuing process can – and probably should – feel more like a business transaction than a divorce. At the beginning of the process, there will likely be an agreement signed by each spouse and their attorney to resolve all disputes outside of court. Should a spouse decide to litigate an issue, then legal counsel for either side is free to withdraw. Typically, though, this so-called “no-court” agreement can provide enough of an incentive for each spouse to work through very difficult problems together.
Once a settlement has been reached through collaborative divorce, it is submitted to the court for judicial approval. A judge will review the settlement and determine if it is fair and reasonable to both spouses. This is particularly important for matters involving child custody and child support, where the judge must consider the best interests of a minor.
If the settlement passes muster with the judge, he or she will sign it and the divorce will be finalized.
A collaborative divorce may not be possible if a divorce has already involved litigation. In this situation, mediation may be able to help a couple that wants to avoid a judge or jury making a final decision in their divorce.
Mediation can look a lot like a collaborative divorce, but its main difference is that there is a neutral third party facilitating the process. An experienced mediator is capable of helping both parties sort out their differences and reach reasonable solutions to their disagreements.
As with a collaborative divorce, however, mediation won’t work unless both parties are willing to seek solutions that don’t involve further intervention with the courts.
The Benefits of Alternative Divorce Methods
Whether you are considering a collaborative divorce or mediation to figure out your divorce settlement, understand that there are some very important benefits to consider.
Here are just a few of these benefits for your consideration:
- Avoids the cost of litigation
- Avoids having a judge or jury make decisions for you
- Empowers both parties to take control of their legal situation
- Minimizes the potential for deepening the conflict between divorcing spouses
- Helps each party clearly understand what is important to the other party
- Helps spouses prioritize their children’s best interests
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you are considering a collaborative divorce or mediation to help you reach an agreeable divorce settlement with your spouse, Claery & Hammond, LLP. Our attorneys have the experience and skill necessary to help clients reach resolutions with an alternative divorce method and without getting the courts involved.
If you know that an alternative divorce isn’t right for you, Claery & Hammond, LLP can still represent clients like you who require litigation to resolve issues concerning their divorce.