Ending your marriage could potentially be one of the most challenging experiences of your life in several ways. However, you can make it a bit easier on yourself by understanding what your divorce case entails and preparing for your proceedings accordingly. When most people think of divorce, they imagine hotly contested court battles and an impartial judge making essential decisions that will influence their lives for years to come. However, litigation is not the only way to settle a divorce case in the US.
Questions to Ask Your Divorce Attorney
Many divorcing couples are avoiding the stress and expense of divorce litigation by pursuing alternative dispute resolution. It’s possible to settle your divorce terms without the need for a protracted court battle, but you and your spouse must agree to this route. You may not agree on every aspect of your divorce, but both of you must be willing to participate in alternative dispute resolution for it to work. If you are unsure whether alternative dispute resolution is suitable for you, review the following frequently asked questions and their answers before consulting a family law attorney.
Q: What Options Are Available for Alternative Dispute Resolution?
A: The three most commonly used forms of alternative dispute resolution for divorce are arbitration, collaborative divorce, and mediation. Arbitration is used least often and is typically only suitable for high net worth couples with detailed prenuptial contracts. Mediation is the preferred option for most divorcing couples in the US.
Q: What Does Arbitration Involve?
A: Think of arbitration as a court case that unfolds privately with only the divorcing spouses, their respective attorneys, and a judge attending the arbitration sessions. The judge or arbitrator has virtually the same authority as the judge would have in litigation. The arbitrator considers all evidence and testimony from each divorcing spouse and delivers a legally binding ruling on the divorce. This method of alternative dispute resolution can be effective when a couple has a prenuptial contract and requires a judge to formally review the agreement to transform its terms and conditions into a legally enforceable divorce order.
Q: What’s the Difference Between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation?
A: Collaborative divorce and mediation are very similar save for one key difference: the mediator’s involvement. In collaborative divorce, the couple and their attorneys meet to negotiate a divorce settlement privately. In mediation, the couple essentially does the same but under the direction of a mediator. The mediator’s job is to guide negotiations and keep discussions constructive while helping the couple draft their divorce order.
Q: Is Mediation Preferable to Collaborative Divorce?
A: As the name suggests, collaborative divorce requires a significant degree of cooperation between the divorcing spouses. Depending on the emotional issues involved, this can be much harder in some cases than others. When a couple wants to take advantage of alternative dispute resolution but cannot seem to engage in constructive negotiations on their own, mediation can provide the structure necessary for more productive settlement discussions. Mediation offers several significant benefits over a collaborative divorce when approached correctly.
Q: How Long Will Divorce Mediation Take?
A: One of the most commonly cited benefits of alternative dispute resolution is that it takes much less time to complete than litigation. Some divorce cases can take several months or even longer than a year when they unfold in the court system. By comparison, many couples who choose alternative dispute resolution can resolve their divorces in a matter of weeks. The time required to complete alternative dispute resolution largely hinges on the couple’s willingness to engage in productive dialogue during their sessions.
Q: Can I Settle My Entire Divorce Through Alternative Dispute Resolution?
A: There are some limitations to alternative dispute resolution for divorce. You cannot reach a firm conclusion on child custody or child support privately. The family court systems of the US have legal duties to protect the best interests of children. A judge must approve your parenting plan, and that judge must settle child support based on the terms of your custody agreement. It is still worth taking time to negotiate a parenting plan privately during your sessions, however. If the judge who reviews your plan finds that it adequately suits your children’s best interests, they may approve it with few to no changes.
Q: Do I Need Legal Representation for Alternative Dispute Resolution?
A: Technically, no, you do not need to hire a lawyer if you plan to resolve your divorce through alternative dispute resolution. However, having legal counsel on your side is highly recommended, no matter what your divorce entails. Your attorney can ensure a fair and reasonable outcome to your negotiations, helping account for variables that you may have overlooked on your own. Ultimately, while legal counsel may not be strictly required, it is always best to have representation from an attorney you can trust no matter how you choose to resolve your divorce.
Q: What Happens If Alternative Dispute Resolution Doesn’t Work Out?
A: Many couples have serious personal issues that prevent reaching mutually agreeable terms in their alternative dispute resolution sessions. It is still worth pursuing as much of a resolution as possible before moving to litigation in these situations. Some couples focus on easily resolved issues before moving to more complex matters in their alternative dispute resolution sessions. If you cannot reach mutually agreeable terms on certain aspects of your divorce, you would simply take your case to court and have a family court judge rule on the outstanding issues your case entails.
Contact a Skilled Family Law Attorney Today
Every divorce case is challenging and will pose various issues that you may not know how to appropriately address. Alternative dispute resolution can seem like a long shot when you and your spouse have trouble agreeing on anything, but it is still worth exploring your options to save time and money on your divorce. If you are unsure whether alternative dispute resolution is a viable option for your situation, it’s best to consult an experienced family law attorney.