When you think about divorce, one of the things that scares you the most is the thought of going to court. Understandable. You appear before a judge, you swear under oath, there may be people in the courtroom who you know that do not know you are going through a divorce. You fear having to speak in public or before the judge. Worse, you are afraid of how things will turn out. You have little to no control of the outcome. You may not get the result you want. You may end up paying a lot more money than you want. You may spend less time with your children then you want. There is so much uncertainty. What not everyone realizes is that there are alternatives.
Mediation and collaborative divorce are processes that happen outside of court. Depending on the county where you live or who files for divorce after you been through mediation or collaboration, you may never have to go into a courtroom. More importantly, you have more control over the outcome. Mediated divorce is a way to divorce where you and your spouse settle your issues with the assistance of a mediator. The mediator is a neutral party – he or she does not represent you or your spouse. She may be an attorney, financial professional or mental health professional who is trained to mediate in family law matters. Instead of providing legal advice and advocating your case, she helps you and your spouse to come to a resolution by providing information and assisting you in your negotiations. Divorced spouses are typically more satisfied after mediation than if they went to court. Mediated divorces are less like to end up in court to deal with problems later. Mediation typically costs less than a court(litigated) divorce. And mediated divorces happen at your pace, which can be quicker or slower than what the court provides.
Collaborative divorce is another type of no-court divorce. You and your spouse each have your own attorneys and you agree not to go to court. There is a participation agreement that everyone will sign that says you will not go to court, and if you later do decide to go to court you will need to retain new counsel. In a collaborative divorce we use a team approach. Other professionals can be brought to the table to help you negotiate a settlement. Coaches and financial professionals are often part of the process in helping you both achieve your goals. Even using this team approach, a collaborative divorce still may cost less than the typical court divorce. Like mediation, in the collaborative divorce parties are often more satisfied with the outcomes. They are also less likely to have post-judgment motions in the court, which can cause divorced parties to incur more costs. Instead, parties are often able to resolve changes and issues that arise after the divorce on their own or with the assistance of some of the collaborative team. Also, like mediation, collaborative divorces happen at you and your spouse’s time frame. You can move as quickly or as slowly as you both need. There is a focus on protecting the children during and after the divorce. Collaborative divorces and mediations are both mindful of making sure the children are cared for; they may even have a voice at the table by way of a child specialist. This attention to the family allows for parties to work together rather than against one another in creating an agreement that benefits the children, while addressing the goals and interests of the parents. Mediation and collaborative divorce both give you greater control in the outcome. Both offer more creative options in how to resolve your differences, allowing an agreement to be tailored to your family and their needs. Parents are often better able to co-parent post-divorce if they went through mediation or collaborative divorce. This can lead to higher satisfaction in outcomes. It is important for you to know you do not have to battle your divorce out in the courts. There are alternatives to the court system. Before deciding to file, you should consult with a trained attorney or mental health professional who can discuss with you (and your spouse) what is the best way for you both to divorce.