While every divorce does have to go through court, spouses don’t have to argue in litigated proceedings. There are multiple approaches to modern divorce, with four systems being the most common.
Litigation is one of those options. The others are mediation, negotiation and collaborative law. How does someone considering a divorce decide which approach is best for them?
For many people, the word divorce is synonymous with litigation. A litigated divorce involved spouses presenting evidence to the courts and then having a judge apply state law to matters like spousal support and property division.
Collaboration means working together, and that is exactly what happens in the collaborative approach to divorce. Having your own attorneys is important so that both of you have someone protecting your best interests. The goal in collaborative law is to work with one another to draft a settlement that meets everyone’s needs. Collaborative lawyers usually will not transition to being your lawyer if the process fails and you have to resort to litigation.
If the idea of sitting down and working directly with your ex doesn’t appeal, then it may be better to have your attorneys negotiate to draft a settlement. Provided that your individual lawyers understand your priorities, they can negotiate a possible settlement and that both spouses can then request adjustments to or approve.
When you and your ex are amicable and can communicate but seem to want the same assets or can’t find solutions to property division that both of you approve of, outside help could speed up the process. A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who can review the situation and help spouses find a compromise that resolves their outstanding marital issues, like how they will split their retirement account. This method often involves face-to-face discussions, like collaborative law. Mediation can include lawyers for each party but mediation can also be without lawyers. It is often a good idea to seek the assistance of a lawyer before going into a mediation session and to check with a lawyer after you have a mediated agreement and before it gets drafted into a written agreement to insure that all issues have been resolved.
Which method is right for you?
Each of these approaches has benefits and drawbacks. Mediation will require paying for another professional in addition to your lawyers, while collaborative law or negotiation could take some time to resolve your issues with no guarantee of success. Of course, litigation can also be a lengthy process, but it may be necessary if abuse or other factors make direct negotiations or mediation a bad decision.
Thinking about the dynamic you have with your ex and your priorities can help you decide which approach might be best for your upcoming divorce.