Obtaining a divorce requires a couple to make a series of important decisions that will have long-term impacts on their future, including selecting which process to use to end the marriage. It may seem like the path chosen to arrive at divorce is an incidental factor, but it can have substantial implications for the settlement that is ultimately reached. Most couples are aware and have some notion of the traditional process of getting divorce – litigation, and many even assume this is their only option for ending the marriage. However, two other options that couples may want to consider if they are looking for a less contentious way to work out their issues, namely alternative dispute resolution – usually mediation, and collaborative divorce. A discussion of how each process works, including the positive and negative features of each, will follow below.
Traditional divorce is the type one sees depicted on television, and involves a judge making all the decisions for the couple. This is the most adversarial method of ending a marriage, and parties generally have less contact with one another and use lawyers to prepare and present all aspects of the case. Further, due to the demands on court systems generally, the time and expense of a traditional divorce is much lengthier and higher. However, a traditional divorce provides an important service to some couples. The matters at issue in divorce are sensitive and complicated, and parties are not always able to come to an agreement because their points of view are too far apart. In this situation, a court can step in to resolve the couple’s outstanding issues, and bring closure to the case. Further, in divorces where is there are issues of violence or wasting of assets by a spouse, court supervision is usually necessary to secure the other spouse’s safety and rights. Thus, a traditional divorce does provide important protections and direction that are needed in some cases.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution routinely used in family courts to resolve issues. Mediation is a less adversarial method of resolving divorce-related issues, and is led by a mediator who facilitates negotiations between the parties. The mediator is a neutral third party who cannot make decisions for the couple, but can offer suggestions and help them find ways to compromise on points of contention. Mediation sessions may be conducted with both parties in one room, or in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth with each party’s demands until agreement is reached, or an impasse halts the process. This process allows the parties to have control over the outcome, and is typically cheaper and faster than a standard divorce case. Mediation is voluntary, and if the parties cannot settle all relevant matters, they can return to court to continue the divorce. Importantly, mediation participants often have attorneys present at mediation sessions, or at least to review any divorce settlement before signing, to advise them on the legal implications of any agreement.
Finally, a relatively new divorce option is collaborative divorce. This is a completely non-adversarial process that is designed to preserve a civil and working relationship between the parties, which is important if they plan to co-parent. Additionally, the parties must agree at the outset to suspend or opt out of court involvement during the collaborative process. Collaborative divorce involves attorneys specially trained in the collaborative law process to handle the legalities of drafting a settlement and explaining what the agreement means long-term and mental health and financial professionals to help the parties resolve child custody issues and property division. The parties communicate directly with one another, and have full control over the outcome, which typically lessens the likelihood of going to court resolve issues in the future.
How you choose to get divorced is often as important as the decision to end the marriage. Every divorce case is unique, and an experienced divorce attorney can advise on the method that best serves your needs and desires. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. understands how overwhelming the divorce can be, and can provide the guidance you need to start the next phase of your life. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+