Not All Divorces Are The Same: Fully Explore Your Options
Have you and your spouse simply grown apart, amicable and courteous toward one another but no longer in love? Or, are you constantly at each other’s throats, barely able to be in the same room together? Believe it or not, the answers to questions like these can steer the legal course of your divorce toward one of several alternatives.
Avoid Do-It-Yourself Divorce
If you and your former partner still get along famously, you may wonder why you need to get attorneys involved at all – but experts strongly caution against do-it-yourself divorce. Even if you have no children and few assets or debts, divorce is complicated, both legally and financially, and the mistakes you’re likely to make without professional help can be irreversible.
Collaborative Divorce May Help Preserve Your Relationship, but Can Be Expensive
Collaborative divorces involve you and your spouse committing to working out a divorce settlement outside of court. Each of you will still have your own attorney to advise you and help you work out any differences, but your lawyer will be specially trained in the collaborative process. In fact, collaborative divorce lawyers even pledge not to litigate or threaten to litigate, which is important for the collaborative divorce process, but means that if collaboration fails each party will have to hire a new attorney and pay to get him or her up to speed on the case.
In addition to a lawyer for each party, a team of coaches and counselors in the mental health and financial fields will be assembled to weigh in on the important issues in the divorce, supporting each party through their transition in a knowledgeable, non-adversarial manner. Because of the number of professionals involved, the cost of a collaborative divorce can be substantial. However, some former spouses find collaborative divorce to be useful in making the best decisions for their family and preserving their relationship in a way that will benefit the children.
Mediation: The Middle Ground
In mediation, a neutral mediator will help divorcing parties come to an agreement on the terms of their divorce. Mediation creates an open and non-intrusive environment for divorcing couples to amicably discuss the issues that are important to them in their marital dissolution. Each spouse still needs individual legal representation to watch out for their interests during mediation, and to review all document prior to signing the final divorce settlement agreement.
Mediation can help couples work through sticking points that would have stopped a collaborative divorce in its tracks, and it is usually much cheaper and faster than going to court. However, you should bear in mind that a mediator’s job is to get you and your former partner to come to an agreement – any agreement – and as such it may not always lead to a final agreement that preserves your best interests.
Mediation encourages compromise, but it is important to remember that you still control the outcome; you will never be forced to accept terms that are not agreeable to you, and you are free to be creative in the solutions you pursue. Unlike in collaborative law, if mediation fails, you may keep the same attorney if you ultimately have to go to court, saving on legal catch-up costs.
Litigation – in other words, to commence a legal suit in a court of law – is still by far the most common method of divorce. Going through a litigated divorce does not necessarily mean a judge will ultimately decided your case: more than 95 percent of litigated divorces reach an out-of-court settlement before a final judgment is rendered. But it does mean you’ll have the full reach of the adversarial process at your disposal.
Other methods of divorce can only be successful with the full cooperation of both parties and the voluntary disclosure of all financial information. Litigated divorce should not be seen as a failure. On the contrary, it is simply the right tool for the right job; mediating a divorce that should be litigated would be like trying to use a Phillips screwdriver on a flathead screw.
Litigated divorce is appropriate in a variety of circumstances, namely anytime the shadow of a possible judicial mandate is needed to incentivize a fair shake from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. If you suspect your partner is hiding assets or income, your spouse is domineering and you have a hard time speaking up, or if there is a history of substance or domestic abuse in the relationship, litigated divorce should always be your first choice.
Which Is Right For You?
If you are contemplating divorce, it can be difficult to decide which course of action you should pursue. Contact an experienced family law attorney today for advice based on your unique individual circumstances.