Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alternatives to a “Dirty Divorce”

Divorce and family law cases can be some of the most emotionally and financially draining circumstances people ever encounter. Traditionally, when people divorce, both spouses hire attorneys and the battle begins. Perhaps because so many of us experienced the divorce of our parents, our generation seems much more inclined to find more amicable legal avenues for the divorce process. Don’t get me wrong—divorce is never easy. But now there are now alternatives to ending a marriage so that you don’t have a “dirty divorce.”

1. Settlement conferences are really just informal meetings between parties and their attorneys to see if the issues can be resolved without seeking the assistance of the court or another person. Parties are in control of their respective futures, as both have to agree to terms of the unresolved issues, and it can also be more cost-effective because there is no additional cost of a mediator/arbitrator.

2. Mediation is a frequently used tool wherein a neutral third party is employed by the clients to assist in reaching an agreement. The mediator generally charges an hourly rate, does not give legal advice, and must remain neutral.

3. Pro Se Mediation is just mediation when the parties are not represented by attorneys. As a result of a recent change in our trial rules, mediators can be more helpful for parties, and can now assist them in drafting (and filing with the court) the settlement agreement, divorce decree and all necessary documents required to make the divorce effective.

4. Collaborative Law is a relatively new method of resolving divorce issues wherein the parties are represented by attorneys, and they enter into a collaborative law contract, agreeing to try to resolve their divorce issues via collaborative practices. They may not go to court without voiding the contract. Any party may quit at any time, which also voids the contract, but the attorneys may not represent their clients in any litigation of the divorce issues once the contract is void.

5. Binding Arbitration is when parties refer unresolved issues to a third party arbitrator who reviews the case and imposes a decision that is legally binding for both sides.

The path your case takes depends on your personal circumstances. Regardless of the means by which your case is resolved, your circumstances should be evaluated, and your attorney should provide you with all of the information necessary to determine which path is appropriate for you. Our firm encourages these non-litigation alternatives because it is often in our clients’ best interests. It is important, however, that you never feel like you are being forced down a path pre-determined by your attorney. Unfortunately, not all cases can be resolved amicably. Be sure your attorney is prepared to passionately advocate for you in court should the need arise.

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