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Conflict Resolution

Divorce Court Alternatives

Vivian Rodriguez asked:

Whether you and your spouse sign a settlement agreement or decide to litigate the divorce, you will ultimately go into divorce court.  But, for those who agree, the divorce process is usually very short and a lot less costly. 

This article is about the alternatives available for conflict resolution when the parties don’t agree but don’t necessarily want to litigate either.

There are two alternatives that are commonly offered as an alternative to litigation.  These are mediation and collaborative law.

In mediation, a neutral third party helps you and your spouse reach an agreement. You can have this agreement reviewed by a lawyer before you sign it.  This gives you peace of mind in that you will know what rights you’re giving up and whether the agreement is in your best interest given what you want to accomplish.

Collaborative law is a little bit different, and does involve hiring a lawyer.  You and your spouse, together with  your respective lawyers, work together exchanging information and documents, including (or especially) financial information.  You all regularly meet regularly and work on reaching an agreement on all issues.  If, for whatever reason, either you or your spouse decide to stop the process, you will each have to get another set of lawyers.  In true collaborative law arrangements, the lawyers representing you in this process cannot be the same lawyers who represent you in a later divorce litigation.

Of course, you don’t have to use the above processes to avoid divorce court.  You can use any informal process you want to reach an agreement with your spouse. You can even use your pastor to help you reach an agreement.  Then, like with mediation, you can have a lawyer review the agreement and explain its consequences to you.

Many people prefer to explore any available means to avoid fighting out in divorce court.  And that’s understandable given the cost, time and uncertain results of a litigated divorce. 

To find out what you can face in divorce court if your headed for a litigated divorce, get The Divorce Court Report: Getting What You Want in Court.

You should consider litigation for your divorce as a last resort, and reserve it for issues that are really important in the context of your divorce.  For example, it may not be worth it for you to fight over, say, $5,000.00 that your spouse took and spent since you can easily spend that much trying to get the money back.  But on questions involving the welfare of children you may decide that it is the only option available to you. 

(c) Vivian Rodriguez

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