It's a common misconception that divorce always ends messily, with two estranged parties bitterly fighting tooth and nail over assets. In truth, there are several methods of "alternative dispute resolution" (also commonly called alternative divorce resolution or ADR) that individuals can utilize to end their marriage more amicably.
Understanding the Divorce Alternatives
There are three common types of alternative divorce resolution:
- Mediation. Mediation is perhaps the most well known ADR. In mediation, both parties meet with a mediator, who helps the parties agree on how to proceed with the divorce. In many states, mediation is a mandatory process that must occur before the court issues a final divorce decree.
Mediation has its pros and cons. On the plus side, mediation is often less stressful than divorce because the focus is on helping the parties reach a compromise. Additionally, mediation is usually cost-effective since the parties don't need to pay for a lawyer to represent them in court, but have the option of attending mediation with a lawyer
However, mediators are not allowed to give legal advice to either party. This can lead to situations where one party strong-arms the other into an unfair compromise just to "get the divorce over with." You may also make long-term decisions you regret during mediation.
- Collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce, both parties hire attorneys. The attorneys then work together to resolve the divorce by helping the parties negotiate a divorce settlement.
Collaborative divorce allows parties to resolve their divorce while still retaining legal advice from an attorney, which can help you protect your best interests while still having a reasonably amicable divorce. However, it may also be easier for a party to hide assets during a collaborative divorce than in a formal divorce. Like mediation, collaborative divorce can get messy if one party acts in bad faith or refuses to compromise effectively.
- Litigated divorce. In a litigated divorce, the parties reach a resolution in an out-of-court settlement. Litigation allows parties involved in a contentious divorce to resolve the matter without relying on a divorce decree from the court. That's usually a good thing since divorce decrees often end without either party getting what they "wanted" from the divorce.
Litigated divorces allow all parties to protect and pursue their interests more proactively than mediation or collaborative divorce. However, litigated divorces can also be more contentious than either of the previous methods.
Just like marriage, every divorce is unique. Depending on the parties' personalities, beliefs, and relationship, an ADR method such as mediation may provide better results than relying on a court-ordered divorce decree. Understanding your options can help you achieve the best outcome for your circumstances.
At K. Dean Kantaras, P.A., our attorneys can help you determine how to approach your divorce.
Contact us online or via phone at (727) 939-6113 to arrange a consultation with our team.