Believe it or not, divorce doesn’t have to be nasty. While it is true that some of them turn into legal battles that drain bank accounts and leave scars of animosity and contention, those are rare. Not all divorces are created equal; that is why there are several different ways to handle them, some of which do not have the same adversarial nature as traditional divorce litigation.
Some couples are able to iron out all the details of their split themselves. Once they have come to an agreement about such issues as property division, marital debts, child custody, spousal support (also known as “alimony”), child support and living arrangements, they can draft the paperwork, have it reviewed by their attorneys and submit it for court approval. This method is the least expensive option, since it only involves minimal attorney involvement and filing fees.
Divorce / family law mediation and arbitration
Ideally, all divorces and family law disputes would be resolved that simply. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. That is why there are other methods, like mediation and arbitration, that accept the fact that most couples cannot readily come to complete agreement, and will help parties make those last few key decisions. Many people are drawn to these methods because they grant a measure of self-control over the decisions and they are generally less expensive. They are also private, meaning that intimate family details won’t be made part of the public court record.
Mediation involves parties – either alone or represented by qualified Texas family law attorneys – utilizing the services of a neutral third party known as a mediator who facilitates the settlement of important issues. Mediators are not like judges; they don’t draft decrees that the couple must just accept. Instead, they give couples a sounding board and an outlet to feel more in control of their own destinies while helping them reach agreement. Mediated settlements involve a “give and take” from each party, allowing the parties input into the decisions, resulting in an end product that is mutually workable and satisfactory. Mediated settlement agreements are not binding upon the parties until they are presented to a judge and approved.
Arbitration is very similar, except the negotiator can take a bit more active role in the process. Arbitrators act more like judges, hearing evidence and arguments from both sides, and making a decision for the parties. Unlike in mediation, when a judge must make the agreement enforceable, an arbitration’s decision is usually legally binding.
The benefits of collaborative law
The outcome of a collaborative divorce is very similar to that of other non-adversarial methods: come to an agreement without fostering contention or a loss of control. The process itself is different, though. Collaborative law doesn’t just involve the parties and the mediator hashing out ideas in a room. Instead, spouses are typically represented by their own attorneys, and there can be several third parties present to help facilitate the decisions. For example, a financial expert can be called in to help value and distribute marital assets and debts. In other circumstances, it might be appropriate to call in a mental health professional to help mitigate the impact of the divorce on any children of the marriage.
No matter which alternative dispute resolution method you choose, the chances are that you will end up spending less and being more satisfied than you would if your case ends up before a judge. To learn more about any of these non-adversarial methods, speak with a Texas family law attorney today.