You’re ready to file for divorce, but you know reaching a fair settlement with your spouse is going to prove difficult. You do not want to fight things out in court, but you fear that is where things will head. Is going to trial inevitable?
The good news is, no, going to trial is not inevitable. Alternative dispute resolution methods exist to help people like you and your spouse reach settlement terms that you both think are fair and balanced, without having to set foot in a courtroom. What ADR methods are available to California residents?
Mediation is the most commonly used ADR method. It involves you and your spouse agreeing to meet a mediator in a neutral location to negotiate divorce terms. The mediator’s role is to:
- Facilitate the meetings
- Supervise information exchange and negotiations
- Offer solutions
- Set realistic expectations
- Help couples find common ground
- Relay information if needed
- Help draft the final settlement
In other words, the mediator is there to help move the process along. This individual is not there to choose sides or assist one spouse in achieving settlement terms that only benefit him or her.
Arbitration is essentially an informal court proceeding. This is where a neutral third party acts as a judge, listens to both sides and then decides the settlement terms. The decision is either accepted as binding or non-binding. Binding meaning each party must accept the final ruling; non-binding means they can ignore it and keep working toward settlement terms with which they are both satisfied.
Do what is best for your situation
Only you and your spouse can decide whether utilizing either of these ADR methods is the best way for you to handle your divorce. The benefits of trying mediation or arbitration include time and money savings, as well as the ability to keep the terms of your divorce from becoming public record — among many others. There are a lot of positives that make these methods at least worth considering.
At the end of the day, if ADR methods prove ineffective for you, you can always pursue litigation. You do not give up your right to go to court by agreeing to mediation or arbitration. By agreeing to try an ADR method, you are simply saying you want to try a better way, a more amicable way to end your marriage.