When many California residents think about the divorce process, they imagine fighting things out in court. While litigation is the traditional route to ending a marriage, and it is unavoidable in some cases, it is not something every couple has to go through. There are alternatives to litigation.
The two most commonly used alternative dispute resolution methods for divorce in California are mediation and arbitration. How are they different, and what are the benefits of each?
Mediation is essentially out-of-court negotiations. It is where you and your spouse agree to meet at a neutral location and talk things out with a mediator present. The mediator’s job is not to take sides but to keep negotiations going, answer any questions and help couples reach agreeable settlement terms. The mediator cannot give legal advice, though.
Arbitration is an informal court hearing. An arbitrator is chosen to whom both sides present their case. The arbitrator then gets to issue a judgment on divorce settlement terms.
Where does legal counsel fit in?
You still have the right to have legal counsel at your side as you go through mediation or arbitration. Your attorney can assist with negotiations or sit back and take on an advisor role. Their level of involvement in your case is entirely up to you.
Court approval is still needed
Whenever a divorce agreement is reached through mediation or arbitration, it does still have to receive court approval before becoming legally binding. That usually is not an issue. It is just a matter of filing divorce documents in court for approval.
There are several benefits to utilizing mediation or arbitration. Those benefits include:
- Saves time
- Saves money
- Lower stress
- Greater control
There are a lot of good things to say about both of these alternative dispute resolution methods. They do work for most couples. However, to be successful either will take a lot of work and the desire to reach a resolution. ADR methods do not work if one or both parties are not willing to negotiate.
Is mediation or arbitration for me?
Every case is different. What works for some couples doesn’t for others. Mediation and arbitration are a great fit for many couples. It could be a great fit for you if you and your spouse have a strong desire to keep your divorce out of court and want to settle things more amicably.