Few people who have gone through divorce would describe the process as easy. Still, some methods of resolving a divorce are harder than others. Many people feel that the traditional litigation-based approach makes divorce unnecessarily antagonistic, time-consuming and expensive. To try to avoid these problems, increasing numbers of people in recent years have been resolving their divorces through other approaches, which are collectively known as alternative dispute resolution, or ADR.
Three types of ADR are especially popular in California: mediation, arbitration and collaborative law.
Arbitration is something like a less formal version of a trial. When two parties agree to resolve their dispute through arbitration, they agree to let the arbitrator decide their case. The arbitrator has decision-making ability, and the parties agree that the arbitrator’s decision is binding. However, since the decision-making happens out of the courtroom setting, it is less formal and usually quicker and less expensive than going to trial.
In mediation, the divorcing parties, accompanied by their own lawyers, meet outside a courtroom with a neutral third party who is trained in dispute resolution. The mediator uses problem-solving methods to help the couples express their concerns, listen to each other’s needs and explore their options and, hopefully, reach a favorable outcome. The mediator doesn’t decide any of the issues. Rather, the mediator facilitates the discussion so that the parties can more easily come to agreement.
Rather than one method, collaborative law is a whole approach to dispute resolution. In a collaborative divorce, the spouses are represented by their own attorneys and use negotiation and mediation to resolve the issues. The focus is on working together to resolve differences and reach agreements.
This process isn’t for everyone, nor for every divorce. Some disagreements are too deep and some individuals are too resistant to reaching agreement. Still, when the parties go into a collaborative divorce with the necessary commitment can come out with agreements that meet their needs while reducing the animosity that so often goes with divorce. This can be especially important in cases where the parties have young children and must continue to work together on parenting long after they have signed all the divorce papers.
Your divorce doesn’t have to resemble the knockdown, dragged-out, emotional courtroom dramas you see on television. Using ADR with an attorney who is skilled in family law can help you reach better results.