Out of Court Divorce - What are my options?

There are three main types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which can help keep your case out of court. Are you unsure about how to start the conversation or reach agreement when you are unable to talk? Would you prefer to make decisions for yourself or let the court decide? When it comes to family law disputes, no one knows your case like you do. Each ADR process has its pros and cons. Let’s explore the different options to reach agreement and obtain an out of court divorce.

Negotiation can take place with or without the assistance of an attorney. For negotiation to be successful, you will need to be able to communicate. Negotiation can take place in person in real-time or through an exchange of written settlement offers. The pros of negotiation are that you have total control over the outcome and it is relatively inexpensive. When negotiations are successful, you may avoid going to court altogether. The main con for negotiation is the general lack of structure. When negotiation fails, it can make future communications more difficult or nonexistent. With no time constraints or other guidelines, negotiation can last indefinitely and may never result in agreement. Even if you are already involved in the Court process, you can still try to negotiate an out of court resolution and reach agreement.

Mediation may be right for you if you and your spouse need the help of a neutral third-party to stay on track. For mediation to be successful, both parties must be motivated to reach agreement in mediation and be willing to compromise. Fear of going to court may get you to mediation, but it takes more than that to resolve your dispute and stay out of court. Mediation is a voluntary process. The pros of mediation are similar to negotiation in that the process allows for control over the outcome and reduced costs. Unlike negotiation, mediation is more structured. You can rely on the skills of the mediator to keep the discussion moving forward. Despite its many advantages, there are also a few cons of mediation to keep in mind. Mediation requires a certain degree of bargaining power and is most successful when both people are on a level playing field. You can always ask for information and documents that you need to make decisions as part of the mediation process, but there is no way to know that everything has been provided. Only you will know if you have what you need to feel comfortable reaching an agreement that would resolve your divorce out of court. Like negotiation, you can attempt to mediate your dispute even after someone has filed suit.

Collaborative is the newest ADR method and perhaps the most versatile. The collaborative process can help you reach an out of court agreement, and prepare you to deal with emotional challenges and financial changes associated with divorce. In collaborative, you and your spouse will each have an attorney. The attorneys will assemble a collaborative team. Each member of the collaborative team has a unique role and must sign a collaborative contract that all team members make good-faith efforts to reach agreement and resolve the dispute out of court. The lawyers provide advice about the law and prepare written agreements. The divorce coach will guide you through emotional difficulties and potential impasses when tensions rise. The financial neutral helps to allocate financial resources and divide marital property. If you’re wondering whether collaborative might be a good option, here are a few questions you might ask yourself: Do I want a lawyer that is committed to keeping my case out of court? Do I want my case to be determined by the Court and the law or by the specific needs of my family? Do I want to resolve my dispute respectfully and without the stress of going to court? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions and think your spouse would, too, then collaborative might be right for you. The pros of collaborative include transparency and support of the professional team. While collaborative is more expensive than negotiation and mediation, in more complex cases there is a considerable value to be derived from the team-approach and structure that the process provides. The biggest con for collaborative is the up-front cost.

When your goal is to keep your divorce out of court, then we will strive to find an ADR process that is right for you. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, we will be by your side from beginning to end. If you have a legal need and would like to speak with an attorney to find out if Negotiation, Mediation or Collaborative is right for your family, please call 301.658.7354.

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