Traditional divorce litigation with collaborative elements, a best of both worlds
There are alternative dispute resolution elements of collaborative divorce that can be beneficial when used in traditional litigation. So long as the parties agree to mediating certain elements of the divorce, the neutral professionals and round table meetings can lead to resolution of many issues. Resolving issues out of court helps isolate the strongly contested matters to be addressed in court.
There are several options and paths to divorce. In addition to the traditional court process most people understand, there are alternative dispute resolution options such as collaborative divorce. In the 1990s, collaborative divorce was promoted as a better way to divorce, by negotiating everything out of court, with neutral financial and mental health professionals in addition to the attorneys. Over time, studies showed that fewer people filed for collaborative divorce compared to traditional divorce litigation. While collaborative divorce might not be a fit for every couple, there are alternative dispute resolution elements of collaborative divorce that can be beneficial when used in traditional litigation. So long as the parties agree to mediating certain elements of the divorce, the neutral professionals and round table meetings can lead to resolution of many issues. Resolving issues out of court helps isolate the strongly contested matters to be addressed in court.
Identifying the positive attributes of collaborative divorce that can be used in litigation
Traditional litigation is an adversarial process, in which attorneys present their client’s interests and pleadings before the court as the facts apply to family law. Attorneys exchange communication to determine what can be settled and what will need to go to court. The attorneys talk to their clients and decide how to respond. The people getting divorced are not discussing any of this face to face and it can be difficult to predict what the other spouse will do and with what they might agree.
Collaborative meetings involving the divorcing parties, their attorneys and additional optional professionals setting the adversarial process aside for a moment while everyone works to find out what is sharply contested and where there may be agreements on less contested matters.
For example, disputes over a vacation property can involve issues of valuation, liability and taxes. If everyone can engage in a productive discussion, one spouse seeking the property may be presented with an attractive alternative in the overall distribution of the community estate. This meeting about the vacation property, resulting in an agreement, can save time and resources when the vacation property does not need to be litigated in court.
Saving time and resources by implementing alternate dispute resolution activities
Using the vacation property as an example, the agreement out of court, in a face to face discussion, can save both time and money. If you can agree to settle the dispute over the vacation property you can save from hiring experts to help you win in hearings and trials. You can also avoid using your attorney’s billable time on the vacation property so they can focus on higher priorities.
When you want your divorce to be over reasonably quickly so you can move along with your life, the traditional divorce litigation process can be more expeditious when you come to agreement on certain matters, so that more challenging issues can be presented in court without the other matters distracting from top priority issues.
Introducing collaborative elements into a traditional divorce
Some people are better candidates for non-adversarial settlement activities like mediation and round table meetings. When the life events leading to divorce are emotional and high conflict, you may absolutely refuse to sit at the same table as your soon to be ex. If, however, you and your spouse are civil, the opportunity to save time and money may be attractive.
You may ask for the moon and the stars in your divorce petition and anticipate compromising on some of the minor requests when you can focus on what you really want in your divorce outcome. Your opposing attorney and spouse do not necessarily know what you are willing to give in order to get what you want. In a mediation or informal settlement conference, you can learn where everyone’s bottom line is.
The combination of traditional litigation and collaborative divorce elements is certainly not a new idea, and it happens frequently. If the option makes sense, it may be worth building into the divorce litigation plan. Most attorneys will agree to requests to engage in collaborative style settlement meetings, especially when it helps them isolate the strongly contested matter and source of conflict.
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