Dissolving a marriage is sometimes the best option for a family, but this does not make the process easy. Spouses can greatly disagree on child custody, alimony and dividing property, and settling a divorce in court can be time-consuming, messy and expensive. Partners who can make choices together and want to avoid the court process have other options at the end of a marriage.
When both parties agree about getting a divorce, the couple can make arrangements outside of a courtroom with an uncontested divorce. Both partners need to agree about issues like parenting time, spousal support and asset division. The couple must provide the state with proper documentation, and couples complete a consent decree that must comply with all statutes in a state and be drafted and filed correctly. Couples usually still need a lawyer when filing for an uncontested divorce because the documentation process can be complicated.
While this process is similar to an uncontested divorce, a collaborative divorce uses guidelines designed to keep communication open between spouses and help couples come up with solutions that will benefit the entire family. Each person in a couple must share all pertinent information with the other and form joint goals, and either party might work with an expert in fields like finance or child development to ensure a party is prepared for certain tasks after the divorce.
The final part of a collaborative divorce involves both partners using a separate attorney, and both attorneys agree to avoid litigation. Having separate lawyers makes sense to make sure each party has fair representation, but there is some worry that this method puts the focus on creating a settlement without litigating. Trying to force a resolution to wrap up the process could mean that both parties do not have an agreement in their best interests.
Mediation shares some traits with the collaborative divorce approach because both parties must exercise full disclosure and focus on creating a plan for ending a marriage. Both parties work with one mediator who listens to each client and helps foster open communication. A mediator can help a couple develop skills for making decisions after the marriage is over, and this is useful when a couple must interact and make decisions together because of children. Both parties have control in this process while the mediator can intervene to facilitate conversation and solve disputes, and the mediator can also prepare the necessary paperwork for a divorce that the couple must approve.
When thinking about how to handle the end of a marriage, spouses must consider their situation and the needs of their family. There are benefits to divorcing without a court process, but a couple must be willing to work together and agree that divorce is the best option. Those who do want to use an alternative to the courts can have control over important decisions about their future and work to come up with a beneficial arrangement for everyone involved.