Did you know you don’t have to go to court for your divorce? You have options. Here are three:
1. Traditional Representation/court process
In this process one or both of you have an attorney who represents you in court. The lawyers will decide the issues to be resolved and will give you their plan for the case. The lawyers will be the ones who negotiate with each other and you are not involved in those discussions. The lawyers will argue the law on behalf of their clients. Many will attempt to settle out of court but if they don’t, the judge may be the one who ultimately makes the decisions about your property and your family. This is a lawyer-centered process. Some people need the court to make decisions and orders to be followed…most do not, they just don’t know they have other choices.
2. Divorce Mediation a CLIENT-centered process
In this process you and your spouse work together with a neutral third person (usually a trained Family Law mediator) who will help you reach an agreement that YOU create. The Mediator will not represent either of you or give you individual legal advice. However, they should give you lots of legal overview information designed to help you in your decision-making process and they should give you lots of ideas about different ways to settle your case.
This process requires that you and your spouse are able to sit in the same room and at the same table together. It requires that you carry on a respectful conversation with one another and your Mediator. If you are afraid of your spouse or do not feel you can “hold your own” in these types of conversations, mediation may not be right for you.
Since the Mediator does not give you individual legal advice and must remain neutral, you can choose to have a consulting lawyer to see for support and advice as you go through mediation. The consulting lawyer should support mediation, explain any agreements to you and their legal consequences…they should NOT try to talk you out of agreements you make in mediation and they should NOT suggest you go to court instead. If you don’t think mediation is for you, you can try….
3. Collaborative Divorce another client-centered process
In this process you each have a lawyer trained in Collaborative Practice. You all sign an agreement that you will not use the court process for any reason and the ENTIRE case is resolved in a series of meetings with both of you and your lawyers. The lawyers are not adversarial, do not argue the law and will work with the two of you to help you build an agreement that works for you and your family. If the case ends up in court, the lawyers are disqualified from representing you against one another in court…ever.
The Collaborative Team: In addition to lawyers, and depending upon where you live, you may also each have a Divorce Coach. This person is a mental health professional trained to help you with communication issues and co-parenting. Your coach is there to help you talk about the emotions of the divorce and teach you ways to handle them so you can have more productive meetings with your lawyers.
The child specialist (in appropriate cases) will meet with you and your children and becomes the “voice of the chidlren’ in your divorce. The child specialist will meet with you and your divorce coaches to help give you perspective on what your children need so you can take that into account as you develop your parenting plan.
The Financial Specialist is another team member and is neutral. This person will work with you on the money issues and will help you gather and organize all of the documents and information about your assets, debts, income and expenses. They can also show you the future possible financial ramifications of a settlement proposal
So, you see, you don’t have to go to court, YOU have a choice when you divorce and you can choose a process that is centered around you and your family. Isn’t that what it’s all about?