There’s something you need to know before you or your spouse contact a lawyer or file a divorce petition with the court system. Knowing this could increase your odds of getting what you want most in your divorce settlement…happy, well-adjusted kids. Not to mention, it will save you countless months, money, and migraines. If you and your spouse are headed for a divorce, read before you proceed.
Many people don’t know that they have options for getting a divorce. Enduring a lengthy, costly court battle that increases family hostility is avoidable. There are alternatives available to you. These “alternative dispute resolutions” (ADRs) could mean the difference between peace or discord for you and your children.
The most well-known pathway to divorce is called “litigation” and involves lawyers and court hearings. On the other hand, there is another more harmonious pathway called “mediation.”
Mediation puts control back in your hands, resulting in less stress for you and your children. In addition, you’ll likely have fewer challenges with joint custody and child support arrangements and a happier parent-child relationship while avoiding expensive and slow court battles.
In a “contested” divorce, the married couple typically cannot agree on how to divide property (i.e., money, time with children, child/spousal support, etc.), and one spouse files a divorce complaint. That complaint sets a series of events in motion within the court system, ending with a trial in front of a family court judge where, among other things, the judge will decide how to divide shared assets and debts.
Choosing the litigation pathway sets you and your spouse on a timetable constructed by the court. Also, you both must appear before a specific type of judge called a family court judge. There are a limited number of these types of judges within the court system. In addition, you’ll both probably want your own lawyers to help you navigate through the litigation process since court procedures and the law can be complex.
Because you are stuck with a timetable devised by the court, working through two sets of lawyers, and waiting on a family court judge, your case could take a year or more before being finalized. That’s a year or more of appointed court dates, missed work, lawyer fees, and family stress. Not only that, but your outcome isn’t guaranteed to go the way you want because it’s left up to the judge.
An “uncontested” divorce will be faster and cheaper than a “contested” one, but there’s yet another alternative likely to work out better for you and your children.
Through an ADR called “mediation,” you and your spouse can avoid the unpredictable outcomes of a drawn-out, expensive court case that leaves your child’s welfare hanging in the balance.
This pathway takes place in a neutral, casual setting. A trained mediator guides you and your spouse through settling major issues such as:
The length of time it takes to complete your divorce through mediation is significantly less than in a contested or uncontested divorce. The complexity of the issues, the extent of your and your spouse’s agreeableness, and your availability determine how many sessions you need and the length of time it takes for your divorce to be complete. Less complex issues and spouses that easily compromise on those issues could have their divorce complete in just one mediation session.
Because you and your spouse are working together to develop solutions, mediation gives you more control over results like joint custody and child support.
In addition to increased control and saving time and money, mediation is also more beneficial from a psychological standpoint, especially for your children.
Since mediation focuses on finding common ground, cooperating, keeping you out of court, and shortening the divorce process, everyone involved will be less stressed – even your children, who can pick up on your cues and energy.
What’s more, you and your spouse will lay the foundation for conflict-resolution skills that you’ll use with each other for years to come, making the post-divorce transition years more harmonious. Your children can even learn essential conflict-resolution and other life skills, like coping, fairness, negotiating, and forgiveness, as they watch you.
An overly aggressive lawyer can cause tensions and conflict to grow among the entire family. Mediators, on the other hand, are trained to oversee and guide divorcing parents through cooperative negotiations so that conflict is minimized and doesn’t turn into a high-stakes winner-takes-all game.
Mediation can prevent your child from feeling “stuck in the middle” between two parents at odds with each other. Additionally, child custody arrangements resulting from mediation typically support closer contact with both parents, which studies show is beneficial for a child’s well-being.
Instead of leaving your fate in the hands of a judge, discuss your major divorce issues in mediation. You win when you work with a mediator to cooperatively negotiate divorce settlements with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. So do your children.
Since many of the issues in a divorce revolve around money and children, our helpful hint is to look for a co-parenting app with non-editable reporting to help you handle custody schedules and money matters. Divorced family apps like Dcomply allow you to request, exchange, and track money securely and efficiently between you and your co-parent without the need for a lot of meetups, messages, or mailing involved. Consider mediation to help you take the extra stress out of your divorce so you can get back to raising well-adjusted, happy children.