Divorce can be expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining. Traditionally, divorce disputes played out in the court. However, there are alternatives to traditional litigation that may be more appropriate for your situation. If you are looking or a Columbus, Ohio family lawyer, make sure he or she is knowledgeable about alternative dispute resolution.
Simple negotiation with your spouse and his or her attorney can be the one of the best ways to resolve disputes without having to use the Courts. Sitting down at a table with both lawyers and making decisions about how the divorce will operate can save time and money if the parties can be reasonable.
In mediation, you set down with your spouse and a third party called a mediator. The mediator facilitates communication and discussion between parties to help them reach a voluntary agreement about their dispute. Mediators are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. Mediators are also not able to make decisions for the parties.
Mediation allows the parties to retain control over decision- making and consider each party’s needs and interests, and to create a plan that best fits their unique situation. Because mediation does not focus on evidence and the law as in an adversarial process, the potential for long-term conflict between the parties may be reduced. Mediation in Franklin County, when children are involved, is free.
One disadvantage to mediation is that you cannot take your lawyer into mediation. Mediators also cannot individually counsel either party. The mediator is, for example, limited in getting necessary information if one party is reluctant to provide it.
Collaborative divorce, also called collaborative dissolution, is a “team” process in which the parties engage attorneys and other professionals to assist in the negotiation and settlement of their dispute. Collaborative law uses an “interdisciplinary model,” meaning that third-party “neutrals” (such as CPAs, valuation experts, child psychologists and mental health professionals) are engaged to assist the team. The goal is not to just get signatures on the dotted line, but also to address underlying issues in reaching a lasting agreement.
One advantage of a collaborative divorce is that it focuses negotiations on helping parties to communicate effectively over the long term. This generally minimizes the negative impact upon children. It is also less expensive, both financially and emotionally, than litigation. All information is shared and all negotiations take place in face-to-face “four-way” meetings. Generally, these meetings foster trust because the other spouse’s attorney does not function as an adversary. Each of the lawyers is retained for the limited purpose of helping the clients reach an acceptable settlement without litigation or threats of litigation. This allows the lawyers to focus on creative solutions rather than on preparation for trial.
One disadvantage is that, if the collaborative process fails, neither lawyer who was engaged in the process can continue to represent the client. Therefore, each client must retain new counsel for litigation. At any time during collaborative negotiations, each side has the unilateral right to terminate the process and force the other party into litigation.
Neutral evaluation involves bringing in an experienced third party with experience in family law. The third party evaluates each side of the case and articulates an opinion regarding the case. Both parties present information and the neutral offers each party a confidential opinion regarding the likely outcome of the case and an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of each side’s arguments. Through neutral evaluation, both parties get a realistic view of the case and to encourage settlement.
The neutral party acts as an educator, consultant and evaluator. This can encourage the parties to explore a broad range of creative options and solutions. Neutral evaluation provides a map of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case. The neutral evaluator does not provide any individual, personal or legal advice. Also, the neutral does not draft documents for either party. At the end of this process, the parties are referred to other lawyers for personal advice and drafting of documents.
In cases where parties are in high conflict or where there are personality disorders or drug or alcohol addiction issues, this option may not be appropriate or effective. Since the parties’ lawyers generally do not participate directly in the negotiations, any agreement that was reached may be scuttled once each party receives her or his lawyer’s critique.
Although divorce can sometimes be a time consuming and expensive process, it is often possible to work out mutually amicable solutions without such extensive litigation.