“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” The meaning behind Gandhi’s phrase makes a lot of sense when you put it in terms of divorce. Deciding to negotiate—rather than fight or litigate—is a major step toward reaching an agreement. And, an agreement reached sooner usually means less expense, less heartache and less anger.
Are there alternatives to litigation?
There are several alternative dispute resolution methods, such as divorce mediation, collaborative divorce and child custody mediation. Often through these methods, spouses and parents can avoid a bitter courtroom fight. They can instead negotiate outside of court to reach a divorce agreement or child custody agreement that is best for everyone involved. These methods help clients develop more satisfying and longer-lasting agreements rather than if the issues were left up to a judge's decision.
What are the benefits of alternative dispute resolution methods?
- Saves time and money
- Informal setting—there’s no courtroom
- Communication is open, informal and honest
- You can decide now how to handle disputes that may come later
- You negotiate a result that works for your family
In mediation, both parties meet with an independent mediator who is trained to facilitate the divorce process. The mediator keeps the communication open, offers ideas and can help the parties arrive at an agreement—a peaceful compromise that they both can find acceptable.
Like divorce mediation, collaborative divorce is designed to keep the divorce out of court. Both spouses commit upfront to resolve all matters without litigating. The process uses a team approach to aid with decision making. The teams may use family or child specialists, mediators, financial specialists and others as needed. Both parties generally retain attorneys who are trained and experienced in collaborative divorce to assist them through the process. The process uses more of a troubleshoot and problem-solve mentality, rather than a must-win attitude. When the divorce becomes a competition, no one wins.
Child custody mediation
Using a professional mediator—who acts as a neutral third party—will facilitate discussion and take a lot of the adversarial relationship out of the process. One of the benefits of working with a child custody mediator is it helps parents create a better working relationship that allows the children to thrive. Children can often feel the anger between their parents, and this can make them fearful, insecure and pessimistic about their future. The mediator can help both parents develop new skills for communicating with each other.
Divorce can be emotionally charged, as well as expensive, complicated and stressful, but finding an alternative dispute resolution method—that keeps the divorce out of the courtroom—can benefit everyone involved. After all, Ronald Reagan said, "Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means."