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Alternative Dispute Resolution
Not every divorce has to be a contentious, drama-filled battle like in the movie, “Kramer vs. Kramer.” In fact, you and your spouse may be one of many couples that would like to avoid that harsh path and fortunately, different methods of moving through the divorce process have evolved.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers broadly to settling legal matters outside of the traditional judicial process. Rather than prepare for a contested trial before a judge, you and your spouse will use ADR to avoid the traditional adversarial process and try to work together in a more amicable fashion. After an agreement is reached, it would be submitted to the court like an uncontested divorce.
In the family law context, two types of ADRs tend to be popular – Mediation and Collaborative Law. In practical terms, both approaches offer many of the same benefits – keeping your records private and off the internet, affordability, reduced stress, less risk, more flexibility and, most importantly, the opportunity to shape your own futures.
In Mediation, you, your spouse and a third-party mediator work together to resolve all disputed issues relating to custody, property and support. You share information, meet separately and together with the mediator, and make good faith efforts to reach an agreeable outcome. However, if you are unable to reach agreement, however, either of you has the option of stopping the process and proceeding in the traditional manner in court.
In Collaborative Law, you and your spouse must agree to commit to a solution-oriented process. As part of that commitment, each of you must have an attorney trained in the collaborative law approach. You will share information and have meetings collectively to work through the various issues of custody, property and support. As a further indication of the commitment to the process, if you and your spouse do not reach an agreeable outcome, before proceeding further in the traditional manner in court, each of you must hire new attorneys. Collaborative Law, then, has more built-in incentives to reach an agreement than mediation.