Exploring Dispute Alternatives to Get Divorced
The divorce process is not known for being easy or fast, and couples seeking divorce may be overwhelmed at the prospect of leaving everything for a judge to decide in an atmosphere facilitated by contention and disagreement. Litigation, by its nature, is an adversarial process, and in some cases, this approach is the best way to resolve a dispute, including divorce. One aspect of divorce cases that is lacking in most other lawsuits is the fact of the level of intimacy the parties once shared, and the fact that, if children are involved, their relationship will continue in some capacity. Thus, taking a no-holds-barred or scorched earth approach to litigating divorce is almost guaranteed to destroy any ability to maintain reasonable connections in the future. While litigation is the traditional route to divorce, it is not the only option a couple has to end their marriage. In fact, several options are available, including one that is mandated by most family law judges before hearings will be set. These alternative dispute methods have long been used by the famous and well-connected, with the use of a private judge by Anna Faris and Chris Pratt for their divorce serving as a recent example. However, a person does not have to be a celebrity to access or benefit from these less adversarial approaches, and an overview of some alternative dispute options divorcing couples can use will follow below.
The most straightforward approach, and the option with least amount of involvement by third parties, is direct negotiation. This approach completely bypasses the use of an intermediary to make decisions, and gives spouses control over the terms of the settlement. Spouses can engage in this method of compromise themselves, and many do before divorce papers are filed, or through a divorce attorney. If spouses decide to go it alone, they should at least have legal counsel review any proposed agreement to see if it is fair and complies with the law. A judge will need to review the settlement agreement before incorporating it into the divorce order, particularly if children are involved, so a review by an attorney serves both to protect the interests of each spouse, but also to avoid a judge rejecting a proposed agreement because it violates Florida law. Negotiation is effective in protecting the couple’s privacy and avoiding the expense of litigation, but will only work if the spouses can communicate, and if each is willing to make reasonable compromises. One potential disadvantage, which applies to any alternative dispute resolution method, arises when one spouse has significantly greater knowledge of finances and/or is able to manipulate the other spouse into making decisions that disfavor him/her. This possibility is another reason to hire an experienced divorce attorney who can help to ensure the process is fair and both parties are on equal footing.
Divorce mediation is a standard, and court-mandated, process in many divorces. Unlike negotiation, mediation is facilitated by a neutral third-party who is there to help foster agreement but cannot provide legal advice. Mediators can suggest points of compromise or encourage parties to adopt an agreement, but cannot make binding decisions. Most family law judges in Florida will require couples seeking divorce to try mediation before they will schedule a hearing, but spouses must voluntarily consent to any settlement, and if one is not produced, a return to litigation is available.
With either alternative resolution method, even if the process does not result in complete agreement, it may resolve some issues, allow each spouse to figure out what really matters to them, or create clarity over highly contested issues. Thus, they offer benefits that aid the resolution of a divorce long-term, even if the alternative process itself does not produce a fully formed divorce settlement.
Speak with a Divorce Attorney
Divorce radically changes a person’s life, and the settlement that comes out of this process should fairly reflect your contribution to the marriage. If you are thinking of divorce, speak with an experienced attorney at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. Our Fort Lauderdale law firm has extensive experience handling all aspects of divorce, and can help you navigate this complicated process. Contact us for a free consultation.