When many of us think about divorce, we tend to think about it in the traditional sense. Unfortunately for many, this “traditional“ perception of divorce litigation brings to mind acrimonious battles in the courtroom where couples fight with one another over every issue with attorneys on each side pitted against the other. Certainly, some divorces are like this. In some situations, due to the nature of the parties’ relationship, it simply can’t be helped. Some people, when they choose to divorce, have such difficulty moving past their emotions and anger that it makes it almost impossible to have a civil conversation if we discuss matters surrounding their separation.
Fortunately, however, for those couples who can remain on civil terms with one another, there are an increasing number of alternatives to divorce litigation that many are choosing and utilizing with great success. Why do some people choose these alternatives to traditional litigation? There are several reasons:
- Cost-Effectiveness: Some choose alternative settlement methods because the cost is ultimately significantly less than that for traditional divorce litigation, which can often involve numerous billable hours on the part of an attorney.
- Freedom to Make Decisions: Some people prefer alternative litigation methods because it gives the parties more freedom in deciding the issues themselves in a way that works best for their lifestyle without having to quickly make those determinations for them.
- Flexibility: Those who enter into agreements on their own often have the flexibility to later go back and amend those agreements should their lifestyle and circumstances change.
- Family Concerns: It is often much easier for the children Involved if the parties are able to settle things calmly and with relative ease compared to battling it out publicly in a courtroom setting.
For all of these reasons and more, many are interested in exploring alternatives to traditional divorce.
After deciding that you may be interested in pursuing alternative methods of divorce litigation, you may remain a bit uncertain as to what alternative options are actually available. This is understandable, particularly if you have never found yourself in this situation before. Here are a few of the most common:
- Mediation: In Iowa, couples are required to undergo attempts at mediation prior to traditionally litigating their divorce before a judge. This requirement is generally intended to encourage parties to work out as many of their differences as possible, thereby reducing the time and expense that can often accompany protracted litigation. During a mediation, a couple who is divorcing works with a neutral third-party mediator who is retained to assist both parties in coming to an agreement on various aspects of their divorce about which the parties may disagree. The mediator is often a lawyer or a retired judge, though this does not have to be the case. Regardless, the mediator, to be effective, must be a person who is extremely knowledgeable about divorce and family law. The parties meet with the mediator and each express their concerns, goals, and desires, and the mediator assists the parties in working toward meaningful compromises and results that are satisfying to everyone. In some cases, parties may be able to work out all, or at least the majority, of their issues, and in doing so, eliminate the need for lengthy and costly litigation. Another advantage of mediation is that when mediation ultimately results in an agreement between the parties, the parties can later go back and amend that agreement to better fit their needs in the future if they mutually agree to do so. As a result, instead of viewing mediation as a requirement that must merely be dispensed with, couples should view it as an opportunity – one which, if used to its full advantage can save a good deal of time, expense, and stress as the divorce process proceeds. While the parties are not required to attend mediation with a lawyer, the can bring a lawyer with them if they so choose. Having an attorney who understands the complexities of the divorce process and the law as it applies to your particular circumstances is always helpful and can provide added reassurance and peace of mind throughout the process.
- Collaborative Law: Collaborative law emphasizes – as one would expect – collaboration. In Iowa, unlike in many states, there is a specific Collaborative Law certification that attorneys may choose to receive, though few choose to go through that certification process. Generally, when attorneys speak of “collaborative law,” what is meant is an approach to the divorce process that seeks to find common ground between the parties and to resolve issues as amicably and fairly between the parties as possible without involving the court in lengthy, contentious, and costly arguments. It is almost always in the best interest of clients to work with each other through their attorneys toward negotiating a settlement agreement. When parties do so, they not only save money and stress, but they also avoid the possibility that a court may resolve the issue in a manner that neither party is truly pleased with. It should be said that collaborative attempts at divorce don’t always work for everyone. In some circumstances, there is simply too much tension between the parties to allow cooperative negotations. When both parties and their attorneys are willing to work together, however, the results can often be beneficial and satisfying to everyone involved. As is the case with mediation, and advantage of entering into a settlement this way is that the parties can later go back and amend the agreement to better fit their needs if future circumstances change.
Finding the right alternative divorce solution that is the best fit for your needs is, of course, dependent on your particular goals and circumstances. However, making the effort to find an alternative solution that works well for your family is often worth it.
At 303 Legal, we are proud of our reputation for extensive knowledge and excellent results in the practice of family law in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and all of Eastern Iowa. If you have additional questions about alternative methods of divorce resolution, traditional divorce litigation, or any other areas of family law, we would be more than happy to answer your questions and to learn how we may best be able to serve you. Call us today.