Life is full of choices. Getting divorced is one of them we hope never to have to make. But when we do, choosing a no court divorce can be one of the best choices you could make for yourself and your family.
There are options available to couples who want a low conflict divorce or a “no court divorce.” Two alternate dispute resolution processes, mediation and collaborative divorce, are excellent alternatives for dissolving a marriage humanely and sanely. Both are solution-oriented and focused on the future of the couple and the family. Both involve specially-trained professionals who facilitate the process. Both provide couples with the a sense of control over what is happening to them. Both can work well for most couples, even when they are not getting along.
Mediation is a process in which a couple works with a trained mediator who acts as a neutral facilitator. The mediator helps the couple collect and exchange information and explore options for resolving issues such as custody and parenting arrangements, division of property and debt, and child support and alimony. The mediator strives to promote positive communication between the parties and works to assist each person in expressing his or her points and in understanding the other’s. The mediator also helps develop options for resolution. This is usually done in a series of meetings between the couple and the mediator. If the mediator is a lawyer, he or she may also assist in preparing paperwork for court including drafting the agreement reached by the parties. If not, the mediator will convey the agreement reached to the parties lawyers for drafting for court.
Between meetings, the couple can consult with others such as accountants, appraisers and should also meet with individual lawyers to get information which will help them make informed decisions in the mediation. The role of lawyers in the mediation process is to educate and advise their clients to help them understand the legal aspects of their agreements and how their agreement compares with possible court outcomes. The lawyers’ role is limited compared to the typical litigated divorce and, therefore, less costly for the client. The assistance the lawyers provide can help the parties understand their choices and feel confident about them in addition to informing them about their rights and responsibilities.
In recent years, collaborative law and collaborative divorce have become available to couples in Connecticut. The collaborative process is another type of alternate dispute resolution. Each party in the collaborative process chooses a lawyer trained in the process. Other collaboratively trained professionals such as mental health coaches, child specialists and financial planners may also be included. Although the lawyers act as advisors and advocates, the focus is on group problem solving. The couple, the lawyers, and any other collaborative professionals the parties agree on, sign a contract which includes the pledge not to litigate.
If the process does not succeed in reaching an agreement acceptable to both parties, the lawyers are disqualified from representing them in court. This underscores and promotes everyone’s motivation to work cooperatively to reach a mutually beneficial and acceptable resolution through cooperative negotiation.
Like mediation, the collaborative process proceeds through a series of meetings among the parties and lawyers, or the parties and other professionals, if desired. The professionals work with the parties to facilitate their understanding of the facts they need to make informed decisions and to help develop the options for resolution. The lawyers also assist by drafting the legal paperwork needed for court.
Mediation and collaborative divorce have many advantages over litigation. They are usually less stressful than litigation and are more private. They can move at the pace the parties chose which often results in a shorter and less expensive divorce. Couples are more likely to abide by their agreements because they participated in a voluntary resolution process. And, perhaps most important to parents, children benefit greatly from the reduced stress and conflict between parents who are working together to do the best for the whole family.