Divorce can be stressful even for couples who split in the most amicable of circumstances. Court fees can be expensive, and procedures such as service of documents can strain even the most agreeable of separating parties’ relationships. The good news is that divorcing couples who wish to avoid the stress and costs of litigation may choose other options such as mediation or collaboration for marriage dissolution.
What Is Mediation?
Couples who seek mediation basically work out the terms of the divorce themselves using the services of a neutral mediator who’s usually a divorce mediation lawyer. The mediator doesn’t work for either party in the divorce. In fact, mediation can be seen as a process of three parties: the two parties in the divorce and the mediator.
The mediator helps the other two parties work through the issues involved in the divorce agreement, including but not limited to:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Division of property
- Assignment of debt responsibility
- Alimony or other financial assistance
Regardless of how agreeable the parties may be at the beginning of the mediation, it’s not unusual for parties to exhibit emotions like anger, sadness, or anxiety that can hinder the process of reaching a mutually acceptable divorce agreement. One or both parties may be argumentative. A mediator can usually intervene and serve as a calming influence to help the parties refocus on the issues at hand.
Using a mediator may be especially helpful when children are involved. It allows for more flexibility in discussions and also provides a greater degree of confidentiality for all involved. While the divorce agreement that’s settled on through mediation is filed with the court, the details associated with the divorce aren’t divulged in a public forum such as a courtroom.
What Is Collaboration?
Collaborative divorce differs from mediation in that the divorcing couple doesn’t directly communicate with each other. Instead, each party is represented by a lawyer through a contractual agreement for collaboration. Through these lawyers, the parties essentially agree that litigation will not be sought and that full disclosure of assets will be provided by each party to the divorce. The collaborative team may also include therapists or counselors as well as neutral professionals who may serve as financial advisers or child advocates.
Collaboration may be a better choice than mediation for couples who are unable to directly communicate with each other without becoming confrontational or argumentative. This may be especially true when the divorce involves children. However, it should be noted that if either party seeks litigation, then the collaborative agreement is rendered null and void.
Collaborating with attorneys and neutral financial professionals may also be advantageous in cases where large property settlements are involved or when the composition of assets may be complicated. For instance, real estate ownership, stocks, bonds, options, and other investments may not be easily divested without professional help to ensure that the interests of all parties are protected equitably.
Other professionals who may be involved in the collaborative process are mental health coaches who help diffuse emotional issues and prevent them from overriding the objective matters that need to be addressed. These professionals are often the same gender as each party that he or she works with in order to help understand and work through the unique aspects of each gender’s perspective. They often help guide the parties in the use of positive and effective communication practices in the process.
Collaboration is usually more expensive than mediation but less expensive than litigation. It’s also usually more confidential than litigation, and children are afforded better protection from the negative fallout that can sometimes arise from emotional outbursts or negative comments in a courtroom.
When a divorce is inevitable, whether uncontested or contested, you may feel unsure as to where to turn in order to protect your rights as well as the interests of your children. When this happens, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a divorce lawyer who’s familiar in matters of family law, including property settlement, child custody, child support, and a myriad of other concerns. A lawyer can also help guide you in deciding if mediation or collaboration is for you or if pursuing litigation in court will best serve your interests. Turn to Joanne Kleiner & Associates to receive the assistance you need. You can contact our firm by calling (215) 886-1266 or by visiting our office in Jenkintown, PA.