Are There Alternatives to a Divorce in Court?
In 2020, 58,960 couples got married in Pennsylvania, and 28,884 got divorced. Many people are hesitant to proceed with a divorce because of how they perceive the attention, expense and stress of the process. If you’re considering a divorce, a consultation with a divorce lawyer will help you understand the alternatives to a costly, time-consuming and public divorce in a courtroom.
If you and your spouse are on good terms, a collaborative divorce offers an effective way to end the marriage. It’s designed to reduce the cost and stress of the divorce process. Both parties work with their individual divorce lawyers to resolve issues without the court having to decide for them. In some cases, such as child custody, the parties might work with other professionals in order to work through disputes. The final settlement comes from the decisions made by the two parties and their lawyers. A judge then signs and enters the final settlement into the public record.
Mediation With a Third Party
When you want to stay out of court as much as possible but you and your spouse also have a wide range of disagreements, working with a mediator may be your best option. When you choose this process, a neutral party works to resolve disputed issues. Mediation is common for helping couples make agreeable decisions on spousal and child support, child custody, pet custody and the division of assets.
The mediator doesn’t represent either party. They also don’t make any of the decisions. They simply facilitate communication with the goal of reaching a settlement as quickly as possible. If you choose to use a mediator, you and your spouse will each want to have an attorney. Mediation costs less than having attorneys argue for you in court, and it also gives you more control and privacy over the divorce process.
Using arbitration is another effective option when you and your spouse want to keep your business out of the public courtroom. This process features a private trial in which one or more arbitrators function as a judge. The arbitrators typically have several years of legal experience, and they may be attorneys who do this on a full-time or part-time basis. This type of alternative dispute resolution allows you and your attorney to present your case.
The hearing isn’t as formal as what takes place in a courtroom. Less evidence is required than what a judge would mandate in court. After a hearing, the arbitrator decides on the issues. One or more issues may be discussed at each hearing. The decisions made by an arbitrator can be non-binding or binding.
Using an arbitrator costs more than a mediator or the collaborative process, but it’s less time-consuming and expensive than handling these disputes in court. The downside of using an arbitrator is that you and your spouse lose control over the decision-making process.
Choosing an Alternative to Divorce
Many divorcing spouses start with a collaborative process. If you don’t make any progress on resolving your disagreements, you can then move on to another option, such as a mediator. Working with a mediator doesn’t prevent you from moving on to an arbitrator if the mediator can’t resolve the areas of disagreement.
Some divorcing spouses work their way through all of these court alternatives in order to reduce the cost, stress and publicity surrounding a traditional divorce process. No matter which type of divorce alternative you consider, consulting with an attorney helps you know what to expect and ensures that all documents are in order and filed with the court in a timely manner.
When you’re considering a Pennsylvania divorce, you may benefit from an appointment with attorney Joanne Kleiner. Contact our office in Jenkintown at (215) 886-1266, or fill out our contact form, and an associate will contact you with scheduling options.