Exploring Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods
Divorce can become a costly and time-consuming process. However, couples do have other options they can choose. These alternative dispute resolution methods can result in less costly, quicker, and often more amicable divorces.
What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
The traditional way to resolve divorce issues is to go to court and let a judge decide. However, this means that the costs of divorce can keep growing as you continue fighting in court. It also puts control of the resolutions of the issues on the judge. Alternative dispute resolution methods offer divorcing spouses a way to keep more control over the process and the final divorce agreement. Negotiations are done outside of the court, and the resolution reached can then become a legally binding document that is presented to the court for final approval. It encourages collaboration between spouses for the benefit of both parties. Mediation and arbitration, while similar, are two different methods of alternative dispute resolution.
Understanding Mediation and Its Benefits
Divorce mediation involves the couple working with a mediator, who is a neutral third party, to figure out resolutions to their issues. Both spouses can also work with their own divorce lawyer for guidance and legal support during the mediation process. The process itself can take from one session of a few hours to several sessions over months. In many states, mediation is required by the court. The mediator is prepared to encourage and guide the spouses to reach an agreement on their issues. However, the mediator does not make the final decision. Once the couple reaches an agreement, they draft a legal document to present to the court. If there are issues that cannot be resolved, then litigation or further negotiations will be necessary.
Mediation offers couples many benefits. Some of these include:
- Encouraging couples to collaborate on solutions to their issues
- Each person having their voice heard
- Space for creative and flexible solutions to the divorce issues
- Shorter time to resolve the divorce issues
- Lesser costs for the overall divorce
Understanding Arbitration and Its Benefits
Divorce arbitration also takes the negotiation of divorce issues outside the court. Like mediation, arbitration involves the couple working with a neutral, trained arbitrator. Each spouse can also work with their own divorce lawyer during the process. However, arbitration is somewhat different than mediation as each spouse must prepare and present their case to the arbitrator, who listens and asks questions. The arbitrator then decides on the divorce issues, and their decision is generally binding and is focused on a fair resolution of the divorce issues based on the evidence and case presented by each spouse. In that sense, it is also similar to court proceedings as well as to mediation.
Arbitration provides several benefits. These include a:
- More streamlined process as the arbitrator makes the final decision on the issues
- Less time-consuming divorce process
- Cost-effective alternative to a court-divorce
The Differences Between the Two Methods
While both mediation and arbitration are alternative paths to the traditional court-divorce, they are not the same. Mediation puts total control of the resolution of the issues on the couple, while arbitration leaves the binding agreement to the arbitrator. In that sense, arbitration is more formal than mediation. It is also somewhat more costly than mediation, though both methods are generally quicker and less costly than a court battle. Mediation requires more work and commitment from the spouses to reach an ideal resolution, but arbitration might lead to disagreements over the fairness of the binding decision, particularly if one spouse feels that their case was not completely heard by the arbitrator.
Choosing between mediation and arbitration will depend on a variety of things, including the ability of you and your spouse to sit down and discuss the issues rationally. You can also benefit from the support of a lawyer who can explain the methods to you, prepare you for the process, and guide you through the negotiation. Call the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner in Jenkintown at 215-886-1266 to set up a consultation for your case and take the first step towards resolving your divorce issues and moving on with your life.