How Traditional Divorce Differs from Mediation, Collaborative Divorce and Negotiated Settlements (ADR)

    A traditional divorce is a long and monotonous process which involves lengthy court proceedings and frequent meetings with (often expensive) attorneys. ADR, or “Alternative Divorce Resolution” makes the divorce process less stressful and often, more cost-effective. The three types of ADR: mediation, negotiated settlement, and collaborative divorce, offer healthier and less toxic alternatives to the traditional divorce proceedings. By cooperating with your spouse and working to find beneficial alternatives to your current situation, the divorce can feel more like the creation of a new beginning than an ending.

    Mediation, negotiated settlements, and collaborative divorce all focus on resolving issues and coming to agreements outside of court. Traditional divorce involves the court in basically every step of the way. On the other hand, collaborative attorneys and mediators work with you and your spouse to help you reach an equally beneficial resolution and settlement. At the beginning of the divorce proceedings, parties need to discuss resolving temporary issues. For example: “who gets the kids this weekend, who is going to live in the house, who gets the dog, etc…” Often, in a traditional divorce, attorneys will file motions with the Court regarding these temporary issues which immediately set adversarial battle lines until the judge issues a temporary order. Couples using alternative divorce resolutions figure out these issues on their own so that they can quickly move along with the divorce process.

    Traditional divorce attorneys collect information through a process called formal discovery. This process includes document requests, interrogatories, and depositions. This tends to take a considerable amount of time and money. Unlike formal discovery, alternative divorce resolution involves an informal discovery process which focuses on what is necessary as opposed to what is required by the rules, and clients voluntarily disclose all relevant facts to the mediator/attorney. In addition to formal discovery, in a traditional divorce, clients often hire their own financial expert to value businesses and/or property. In an alternative divorce, both sides agree upon mutual experts who provide valuable advice to both parties if they cannot solve a particular issue.

    The last step of any divorce is the resolution of all issues is coming to a settlement. In a traditional divorce process, if the couple is unable to resolve the issues themselves, a trial will be conducted and a Judge will decide all the issues for them. In the context of an alternate divorce process, after all of the facts are on the table and your experts have weighed in, you and your spouse will engage in interest-based negotiations focusing on common goals. Once an understanding on all issues is reached an agreement will be prepared for signing. Thereafter, the agreement and the requisite paperwork is submitted to the Court for signature: all without a single appearance before a judge.

    Listen: You and your spouse have probably had some great times together, and there is no point in marring your fondest memories of him/her over legal disputes. As adults, you should be able to sit down and discuss your issues in a calm and healthy environment. That way, you will both be able to move on with your lives unescorted by bitterness and resentment. (Think of the example you want to set if you happen to have children.) Alternative divorce resolutions offer you a way to make your divorce as quick and painless as possible. After all, “When one door closes, another door opens.” – Alexander Graham Bell


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