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Why would divorcing couples switch from litigation to mediation or collaborative law?

January 2, 2018

For most couples in New York who are planning to go through a divorce, a trip to court seems inevitable. It’s certainly true that most people see divorces in the state as being something that is inextricably bound to the courtroom. It might be surprising, then, to know that many choose to pursue alternative options for their divorce proceedings. Many choose to go through mediation or collaborative law proceedings instead of litigation. While not a solution for everyone, there are several reasons why a couple might choose one of these methods instead of the more traditional courtroom procedures.

Time

One of the major reasons that divorcing couples tend to choose mediation or collaborative law over litigation is a simple matter of time. Courts in New York are typically quite busy and it can take a very long time for a divorce to make its way through the court. If the divorce requires anything that is particularly complex, it’s not out of the questions for the process to take over a year. As one might expect, many divorcing couples simply want to get on with the next stage of their lives without waiting around.

Mediation isn’t always a fast process, but it does have the benefit of not dealing with the court docket schedule. This means that mediators typically have more of an ability to work with the two sides’ schedules and get things done faster. It can still take quite some time for things to get ironed out, but the speed at which things are resolved is usually quite fast compared to what one sees in an even a simple court divorce.

Expense

Time is money, especially in the legal world. While there are always costs associated with a divorce, going to a collaborative model can make things significantly more expensive. In many ways, this really just is a function of time – a quicker divorce means fewer fees paid to attorneys. Mediation also tends to be less expensive because there are fewer related court costs to be paid. This allows both parties to walk away with a little more money in the bank.

Collaborative methods do, however, usually have a cost attached. It’s recommended that both parties in a divorce bring a lawyer and the mediator will usually have a standard fee for his or her services. While these fees may be less than what one would find in court, it would be disingenuous to suggest that this is necessarily a ‘cheap’ way to go through a divorce.

Children

Many divorcing couples also look at collaborative law measures as a way to protect their relationships with their children during a divorce. Because these methods promote collaboration, it’s often easier to let go of hostile footing and come to decisions that are more beneficial for the child. There’s certainly something to be said for working out custody solutions face to face than through the court system for this very reason.

It’s important to remember, though, that collaborative efforts aren’t helpful for the children if both parties aren’t honest about their intentions. It’s just as likely that a party can self-sabotage in mediation as he or she could in court. It takes a dedicated mindset and the right kind of motivation for this kind of law to work in custody situations.

Special Considerations

Many also choose collaborative law because they have special circumstances that don’t quite work in the courts. Some, for example, might have very specific issues with their pets that the law won’t adequately address. Others might want to split up their property in a certain way for which the law wouldn’t call. Every divorce is different, and so too is every divorcing couple. Collaborative law allows these couples a way to make sure that they will be able to come up with solutions that work for everyone.

Collaborative law solutions can be incredibly inventive compared to what might be found in court. It makes sense for those with very special needs to try and find a solution that doesn’t necessarily fall into the usual standards. While these solutions aren’t always successful, they do have the benefit of being more in line with what the participating parties might have imagined.

There are many good reasons to seek out alternative dispute resolution instead of a typical court divorce. Be it for family reasons, money, time, or even becuase of special circumstances, this type of practice offers the solutions that more standard divorce law cannot. This does not, however, mean that it works for everyone. Before you make any decisions about what type of law you pursue you should absolutely speak with an attorney. Only then can you know what to expect from the type of law you choose to pursue.

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