When faced with divorce, whether you’re leaving, have been left or decided mutually to end the marriage, you have OPTIONS! Divorce doesn’t have to be a personalized repeat of Kramer v Kramer or War of the Roses! Approach your upcoming divorce in the same way you approached your wedding day: with careful planning and attention to detail.
Below are the six most common options:
Pro Se: It comes from Latin and literally meaning “on behalf of themselves”. Basically, this means advocating on one’s own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by a lawyer. It’s not recommended in the court system for many reasons. The court process is complicated. Often people will opt to represent themselves if they don’t have the funds to hire an attorney or have decided they might do a better job of representing themselves. It’s not recommended but it is an option.
Mediation: A process by which you and your spouse agree that you will disclose all financial information and work with a mediator to reach an agreement about finances and a workable schedule for the kids. You can hire your own attorney to review the agreement as the mediator is a neutral third party. Mediators are often attorneys and therapists who have received extensive mediation training.
Collaborative: In collaborative divorce, clients work towards a settlement with their attorneys and other divorce professionals without the threat of court. In a true collaborative divorce, if the parties aren’t able to reach an agreement and wish to have a court official make the decision, the attorneys on the case excuse themselves and are not able to represent the client in court. The threat of having to hire a new attorney and start over is a catalyst to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Cooperative: This form of divorce is a cross between mediation, collaboration and litigation. Most likely, there is at least one attorney on retainer. The couple agrees to work together cooperatively to reach an acceptable agreement and end their marriage. You don’t have to be friends with your spouse, but you do have to make every attempt to be reasonable. If you must use the courts to decide the outcome or specific areas of your settlement, you have the flexibility to petition the court with your existing attorney.
Arbitration: Binding arbitration is a process by which the attorneys present the facts of the case to an arbitrator, usually a retired or practicing family law attorney, who then reviews the details of the situation and presents binding orders. That means you aren’t able to appeal them to a higher level in the court system. An arbitration hearing can often be scheduled in a timelier manner than a trial at the court house.
Litigation: This is what most of us envision when we think of divorce. It’s the “War of the Roses” version of divorce. It’s two acrimonious clients, a couple of egocentric divorce attorneys, and destructive outcomes. Unfortunately, some people are on the litigation route because of the contentiousness between them. It’s in your best interest to find a way to be somewhat civil with your spouse. Try to remember that no one knows your family and your financial situation better than you. If you want an appointed court officer to decide how you’ll share your kids over Christmas break, then this is the path that may work best for you.
Regardless of your path you choose, know that you are ALWAYS in a better position if you’ve consulted with a divorce coach. A coach will help you to create a plan and a strategy on how to approach differences between you and your spouse. It’s the two of you who ultimately reach an agreement. Be as thoughtful as you were when you planned the wedding! You won’t regret having an ADVOCATE on your team.