When considering divorce, many people find the process more overwhelming than the actual divorce itself. Without knowledge of the legal system and its workings, people are left to believe that the horror stories they hear from friends and relatives, or the urban legends of divorce, are typical and must be expected in every situation. To be sure, there are cases which drag on for years, where both the parties and their attorneys spend days upon days in courtrooms, arguing over the most minute issues, but it is important to know that this is not inevitable.
In fact, there are options available which can allow a divorcing couple to avoid court altogether. Alternative dispute resolution – ADR as it is commonly known – is an ever-expanding field which offers alternatives to tailor results to fit the needs of parties.
Mediation can be much more time- and cost-efficient than traditional litigation. In mediation, the parties, and attorneys if desired, meet with a neutral third party who will help them to work together to resolve legal and financial issues, exploring a wide range of settlement options. Mediation can also provide an opportunity for the parties to express the emotional issues they are facing in a controlled setting. While parties are not required to reach agreement, they often find that the process facilitates cooperation and a willingness to abide by the agreements that are reached.
The use of private judges has been put into the spotlight in recent years, primarily due to the number of high-profile celebrity divorces in which these judges have been used. Although divorces using private judges come at a higher cost than standard litigation, the advantages to the parties often outweigh their expense. The ruling of a private judge is binding, as it would be in a traditional courtroom, but the parties are not bound to the backlogged calendars of the courthouse and can move at the pace they desire. The parties do not make appearances at the local courthouse, and schedule the proceedings to accommodate their schedules. Perhaps most important for parties who elect this option, the proceedings are not a part of public record, so use of the private judge keeps the outcome private.
These are only two of many options available to parties who wish to dissolve their marriage outside the confines of traditional litigation. Although not necessarily appropriate for every case, ADR offers options to give parties control over a situation that can quickly feel out of control.