People generally think of divorce litigation as going into court and fighting until the bitter end. While not all divorce litigation is carried out in the same manner, it is important for parties wary of such litigation to know that they have a number of alternatives.
Parties can sit down either by themselves or with their divorce attorneys for a meeting or a series of settlement meetings to try and negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement. There are many cases that are settled in this way, as it allows both parties to make compromises that result in terms that are agreeable to everyone.
Divorce litigation can be a long, emotional, painful, and expensive process. If the parties to a divorce are able to resolve their case without having to go through formal litigation, such negative consequences can be reduced, or avoided entirely. Additionally, when parties are able to resolve their divorce using negotiation, mediation, or collaborative divorce, they are also able to take control of the final outcome of their case. In this way, the parties may avoid placing the future of their assets and, potentially, their children into the hands of a judge who does not know the specifics of their relationship or their case.
Mediation is another alternative to traditional litigation in the court. In mediation, a mediator is a neutral third party whose role is to help the parties arrive at compromises in order to construct an agreement that is palatable to each other. This mediator is not allowed to give legal advice, so it is important to have an attorney on your side to keep your rights and interests in mind during this process.
Any issue can be resolved using mediation, including:
- Property Division
- Allocation of Debts
- Determinations of Spousal Support
- Parameters of Child Support
Alternatively, arbitration may be available to the parties. During arbitration, a third party acts as a quasi-judge in an informal setting and makes a ruling regarding the issues to be settled. Though not traditional litigation, arbitration is not entirely dissimilar from the litigation that takes place in a courthouse.
However, while most things may be resolved using arbitration, an arbitrator may not be able to make binding decisions on issues related to minor children. Arbitration will not solve issues such as:
- Child Support
Finally, the parties may choose a collaborative divorce process, which is the antithesis of litigation. A collaborative divorce process represents a collaborative effort amongst the parties’ attorneys—and, sometimes, other professionals such as counselors and financial planners—in which the parties work together over a series of meetings to try to come to an amicable resolution without litigating the case in court.
Importance of Hiring an Attorney
Even if the parties to a divorce have agreed to all of the provisions of a divorce agreement, it is still critically important that each hire an experienced Virginia divorce attorney as the drafting of such an agreement can be a rather technical process. Without the help of an experienced lawyer, such an agreement may create future and even unenforceable problems. Thus, even if both parties have agreed to all provisions of their divorce, it is very important that they hire independent lawyers to ensure that the agreed upon terms are reflected in an enforceable divorce agreement.