Let’s suppose you’ve decided to get a divorce. What are your options? Must you go to court? Fortunately, there are other options besides courtroom litigation that can help you resolve your divorce. Though there are times where litigation is necessary – which we cover below – there are alternatives that may be best for you. Let’s take a look at the four choices:
Mediation – Mediation is the process where both spouses hire a mediator to resolve the divorce. The mediator’s job is to find an Agreement between both parties on all issues related to the divorce: child custody, parental visitation rights, asset division, alimony, etc. However, please note a mediator cannot advocate for either side during negotiations or perform processional services in any capacity other than as an impartial mediator. If the mediation is successful and an Agreement is reached, the couple can submit the Agreement for official filing – all with minimal interaction with the public court. Tip: it’s crucial for each spouse to hire an attorney and review the Agreement before signing it.
- Pros: Mediation can be quick, easy, and the least expensive as the couple shares the cost of the mediator.
- Cons: Mediation only works for couples that are amicable, not prone to arguing, and where divorce details are relatively uncomplicated. However, mediation can be a waste of money if both parties begin fighting midway through the process. It is also not a good solution for domestic violence victims who need the court’s relief in protecting oneself or one’s children.
Collaborative Law – Like mediation, a collaborative divorce occurs outside of public courtrooms and involves multiple experts to find a divorce settlement: attorneys, financial and tax experts, child and family therapists, property appraisers, etc. In this approach, each spouse hires an attorney(s) who represents them, and all parties try to resolve the divorce in an agreeable way. Tip: be sure to hire an attorney skilled in collaborative law as there are very specific rules and procedures to follow.
- Pros: This is a possible option for both amicable and non-amicable couples. It can save time since you won’t need to schedule a court date.
- Cons: It can be expensive to hire the experts. In addition, if the collaboration ends with no final Agreement, the process is nullified and the attorneys can no longer represent their clients in a court of law. In essence, the couple will need to pay a second round of attorney fees to represent them in court, and start over.
Private Judge – Though expensive, it is possible to hire a retired attorney or family law judge to resolve your divorce. Like a mediator, the private judge will hear from both sides, but unlike the mediator, the private judge’s decision is enforceable by law. Hiring a private judge is very similar to litigation, but you don’t go to court, so the process can be much quicker and more efficient. Tip: be sure to hire a judge who has knowledge and experience in family law.
- Pros: Hiring a private judge helps avoid the logjam of courtroom calendar schedules; you’ll be heard sooner; and you’ll benefit from having a judge skilled in family law.
- Cons: They can be expensive. Private judges usually charge by the hour, so depending on how long your case will take or how complicated it is, you probably will end up paying considerably more in fees and costs than what you would normally pay.
Litigation – When none of the above options are available or advisable to you, litigation is your last option. In litigation, you and your attorney will receive a date to appear in court before a judge to resolve your divorce. Litigation is very useful when you need the court’s protection, such as when one party is acting in bad faith, has substance abuse problems, or is making threats to you and/or your children. Tip: though a good family law attorney will charge higher fees, you’ll receive a much better settlement than if you hire a novice or inexpensive attorney (you’ll never regret hiring the best attorneys to handle your divorce).
- Pros: If your spouse is unwilling to compromise, refuses to negotiate, threatens to “punish” you, or generally engages in “bad faith” behavior, then litigation can offer you protection the other options cannot.
- Cons: Since you’re subject to the court’s calendar, litigation can be slow, delayed, and become a drawn-out affair due to the many procedures involved and couple-specific complications that can arise.
Castleton Law Group has been representing individuals in divorce settlements for over 34 years. We have attorneys who not only specialize in family law, but also teams of attorneys who will be advisors to your case. If you’re thinking about a divorce, but not sure where to begin, please contact us for a consultation.
Castleton Law Group
17800 Castleton Street, Suite 630, City of Industry, California 91748