If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, or if one of you has filed a divorce petition and kickstarted a divorce case in Oklahoma City, OK, it’s essential to know your options for resolving the case as smoothly as possible. Most people imagine heated court battles when they think of the divorce process, but the reality is that most divorcing couples in the US strive to avoid litigation in family court as much as possible.
Alternative dispute resolution has quickly become the preferred method for resolving a divorce in Oklahoma City and throughout the US. There are three primary forms of alternative dispute resolution: arbitration, mediation, and collaborative divorce. Arbitration is the least commonly chosen option and is typically used when divorcing spouses have a prenuptial contract that requires formal review from a family court judge. Mediation and collaborative divorce are quite similar, with a few key differences you should know.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
As the name suggests, collaborative divorce involves both divorcing spouses collaborating to negotiate the terms of their divorce order. Think of this as a private settlement negotiation for a divorce case. The divorcing spouses and their respective attorneys meet privately and discuss each element of their divorce one by one. While they will not be able to resolve all their divorce-related issues in this manner, collaborative divorce can significantly reduce the time required to complete divorce proceedings.
During a collaborative divorce, the spouses must agree on meeting times and negotiate their divorce settlement civilly. Their attorneys can provide counsel and guidance through these sessions to reach an uncontested state to the divorce. However, if the couple has children, they cannot resolve child custody or child support in collaborative divorce. They will have the chance to draft a parenting plan, but they must submit this to an Oklahoma City, OK, family court judge to review and approve. The family court system must ensure their custody agreement suits the best interests of their children.
What Is Divorce Mediation?
Divorce mediation is similar to collaborative divorce, with a few key exceptions. The process is still entirely private and unfolds at the couple’s discretion, and they should each still have legal counsel representing them during mediation sessions. However, mediation unfolds under the supervision and direction of a neutral mediator. Most divorce mediators are family law attorneys who provide mediation as a separate service from their family law practice, while some mediators are former attorneys who solely provide divorce mediation services.
The mediator may not have any conflicts of interest that would favor either spouse nor can they offer any legal counsel to either spouse. Instead, the mediator’s job is to guide discussions and help the couple draft their divorce settlement. Mediation sessions will typically take place in the mediator’s office, and it’s possible to complete the process within several weeks depending on the availability of the mediator and the spouses’ willingness to compromise on certain issues.
Like collaborative divorce, the divorcing spouses cannot reach firm conclusions regarding child custody or child support in mediation. It’s also possible that the divorcing couple may reach impasses on other aspects of their negotiations, such as property division or spousal support. When mediation doesn’t solve every issue in a divorce, the couple can simply move to litigation to resolve any outstanding issues.
Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Oklahoma City, OK
Divorce can be a very emotional experience. The divorcing spouses may have powerful negative feelings toward one another that make it almost impossible to discuss anything civilly and productively. However, it is crucial for divorcing spouses to realize that working together in alternative dispute resolution is the best way to settle a divorce. There are several advantages to fully exploring alternative dispute resolution, including:
- Lower legal fees. Collaborative divorce and mediation take much less time than litigation, meaning lower legal fees to pay your attorney. If you are concerned about the potential cost of legal fees for your divorce, alternative dispute resolution is the ideal option for saving money.
- Faster resolution. Most couples complete alternative dispute resolution much more quickly than the average divorce case requires to complete in court. Therefore, if you are striving to resolve your divorce as quickly as possible, it’s best to be willing to negotiate and pursue alternative dispute resolution.
- Privacy. If you litigate your divorce, everything said in court becomes part of the public record. Your divorce may require discussing sensitive personal subjects that you prefer were left out of the public record. If you settle your divorce through alternative dispute resolution, everything said in your sessions remains private.
- Greater flexibility in divorce terms. If you litigate your divorce, the judge rules on every aspect of your dissolution and may deliver terms you find unfavorable. Alternative dispute resolution allows you and your spouse to customize your divorce order in more personal detail, potentially enabling the two of you to reach an agreement that is more mutually suitable than anything a family court judge may enforce.
- Comfort and peace of mind. Many people find the courtroom environment daunting, and alternative dispute resolution allows you to negotiate the terms of your divorce in a more relaxed, low-pressure environment. Additionally, there will be less of a chance that you and your spouse will need to return to family court to revise aspects of your divorce order because you will be more likely to reach more agreeable terms through alternative dispute resolution.
Alternative dispute resolution has become the most popular option for resolving a divorce in the US for these and many other reasons. You can make your divorce faster and more agreeable overall when you and your spouse are willing to give alternative dispute resolution a chance. If you are unsure whether alternative dispute resolution would work in your situation, remember all that is required is that you and your spouse are willing to try it. Consult an experienced Oklahoma City, OK, divorce attorney to determine which form of alternative dispute resolution would work best for your situation.