Divorce is a deeply personal and often life-changing experience. It’s natural to have lots of questions about how your divorce will unfold, what you can expect from your final divorce order, and your options for safeguarding your interests throughout the divorce process. Public exposure is one key concern for many divorcing couples in the Oklahoma City, OK, area. Whenever a civil case unfolds in court, everything said in the courtroom is transcribed into the public record. Since divorce often requires discussion of deeply personal topics, it is understandable that many divorcing spouses would prefer to keep divorce proceedings as private as possible.

You do not need to resolve your entire divorce case through litigation, even if your divorce involves highly complex details. While some measure of litigation may be necessary, you can take advantage of alternative dispute resolution to settle some matters privately with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

The two most common types of alternative dispute resolution used in Oklahoma include collaborative divorce and mediation. While similar, there are critical differences between these two options that you must understand as your divorce case unfolds. Your attorney can explain the potential benefits they offer in your unique situation.

What Is Collaborative Divorce in Oklahoma?

A divorce is a type of civil case that unfolds in family court. Like the way a civil case for a personal injury can be resolved through private settlement, it is possible to resolve a divorce privately, too. Collaborative divorce is essentially a private settlement negotiation between divorcing spouses. The spouses meet privately, joined by their respective divorce attorneys, and negotiate terms for their divorce order item by item.

Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state regarding property division in divorce, requiring divorcing spouses to split their marital property as “equitably” as possible. If the couple can reach a mutually acceptable property division resolution on their own, a family court judge may approve it with few to no changes as both spouses agree to the terms. Through collaborative divorce, divorcing spouses may also settle spousal support and other financial matters, but they cannot settle child custody or child support.

What Is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is very similar to collaborative law in that it requires the divorcing spouses and their respective attorneys to meet privately and negotiate divorce terms. However, a mediator will guide their negotiations and assist them in drafting their divorce settlement. The mediator does not provide direct legal advice to either spouse. Instead, their job is to facilitate a constructive negotiation that results in an uncontested divorce agreement ready for submission to a family court judge.

Mediators will typically schedule sessions with each spouse and their attorney separately as well as collaborative sessions with both parties. The mediator will assist the couple in drafting a divorce order they can submit to the Oklahoma City family court for a judge’s final review and approval. However, similar to collaborative divorce, the couple cannot resolve child custody or child support through mediation.

While divorcing parents may not be able to resolve custody and support issues privately, they can take time to privately negotiate their preferred terms. Taking time to develop a mutually agreeable parenting plan could streamline divorce litigation pertaining to custody. If the judge deems that the plan suits the best interests of the divorcing couple’s children, they may approve it without significant adjustment. It’s also possible for a judge to disagree with extensive parts of a parenting plan proposal, implementing new terms based on their interpretation of the facts of the case.

When Is Divorce Litigation Unavoidable?

Some divorce-related issues cannot be resolved privately, primarily those concerning child custody and child support. The Oklahoma family courts have a legal duty to protect the best interests of children affected by their judges’ rulings. A judge handling any divorce or custody dispute must carefully determine what would be best for the children involved in the case. They must evaluate each parent’s overall fitness to handle parental responsibilities, their income, their work schedules, general availability, and much more. If your divorce entails a custody determination, this aspect of your case unfolds in the courtroom.

Some divorcing couples will need to resolve other matters they could not privately negotiate in alternative dispute resolution. For example, they may have reached an impasse in negotiating alimony or may not know how to divide a particularly complex asset. A judge must evaluate this case and deliver a ruling aligning with Oklahoma state law. Many divorcing couples take this “a la carte” approach to alternative dispute resolution to streamline divorce cases. They take alternative dispute resolution as far as possible before moving to litigation to settle the rest. This is the best option for minimizing the amount of litigation you must endure to complete your divorce.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Technically, there is no legal requirement for a divorcing spouse to hire legal representation for their dissolution proceedings. Many divorcing spouses worry about the cost of legal counsel when faced with long-term financial consequences of their divorce. However, you are more likely to lose more than you would save if you do not hire legal counsel for your divorce.

Regardless of the unique issues your divorce entails or how you intend to resolve it, legal counsel you can trust is an invaluable asset. Your attorney can provide ongoing support and guidance throughout your divorce proceedings. They can help you maximize the value of alternative dispute resolution, assisting you in making more informed decisions about the issues you must negotiate. Finally, once you have completed as much as you can privately, you can rely on your legal team for representation in any remaining litigation.

Find a Skilled OK Divorce Attorney Today

Ultimately, any divorce can be stressful and complex, and reliable legal counsel is essential for reaching suitable results. If you are facing a divorce in Oklahoma and want to resolve it as privately as possible, consult an experienced Oklahoma City, OK, divorce lawyer to determine your best options for alternative dispute resolution.