If your considering a divorce but are concerned with going to court, then there are two alternatives you should consider: (1) Mediation, or (2) Collaborative Law.
Mediaton is a negotiation between you, your spouse, and a neutral third party (known as the mediator). The mediator does not make a decision, but rather helps the parties come to a mutual agreement.
What to Expect in Mediation
Typically, the parties divide the cost proportionally between themselves. Prior to the session, which normally takes place in an office setting, the mediators review the pleadings from both sides to familiarize themselves with the cases. After each side makes brief opening statements, the parties retire to different rooms to mull over settlement offers and counter-offers, while the mediator goes back and forth to try and facilitate settlement.
Most mediations last a full day, and the process has some very important benefits, including:
- Cost: As mentioned earlier, settling a case before trial often means significantly less legal fees. There is an emotional savings as well, because the matter no longer weighs on the parties as heavily.
- Civility: Tense courtroom showdowns are a staple in TV shows and movies, but in the real world, if emotions boil over, it is difficult to contain them and become effective co-parents.
- Control: Family law cases are not “over” until the children turn 18, so voluntary compliance is important, or else the parents will be in and out of court for many years to come. Because mediation gives the parties more control over the outcome, voluntary compliance is usually a little higher.
If the case does not settle, litigation resumes.
Collaborative law is different than mediation in that it involves the use of attorneys. Only about 2 percent of divorce cases involve this radical non-litigation alternative, but in specific kinds of cases, collaborative law may be worth a look. One one level, collaborative law is a lot like mediation, because the parties control the outcome as opposed to a judge or jury. But there are some significant differences:
- If mediation fails, the litigation process continues forward. But if collaborative law fails, the parties must start over with new lawyers.
- There is no third party in collaborative law proceedings. Instead, specially-trained family law attorneys help the parties negotiate a settlement. If outside experts are needed, the parties choose one person, split the cost, and agree to abide by that person’s opinion.
- Mediation is a one-time deal and the dispute may or may not be settled; in collaborative law, the parties meet once a month for as long as it takes to resolve the case.
Collaborative law is usually only successful if the parties are willing to sacrifice some of their own short-term goals to further the long-term interests of other family members, and that aspect probably explains why so few people choose this method over traditional litigation.
A litigation alternative may be in everyone’s best interests. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Los Angeles, contact Berenji & Associates. Our lawyers are ready to stand up for your legal and financial rights.