Why Go to Court when You can Settle Your Divorce Case Faster and Peacefully?

One contested divorce case took five years to settle, involved four different judges and six different divorce attorneys, and cost the husband about $400,000.00 in court fees, experts’ fees, lawyer’s fees (it was the husband who paid for everything, including the lawyer’s fee of his former wife). All these may sound horrifying; however, if compared to how hostile the court atmosphere turned, especially when the issue of spousal support came up, the above may even be considered the mild effects of this particular contested divorce case (it was actually the issue of spousal support which took the longest to settle since the wife’s lawyer kept urging her to decline her ex-spouse’s offer, which included $5,400 monthly payment until his retirement, half of everything in their million-dollar home and $50,000 cash).

Another divorce case, though, took only a few months to settle (this includes settlement of all divorce-related issues, including child custody, child support, visitation rights, alimony or spousal support, and division of properties, assets and debts). Though the spouses argued about certain things, this was brief and everything ended peacefully; this divorce procedure also was much less cheaper than the divorce case mentioned above.

In this divorce case, by the way, the only problems and difficulties the wife experienced came after the divorce case. These included changing her name in her passport, bank account and some other legal documents, and getting her ex-husband’s name removed from official papers (which required the sending of letters in triplicate to all agencies concerned).

The first case mentioned above is one example of contested divorce, which is the traditional way of ending a marital union. Contested divorce is settled in a family court, which is open to the public. Anyone can witness how spouses destroy and discredit one another through their respective lawyers, in order to win the favor of the judge who will decide on all divorce-related issues. Contested divorce can drag on for months, even for years and, there longer it takes to settle, the more expensive it becomes.

The second divorce case mentioned is an example of collaborative divorce, which is an alternative dispute resolution for divorcing couples. In this procedure, divorcing couples hire their own lawyers, whose job is to assist their own clients resolve conflicts through the use of cooperative techniques instead of adversarial strategies and litigation; the spouses may also seek the help of a mediator or other neutral experts, like an accountant and/or a child custody expert who can help settle a particular issue.

At the start of the collaborative process, the spouses and their lawyers make a commitment to achieve a negotiated outcome and enter into what is called a “Participation Agreement.” If no settlement is reached, based on the agreement entered into by all those involved, each of the spouses’ lawyers will have to withdraw from the process to allow the spouses to hire new lawyers who will represent them in court (for the adversarial contested divorce process).

Collaborative divorce is a divorce process wherein both parties try to work together to expedite the process. This works best when both individuals are willing to negotiate to avoid taking the matter to court, where the process would become more costly and time-consuming.

Besides enabling spouses reach an amicable agreement, other benefits of collaborative divorce include:

  • Making decision on how to handle post-settlement disputes;
  • Expediency of the divorce case;
  • More control over the outcome;
  • Less stress and anxiety;
  • Lesser costs compared to the traditional divorce process.

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