Do you have to go to court to get a divorce? It depends on different factors, such as the laws of the state where you live. Some states require you to appear before a judge to get a divorce judgment, while others allow you to handle all the divorce proceedings out of court.
However, even states that require at least one court appearance do not necessarily mandate divorce litigation. You may negotiate your divorce settlement through one of several alternative dispute resolution processes, then appear briefly in court to formally file and finalize it. Here are some of the most common ADR processes used for divorces.
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that takes place outside of court. However, it is similar to a trial in that it is presided over by a third party with the authority to make a decision about your case. Arbitration offers you flexibility that a court trial does not, such as the ability to schedule your own sessions and choose your own arbitrator.
Like arbitration, mediation is overseen by a third party. However, unlike arbitration, a mediator does not have the authority to issue any rulings or make any decisions. The role of the mediator is to facilitate dialogue between you and your spouse. The goal is for you and your spouse to work out your disagreements and to come to a decision that is mutually beneficial for both of you.
3. Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce is similar to mediation in that the goal is to help you and your spouse reach a mutually beneficial divorce agreement. Unlike mediation or arbitration, there is no neutral third party who presides over the negotiations. Instead, you and your spouse meet for face-to-face discussion. Each of you is represented by an attorney, who must have special training. The collaborative process also involves experts such as psychologists, appraisers, or accountants who give evidence to help you see the whole picture and make informed decisions. Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement, you can submit it to the court.
If the collaborative process is not successful, you and your spouse can litigate your divorce instead. However, one of the key tenets of the collaborative process is that you must each hire new attorneys if the case ultimately goes to court.
Not all alternatives to divorce litigation are available in every jurisdiction. One of our attorneys, like a family law lawyer in Arlington, VA, can explain which options are available. Contact our office for more information.
Thank you to the experts at May Law, LLP, for their time and input into family law.