To have an uncontested divorce or to litigate?

Alternative dispute resolution in a divorce may include mediation or collaborative law. In some cases, litigation may be the most effective method.

The decision to get a divorce is probably one of the most difficult and heart-rending choices a couple makes. It is also another difficult decision as to which method to choose. In addition to traditional litigation, there are alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods available that may make a divorce easier for some Pennsylvania couples. However, uncontested divorce is not the right choice for everyone. It is important to understand the benefits and limitations of ADR, as well as the reasons it may be better to go to court.

What are the most popular uncontested divorce methods?

Two amicable divorce options that people may choose from include mediation and collaborative law. During mediation, according to the American Bar Association, the couple discusses their divorce disputes with a neutral mediator, who may help them reach agreements on their own outside of court.

According to U.S. News and World Report, collaborative law is a more complex form of ADR, during which each spouse, their attorneys and others involved (such as child therapists and financial advisors) sign agreements not to take the dispute to court. A collaborative divorce may be helpful in cases involving complicated property division or parenting arrangement matters. If neither party can agree upon a resolution, new attorneys must be retained.

Why would I choose ADR?

Alternative dispute resolution can, in many cases, be an effective way to reduce conflict while ending a marriage. An amicable divorce may cost a fraction of a litigated divorce, and the process is often more streamlined and takes less time. Many parents choose mediation in an effort to minimize the conflict that their children are exposed to. Alternative dispute resolution is also private, as opposed to a public courtroom process.

When is an amicable divorce not possible?

There are some cases in which ADR is not recommended or feasible. These may include the following:

  • One spouse having been abusive during the marriage
  • Drug or alcohol addiction having been a factor leading to the divorce
  • One spouse being domineering, controlling or intimidating to the other spouse
  • Neither spouse being able to discuss matters calmly and civilly
  • One or both spouses preferring to have a judge decide matters

It is often recommended to speak with an experienced Wyomissing family law attorney before deciding on a divorce method, since both spouses might have different opinions on what is best. An attorney should listen to the situation and may be able to suggest the course of action that has the best chance of success.