During a divorce case, the courtroom can be a place of extreme stress and animosity. Many just want the divorce process to be done and to sort everything out without the emotional turmoil and mental exhaustion of court.
It is, in fact, possible to go through the divorce process without taking the case to court. Alternative dispute resolutions (ADR) are an option for people to resolve their divorce disputes outside of the courtroom. ADR isn't for everybody. It only works if both sides consent to it and are willing to negotiate, but there are a few different methods of ADR that could be an option for those who seek more peaceful divorces with less emotional damage afterwards.
One common form of ADR is arbitration. Arbitration is similar to the structure of a court hearing, but rather than a judge, it is led by an arbitrator that is chosen mutually by both people. The arbitrator listens to both sides' cases and makes a decision at the end.
The arbitration process is very similar to litigation, but there a few key differences. Both parties agree to arbitration before the dispute has actually started whereas traditional litigation usually begins after the dispute is already underway. This can reduce some of the tension of a divorce if both parties are seeking an alternative to court. Both parties must also agree to who the arbitrator will be, so no one can control the process or create unfair bias.
Arbitration has some downsides to consider, but it is an ADR option for those seeking divorce that want a less formal process than traditional litigation.
Mediation, like arbitration, involves a neutral third party. However, in mediation, the third party has no decision-making power. They act as an intermediary who talks through the parties' options, offers solutions and assists in communication, but the ex-spouses are the ones who must reach an agreement.
Like any other form of ADR, both parties must agree to it in order for it to work. If both parties are willing to talk over their options together, mediation is far less stressful than litigation and usually leaves the two parties with less emotional damage and hostility afterwards.
Mediation may be right for you if you are both willing to negotiate on equal terms and want to lessen the emotional tension of your divorce case.
Collaborative law is often confused with mediation, as the processes are quite similar. The difference is that collaborative law has no neutral third party. The two parties have an attorney at their side for representation, and the parties discuss terms and negotiate an agreement as they would in mediation.
The advantage of collaborative law over mediation is the ability to speak to an attorney about your goals and your case. Someone knowledgeable in divorce is at your side to advise you through the process. What's more difficult is that there must be even more willingness to negotiate, since there is no third party. However, if you are having a difficult time reaching an agreement, a mediator may become a part of the collaborative law process as well.