Divorcing spouses who wish to spare each other the pain and suffering and cost of litigation increasingly turn to one of three routes to ending a marriage. These approaches together are lumped in the category called alternative dispute resolution.
Collaborative divorce is the newest route to divorce family law. In collaborative divorce, the lawyers for each spouse cooperate with each other in finding cooperative routes rather than adversarial strategies to end the marriage without litigation. From the onset of collaboration, all the parties commit to a negotiated outcome, and everyone agrees at the onset that there will be no litigation during the negotiations.
Two older forms of ADR are arbitration and mediation, which are negotiating techniques used outside of divorce. In arbitration, a neutral third party called an arbitrator hears the case the way a judge hears the case, and then he or she decides what should happen. Arbitrators may be matrimonial lawyers or former judges but in any case, they should know marriage and family law. The arbitrator can compel decisions over the objection of one or both spouses. In mediation, a neutral third party helps the spouses work through the issues in a way that, for example, helps them to work together after the divorce so that they can effectively be parents to their children.
Depending on the jurisdiction and the court each of the three routes may have different parameters and scopes. However, the basic idea is the same each way. While the cost of each is higher than a pro se divorce, each of the three – collaboration, arbitration, and mediation – is much less expensive than a litigated action.
ADR – be it collaborative divorce, arbitration or mediation – is not for everyone; however, most lawyers and judges recommend that couples consider them before digging the trenches for a pitched court battle.