Divorce is such a 20th century convention. Alternative dispute resolutions like mediation have transformed the family law industry and saved countless families the extended drama of a protracted divorce. If you are in a foundering marriage and looking for an escape hatch, this is one solution that bears a second look.
You can always litigate later
Uncoupling spouses don’t always have to choose either/or when they split up. Often, a great deal of money, time and stress can be saved and avoided when they agree to mediate first. Below is an example of how this might work.
Andy and Kate are two 30-somethings stuck in a bad marriage with two minor kids and a 17 years left on a 30-year mortgage. While both agree that they want out of their marriage, they also have disagreements about the terms of their custody agreement and the disposition of their community property, including the family home.
What both parties do realize is that they want to subject their two children to the least amount of drama and trauma as possible.
Picking your battles for mediation
In the above fictional scenario, the two spouses could conceivably reach accord on their custody arrangements. Chances are good that as long as the parents keep the kids’ best interests foremost in their minds, they can cobble together an agreement that is amenable to both, as well as to the court.
The stickier wicket here may be the outcome of the property settlement. If both parents want to keep the home, for instance, or if one is ready to divest and the other wants to retain the property but can’t afford to buy the other out, they could run aground during mediation.
That’s actually fairly common, and should not discourage those couples who wanted to give alternative dispute resolution a shot. Simply by resolving the major ordeal of custody out of the courtroom, they have likely saved a ton of money and possibly even preserved some semblance of a civil relationship between the two adults.
That’s really important going forward, as then every interaction won’t be fraught with back-biting and anger from both sides. It also teaches older children that grown-ups learn to work out their problems even when there don’t appear to be easy answers available. That’s an important life skill that we all need to develop.
Litigate what remains unresolved
When the mediation process is exhausted but issues still remain, the courts can clear up all the details. Even though couples use both processes to extricate themselves from their marriages, the majority will still wind up saving a bundle of money on legal costs for having used mediation first to resolve what they could.