Tuesday, 06 April 2010 05:13

Choosing A Divorce Process

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Most people do not understand that they control their divorce process. They alone can choose how they will resolve their issues. In that context, there are hundreds of conflict resolution procedures or combinations of those procedures. In some cultures that may include community intervention and mediation. Not all divorces must spend a lengthy amount of time in the court system.

Obviously, the Cost of a divorce proceeding may depend on the process you choose. The more that you can accomplish on your own with your spouse, the lower the costs related to legal fees and other proceedings. Although the ways to resolve divorce issues are diverse and varied, I like to set out the more common divorce processes in levels, with the lowest level potentially being the least expensive and least contested. However, none of these levels operates in a vacuum, you may be mediating while your divorce progresses through court for example.

LEVEL ONE: DISCUSS ISSUES DIRECTLY.

To reduce legal expenses it may be possible to discuss the divorce issues with your spouse. Even if you cannot agree on all issues, you may resolve some. For example, property issues are generally easier issues to address. Any asset that is acquired during the marriage is marital. Any asset that is owned before marriage, inherited or gifted to one party may be non-marital. If you and your spouse can meet to define what assets you have, that is 25% of the battle. If you can then agree on what assets are marital or non-marital, you are half way there. If you can then agree on the value of the assets, you are 75% of the way toward resolving your property issues. The final step is determining the division, who gets what. In a divorce, your attorneys will go through these very same steps in a process called discovery. If you can make some progress before hiring a lawyer, you may save some costs. Obviously, the parenting issues and support issues are a bit more emotional and often difficult.

LEVEL TWO: MEDIATION.

If you are unable to speak with your spouse one on one because of acrimony and anger, or if your spouse has a much stronger personality than you, you may wish to try a mediator. A mediator is an independent neutral. The mediator does not give legal advice, but will try to keep the settlement negotiations controlled and civil and may even suggest documents that you may acquire or steps you may take to resolve your issues.

LEVEL THREE: COLLABORATIVE LAW.

Collaborative Law is a new way to resolve disputes by removing the disputed matter from the litigious court room setting and treating the process as a way to "trouble shoot and problem solve" rather than to fight and win. It does not exist in any laws or drafted Court procedures. In fact, it was a creation of attorneys who believed that the Court system creates adversaries and promotes fighting. As part of the Collaborative Law method, both parties retain separate attorneys whose job it is to help them settle the dispute. The process is carried out with a series of meetings with all parties present. Documents and information are freely exchanged without the formalities associated with the Court process. This generally saves money. Where the Court system would most likely not have the parties meet to discuss their issues for many months, if at all, Collaborative Law expedites the process with a meeting at the very beginning. This gets the matter off to a flying start without having to wait based on Court schedules. In fact, part of the Collaborative Law agreement is that neither party may go to court. If that should occur, the Collaborative Law process terminates and both attorneys are disqualified from any further involvement in the case.

LEVEL FOUR: COURT PROCEEDINGS.

A divorce action may be commenced by serving the other party with and filing a Summons and Petition. These documents notify the court of the divorce and start the court time lines. Each state and county has a slightly different process. In most counties where the parties disagree on custody or parenting schedules, the Court requires mediation (except in cases where domestic abuse has occurred). Additionally, if children are involved, both parents must often attend a co-parenting class and often children over the age of 5 must attend a class on how to deal with parents involved in a divorce. As a general rule, Court time lines are very slow. A party may schedule a temporary hearing to determine what happens until the divorce is final. On a temporary basis the court will determine who resides in the house, who pays what bills, who has temporary custody, child support and maintenance issues. In most counties, if the parties do not resolve their issues and the matter proceeds to trial, that trial date will not occur for a year or more.

Copyright (c) By Maury D. Beaulier. All Rights Reserved
About the Author
Name: Maury D. Beaulier
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Firm: Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC
Website: http://www.divorceprofessionals.com
Practice: Family Law

Maury D. Beaulier has been recognized by the International Who's Who of Professionals (1996), Minnesota Law & Politics Magazine (February, 1999) and more recently featured in Lawyers Weekly USA (March, 2000).

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