Alternatives to Divorce Litigation

During the divorce process families face financial and emotional challenges. It is important for families to understand the options available which may help minimize both the financial and emotional toll of the traditional litigation process.

Financial Impact of Divorce

When spouses initially begin the divorce process, rarely do they comprehend how costly it can be. Final cost is difficult to predict because expenses can range drastically from a few thousand dollars to potentially tens of thousands of dollars for a protracted case. Most attorneys bill hourly for their representation in a divorce. Consequently, the more time the attorney spends on the case, the greater the expense to the client. Financial resources spent during the divorce process can significantly diminish the distribution of assets between the spouses which is why it is important for clients to know that there are alternatives to litigation which may reduce costs.

Emotional Impact of Protracted Divorce Process

Compounding the financial impact of the divorce process is the emotional impact. The very nature of divorce is difficult for families. Adding adversarial litigation to the mix can make it even more painful. The process of appearing in court, testifying, being cross-examined, or arguing a position before a judge, can be emotionally taxing, as both sides often make negative statements about the other in a quest to persuade a judge to rule in their favor. Litigating can also make future negotiations strained, as both parties may be reeling from statements made during a hearing. All of this leads to a longer and more costly divorce process. 

Alternatives to Litigation

Fortunately, there are several alternatives to divorce litigation available to divorcing spouses.  One to consider is mediation. Mediation is a process where divorcing spouses, with or without their attorneys, meet with a neutral mediator to attempt to reach an agreement. The mediator is often an experienced family law attorney who can help the parties negotiate a settlement that meets the requirements of Massachusetts law. The mediator generally charges an hourly fee and parties frequently share the cost. 

Collaborative law is another alternative to the traditional litigation route. The collaborative law process is comprised of the divorcing spouses, attorneys trained in collaborative law and frequently a financial neutral and mental health neutral all working to guide the parties towards resolution. All negotiations take place away from a courtroom among the parties themselves. Collaborative law can help manage both the emotional and financial impact of divorce by taking the adversarial nature of litigation out of the process. 

Tools to Minimize Future Conflicts

Frequently, even after divorce, spouses must address additional issues, especially regarding children. There are some scenarios that are too premature to be addressed in a separation agreement or simply cannot be foreseen at the time of divorce. As one example, when children get older they often have more demanding schedules, which could in turn strain the parenting plan put in place years earlier. Some parties choose to engage a “parent coordinator” to help them resolve conflicts that arise regarding the children. A parent coordinator, with a background in family law or family therapy, can be hired to facilitate discussion and resolve conflicts between the parties. The parent coordinator may even be given the discretion to make recommendations or decisions if the parties are unable to agree. 

Services Available Through DivorcePlus

DivorcePlus offers a range of services to help you manage your divorce case with confidence. Services include access to divorce lawyers and other related professionals including life coaches, mediators, consultants and more. We offer legal forms for DIY divorce, educational resources and connection to an online community who knows exactly what you’re going through. DivorcePlus is here to help every step of the way.  

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