If you find yourself in a family law dispute, such as divorce or a custody matter, you may have heard discussions of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR. ADR covers different methods of resolving legal matters outside of the courtroom. In family law, two common types of ADR are mediation and a newer process called collaborative law. Though they have similarities, the two have several differences. It is important for you to understand your options.
The reasons people use ADR
Many people going through a family law dispute do not relish the idea of arguing in a courtroom. They would much rather settle their differences in private as amicably as possible for many reasons, including:
- Their own emotional health – Trials can be emotionally draining.
- The emotional health of their children – Studies show that a more amicable split is better for children.
- Keeping their matter private – Court proceedings are a matter of public record.
- To save time and money – ADR often costs less and resolves the case quicker than a trial.
- Preserve important relationships – Despite the breakdown of your romantic relationship, your ex may remain an important person in your life, especially if you will continue to co-parent with them.
Alternative dispute resolution encourages you to focus on the future rather than litigate past wrongs. Studies also find that people who create their own outcomes are much more likely to abide by the agreement they had a hand in drafting.
How does mediation work?
Mediation uses an impartial person specially trained in mediation to facilitate discussions between you and your ex. Over the course of these discussions, you may work through your points of disagreement and come to a compromise that works for both of you, as well as any children involved. Your lawyer is often present during the mediation to help you understand the law and your rights and to make sure you receive a fair outcome in any agreement you come to.
The collaborative law difference
Collaborative law is a newer, more holistic approach to family law disputes. Everyone works together toward a common goal: an amicable settlement of your separation. All parties and their lawyers sign an agreement committing to the process and not going to trial. If you choose this method, you will focus on the issues that are important to you, rather than the court. A mental health professional and financial professional are part of the process, helping you overcome points of contention. Parents find it especially helpful for creating a successful parenting plan and for a thorough review of the assets and debts considering all possible resolutions.
Review all of your options
The important thing is to find the right approach for you and your family. An experienced family law attorney should be able to guide you through the best process for your situation while still looking out for your best interests.