Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “My husband and I have not had a great marriage, but now that it’s ending, we do agree on one thing: we do not want to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to litigate our divorce case in court. I was wondering what other options we have? We have been married for ten years, we have two kids, and we have hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets.”
More and more couples each year have decided that the cost, time commitment and complexity of taking a divorce case to court is not the answer. In fact, thousands of couples choose from a variety of conflict resolution strategies which do not require them to hire a lawyer, or if they do hire one, to save still money by agreeing to the major divorce issues on their own. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most common ways to avoid going to court.
Divorce options to avoid court
First, the best way to save money and time is to file an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can agree to this option, you would come together and negotiate all the major divorce issues on your own including property division, child support, child custody, and spousal support.
Now, while this sounds like a great option, given the complexity of your situation, this could be an issue. Although state laws dictate the process for dividing property and the amount of child support to be paid, other issues such as child custody and spousal support are more negotiable and are often decided by a judge.
It’s also important to note that if you do decide to file an uncontested divorce and negotiate divorce issues you will need to understand the laws in your state and what you are entitled to receive. The last thing you want to do is sacrifice your legal rights all in the name of saving a few bucks.
Mediation and Arbitration divorce options to avoid court
A better decision for you and your spouse is probably to choose either mediation or arbitration. If you decide to use mediation you and your spouse could both hire your own lawyer but have a third-party mediator help you analyze and review all of your options. Then each of your lawyers could review the agreement to ensure that your rights are protected.
Mediation may be especially useful to you and your spouse since you have a good relationship, you both agree that divorce is a good idea, and you generally have a willingness to work together.
Keep in mind, mediation is not legally binding. This can be good or bad. The good news is that if you attempt mediation and it does not work you can continue you case by filing it in court and having a judge make the final decisions.
What is arbitration?
Another option to avoid a lengthy court battle is to agree to arbitration. Arbitration is not mediation. In fact, rather than allowing a third-party negotiator to review your case and work with you to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, arbitration will allow you and your spouse to present your case to an arbitrator and have them make a legally binding (generally) decision. Although it’s similar to taking your case to court and allowing a judge to make the decision, the process is generally less formal and you and your spouse can agree to the rules for the arbitration process.
There are choices for divorce if you do not want to go to court.
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