You get to decide how you will divorce–and there are several divorce options from which you can choose. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages; an option may be a better fit for some, and a worse fit for others. It is worth taking the time to make a thoughtful choice to find the option that’s best for you and your spouse.
If you live in the Seattle/King County area and would like to learn more about which divorce process option is best for you, contact Seattle divorce attorney Mark Weiss at (206) 622-6707.
When considering what will be the best option for you and your spouse, remember that divorce is a life transition that can affect many relationships. Your choices can affect not only yourself, but also your children, your family, and your friends. Divorce always has financial, legal, and emotional components. For the best results, it is best to address all three components—financial, legal, and emotional.
Here is a summary of each option:
Collaborative Law (Collaborative Divorce)
Collaborative Law is a confidential process with the objective to help you you and your spouse reach agreements that are in alignment with your individual priorities. You start working towards agreement right from the beginning. You each have a trained Collaborative lawyer whose sole purpose is to help you reach agreement. To keep the focus on reaching agreement, Collaborative lawyers are legally prohibited from engaging in adversarial court proceedings.
A signed Participation Agreement requires that all important information is exchanged, protects privacy, and creates safety and integrity in the negotiations with ground rules. Because court is no longer an easy option, everyone can focus efforts on reaching agreement. Agreements are reached through discussion. The lawyers (who are also trained in mediation) facilitate the discussions, provide individualized advice and support, make sure that everyone has the needed factual and legal information and perspectives to make informed decisions, and ensure all legal requirements are addressed.
Typically, a small interdisciplinary team of trained professionals assist in coordination with the lawyers. These professionals bring subject matter expertise to the discussion, and include a neutral financial specialist, a mental health practitioner working as a divorce coach, and a child specialist. The team members are formally trained in the Collaborative Law process and mediation, in addition to offering a background within their own disciplines.
In mediation, you and your spouse work together with an impartial mediator to reach agreement. Generally, all work together by discussing questions in the same room. Attorneys are usually not present during mediation sessions. The mediator helps keep the conversations on track and helps to organize the tasks needed so you and your spouse can successfully reach agreement.
With fewer professionals involved, mediation can be less expensive than Collaborative Divorce. The mediator must remain impartial, and is prohibited from giving legal advice. To maintain impartiality, a mediator cannot provide the same level of individualized support that is routine in the Collaborative Divorce process. Legal advice is available from the parties’ own attorneys before and after mediation sessions. Success is dependent on the commitment from and participation of each spouse and the skill of the mediator.
Conventional “Old-Style” Divorce
In a conventional old-style divorce, the rules followed are only those for trials and courts. The focus is on trying to win (or not lose), and the court is often involved in many phases of the proceeding even if there is no trial. Negotiation in old-style divorce is usually focused on trying to get the upper hand.
Conventional divorce is premised on the adversarial system’s theory that a judge will make the right decision after each party presents his/her strongest case. The belief is that the truth lies somewhere in-between two strongly argued positions, and the judge will decide. Even for cases that settle (most do), the mindset of needing to prepare the strongest case for a battle, or what a judge might hypothetically decide, tends to dominate the thinking.
If you live in the Seattle or King County area and would like to learn more about which divorce process option is best for you, contact Seattle divorce attorney Mark Weiss at (206) 622-6707.
Most cases that follow the litigation model are settled, often at a settlement conference or by bartering. (Litigation lawyers and judges sometimes refer to settlement conferences as “mediation.”) At the settlement conference, the lawyers will present the arguments and “evidence” that would be presented at trial, to try to push the other side into conceding. The neutral settlement conference master will try to convince both sides to compromise. Because the negotiations modeled on this process are designed so that one side has to accept defeat to settle (just like in court), dissatisfaction is high and subsequent legal proceedings to enforce or modify agreements are common.