You get to decide how you will divorce—there are various divorce process options from which you can choose. Each process has its own advantages and disadvantages and each can lead to a different outcome for you. 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 best option for you.
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-mediator 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 and finances. 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 holistically address all three components—financial, legal, and emotional.
Here is a summary of the main options:
In divorce mediation, you and your spouse work together with an impartial mediator to reach agreement. You identify concerns and goals, and discuss questions, and come to agreements working together in the same room. A bit like a business negotiation, you are working with each other to satisfy your individual interests. Attorneys are rarely part of the mediation process. Instead, the mediator provides information, helps keep the conversations on track, and helps to organize the tasks needed so you and your spouse can successfully reach good agreements based on your own priorities. 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.
Some mediators have special expertise they can bring to mediation to help you understand the impacts of different decisions. Mark Weiss, for example, is certified as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® in addition to being an experienced divorce lawyer, and therefore brings an additional level of financial expertise to his mediations.
With fewer professionals involved, mediation can be less expensive than other divorce processes. Instead of hoping you have things covered, an experienced mediator helps ensure that you have considered the implications of your decisions. A mediator must remain impartial, and is prohibited from giving legal advice. To maintain impartiality, there are limits to the amount of individualized support a mediator can provide. If you or your spouse might need an extra level of support to successfully negotiate your divorce, then you may wish to consider the Collaborative Divorce process.
Collaborative Law (Collaborative Divorce)
Collaborative Law/Divorce is about reaching good agreements with full legal support. You and our spouse each have a specially trained Collaborative lawyer whose sole purpose is to help you reach agreement that is in alignment with your individual priorities by working together. To keep the focus where it belongs (reaching agreements), Collaborative lawyers are legally prohibited from adversarial court proceedings. Like mediation, Collaborative Divorce allows you to work towards agreement in a confidential process.
A signed Participation Agreement requires that all important information necessary to make good decisions is exchanged. The Participation Agreement also sets ground rules for the process, to ensure confidentiality, safety, and integrity in the negotiations. 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 individual advice and support, make sure that everyone has the information and understanding needed to make informed decisions, and handle all legal aspects of the divorce.
Normally, an interdisciplinary team with subject matter expertise in areas other than law assist as part of the process. These professionals include a neutral financial specialist to assist with financial understanding, a divorce coach to assist with dynamics, and a child specialist to help with parenting information. Each team member is formally trained in the Collaborative Law process and mediation, in addition to offering a background within their own disciplines.
Conventional “Old-Style” Divorce
Conventional old-style divorce negotiation is rooted in the adversarial system. As the name implies, the theory behind the adversarial system is that a judge will ascertain the truth when presented with two strong positions. Because the system is premised on each “side” (an adversarial term) taking a position, the adversarial system tends to create adversaries that did not previously exist. If the situation has already become adversarial, the adversarial system is designed to keep them in opposition. The focus is on trying to win (or to not lose), and the court is often involved in many phases of the proceeding even if there is no trial.
Old-style divorce negotiation is usually focused on trying to convince the other to concede or compromise. Each “side” tries to create fear in the other that they would win in court, in the hope that someone blinks first to accept defeat. When faced with having to accept defeat, the response tends to be resistance. Because the focus of negotiation is on the limited tools available to a court, options that might work better are often missed. Unlike Collaborative Divorce or Mediation, there are few ground-rules or structure for negotiations. Hence, fear tends to be high, so lawyers and clients easily resort to overt or implied threats. Even for cases that settle (most eventually 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-mediator Mark Weiss at (206) 622-6707.
Most cases that follow the litigation model are settled, often at a settlement conference. (Old-style lawyers and judges sometimes refer to settlement conferences as “mediation.”) At a 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 at least 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. When no one budges sufficiently, the case goes to court and a judge decides.