When going through a divorce, some couples may think that a nasty court battle is the only option. Fortunately, there are less contentious, quicker and cheaper alternatives.
Mediation and collaboration are both options that may be appropriate for divorcing spouses who want to work together to figure out a fair agreement and who get along enough to communicate and negotiate.
According to FindLaw, mediation consists of a neutral third party who leads discussions with both sides and works with them to come up with an agreement regarding debt and asset division, child custody, spousal support and other issues. The goals of mediation are to minimize costs and stress, create a mutually acceptable and fair divorce agreement, minimize resentment and improve post-divorce communication.
The mediator may work with each side together or separately. Each partner has a chance to express emotions, wants and needs, and then both sides work together to negotiate the agreement. The mediator has conflict-resolution skills, so if there are arguments, he or she can help the couple work through them.
Collaboration is similar to mediation, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation states that it often takes place alongside the mediation process. With collaboration, each side hires an attorney for the sake of negotiation, and there are a series of meetings to come up with creative solutions. Each side agrees to:
- Focus on each other’s wants and needs
- Respect each other
- Hire appropriate experts, such as a financial professional or a child psychologist, as needed
If collaboration is not working, and the two sides decide to move on to litigation, they both agree to hire new attorneys for the next phase.