Statistics tell us that 50 % of all US marriages end in divorce. This nationwide epidemic keeps attorney phones ringing and allows the practice of family law to grow into big business. On the surface, one might conclude that the high incidence of failed marriages is the lone reason for the boom in the divorce law industry. However, what adds fuel to the family law engine is that most people seeking a divorce do not realize they have options. And why is that? Chalk it up to people’s inexperience with getting a divorce or preconceived notions that there is only one way to end a marriage. Maybe it has to do with the fact the alternative methods are relatively new and do not have broad exposure. Whatever the reason is, if you seek to end your marriage you need to become informed. Too many good people have allowed themselves to be shepherded into an adversarial system of financial and emotional slaughter. But there is some good news. The slaughter can be avoided.
I know what I am talking about only because I learned the hard way. When my marriage fell apart I met with an attorney who was recommended by a friend. A retainer was paid and my counsel filed a divorce complaint with the county court. My wife was served papers and she retained a lawyer. We were advised to cease communication between each other and allow the attorneys to take over. Unreasonable demands were made by each legal team, antagonizing both sides. Positions were fought over and endless negotiations caused legal fees to escalate. Payment after payment was made to keep the process going. Feelings of despair crept in. More motions were filed, amplifying already existing animosity. Hostilities once experienced between my wife and I were nothing compared to the ugly bitterness developed during the litigation process.
Why did it happen that way? The answer is simple, we did not know any better. The adversarial approach is all we knew. It is still the same way for most people. Couples assume that when you decide to divorce, you hire a litigator and head to court. Let this be a warning, the adversarial approach to divorce is a rough road based on competition, conflict and combat. It may be one way to end a marriage, but thankfully there are alternatives.<br /><br />Collaborative lawyers and mediators use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques in an effort to bring marriages to more civilized and logical conclusion. Let me give an abbreviated explanation of what it is all about. The adversarial approach (litigation) is a win/lose technique where there can only be a winner if there is a loser, which is bad enough. But when fighting drags on, finances deplete and emotions become rattled. If in the end there is little or nothing left the result is lose/lose. When ADR is applied through collaborative law meetings or mediation, the aim is win/win. You may ask yourself “How could that be?” Collaborative lawyers and mediators are trained to work with spouses in meeting settings where interests (fears, concerns, needs, and desires) are the focal point, rather than the defense of rigid positions. The effort is to brainstorm and problem solve so that both sides get something. Solutions are the endgame, not beating the other side. With professional guidance and a spirit of cooperation, both spouses can be satisfied with the results.
You may read this and roll your eyes. The notion of working with your spouse in meetings of cooperation and joint problem solving may seem far-fetched. The marriage may have experienced betrayal, countless arguments, and even desertion. If that is what happened then join the club. I do not write that to make light of anyone’s terrible time, but rather to provide some assurance that most break-ups are similar to many others. This is why I caution anyone against dismissing collaborative law and mediation. All marriages that fall apart have had problems, usually big ones. Collaborative lawyers and mediators are well aware of this. They have been trained to steer negotiations through marital landmines with the goal of achieving a more satisfactory divorce.
Tens of thousands of couples use the process and save countless dollars and needless animosity. Any couple seeking to end their marriage should recall that they planned a wedding and raised a family together. The two bought a home and may have teamed up to run a business. So why end the marriage by turning over all decision-making to third parties? You can, and should, be the one calling the shots that affect your future. Learn more about this important subject. I urge you to order The Courtless Divorce book today. It is an easy read and may be the most important $12 you ever spend.
Michael Heath CEO
The Courtless Divorce, LLC