Divorces are often messy and stressful. Few people move toward divorce in high spirits. It’s far more likely you’ll be hurt or angry, and when you’re hurt or angry, you might want to “win” your divorce. You might fantasize about taking your spouse to court and walking out with everything. But that’s not how things work.
For starters, California is a community property state that divides all marital property equally, and it favors the best interests of the children ahead of the parents’ interests. Also, you’ll likely want to take every reasonable step to keep your divorce out of court. There are many alternative ways to resolve your disputes, and they can offer some big advantages over a courtroom battle.
Why should you explore alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?
Courtroom procedures are rigid, formal and impersonal. If you take your divorce proceedings before a judge, that judge will need to review your case according to strict guidelines. The judge has little or no room to make exceptions for your individual circumstances or wishes. So even if you have a strong case, your lawyer might suggest that you explore the advantages of ADR:
- Cost. Resolving your differences in ADR is generally less expensive than fighting over them in court. Note that you’ll still want to be fully prepared whenever you enter ADR. Even though ADR is usually cheaper than adversarial court appearances, the time and expenses can quickly add up if you’re not ready to make the most of your session.
- Creativity. You gain greater control over the divorce process and can pursue deals that might be fair for you and your ex, but that the courts might have tossed out. You can use third-party experts to guide, mediate or decide matters. And you can address complex emotional issues that might be important to your divorce, but that don’t have any place within the courtroom.
- Future relations. Courtroom battles often leave one or both parties feeling damaged and resentful. This can harm your future relationship with your ex, and that can be a problem if you need to coordinate shared custody or parenting time. If you can resolve your differences through ADR, you’re less likely to suffer through lingering hostilities.
ADR is almost always a possibility. Even if you’ve started down the road toward a long and bitter fight in court, you might take some of your concerns to ADR. You want to think past your divorce to the years that will follow.
Focus on your goal
No one makes their best decisions when they’re blinded by pain or anger, and the stakes of most divorces are too high for you to stumble around half-blind. An experienced lawyer can help you slow down, think objectively and focus on your goal. And once you start looking at the divorce process as a matter of reaching your goal, your lawyer can help you choose the ADR (if any) that might best help you get there.