Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advantages of Using Alternatives to Divorce Court

Ever wonder why some people choose to handle their divorce through mediation or arbitration rather than going to court? Here are some of the advantages both mediation and arbitration of your divorce offer over court.

Expense - In mediation, a complete divorce and parenting agreement can generally be reached in 8-16 hours. If the two of you cannot agree on the color of the sky, you can plan on double that time. The hourly rate of a mediator is about half the hourly rate of two attorneys arguing about the same issues. Even if each of you consult with an attorney for an hour or so before, after, or during mediation, a mediated divorce will cut your cost significantly.

Flexibility - Courts are overwhelmed with more cases then they have time to hear. You might have two days worth of information you want the court to consider, but the court might only have half a day to take your case. In addition, courts are required to follow rules of evidence that often limit the information they can consider during your case. Information you might think it crucial to understanding your situation, cannot be considered if it is hearsay or not presented correctly. Arbitration of your divorce by an arbitrator experienced in family law is an excellent way to fully and completely present your case. Arbitrators have more time and are not bound by the rules of evidence. The arbitrator's fee is generally comparable to that of one attorney. Arbitration is more relaxed than court and can usually be scheduled in a matter of weeks instead of months. The arbitration award is binding, just as a court order is.

Control - During mediation, you are in control of your own process and your own agreement. The mediator will guide the process you have chosen, but you are free to change direction and to make agreements that might be unconventional. Courts generally do not have time to be creative in making orders regarding property distribution, parenting issues, or support. You are more likely to get a one-size-fits-all solution from the court than in an agreement that is crafted for your unique situation.

© 2008, Mary Wollard, J.D., Family Solutions Center, www.cofamilysolutions.com

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