Myth: Divorces in Pennsylvania have to be contentious and are best resolved in the courtroom.
Fact: Pennsylvania attorneys have been utilizing alternative dispute resolution techniques more recently to resolve divorces in a more amicable manner and outside of the courtroom.
The new trend in family law is that couples are utilizing alternative dispute resolution processes to resolve their divorces. This is a far more amicable way of resolving issues relating to divorce and allows the parties to negotiate in a comfortable environment. Today we will discuss what some of these ARD processes are and how they may be more suitable for resolving divorce issues than traditional litigation.
Mediation: Mediation is an option for divorce whereby the parties sit down with a neutral third party (the Mediator) who facilitates negotiation between the parties and helps them to settle their divorce issues. The mediators, while they might be attorneys, are not “advocates” for either of the parties, but rather are there as facilitators to allow the parties to reach a resolution. Parties should each have their own attorneys (if they choose) either present at the mediation or afterwards to answer any questions that may arise. Mediation, however, is not always appropriate and should be avoided in situations where the parties are on unequal footing (for example: one has an attorney and the other doesn’t or one party is financially superior). Mediation is also not appropriate in cases where domestic violence has been an issue in the past.
Collaborative Law: Collaborative Law is the up-and-coming process of getting divorced. The “collaborative” process means that parties, along with an assembled team of professionals (not JUST attorneys!) attend group meetings in order to facilitate a comprehensive divorce settlement. At the beginning of the collaborative process, the parties agree to settle their case outside of court so that the threat of “running to court” does not exist. Collaborative law is meant to take the “sting” out of divorce so that the parties both feel as though they have an active part in the divorce resolution. Additionally, when the parties agree to not go to court to resolve their divorce, they also typically agree that if either party chooses to end the collaborative process, that both lawyers for the parties are further disqualified from continued representation. Collaborative law is not only designed for divorce cases, but has been utilized in probate and estate cases, healthcare related matters, and employment law cases as well.
Arbitration: An Arbitrator, unlike a mediator, is hired to make decisions for the parties. Arbitration can be binding or non-binding depending on what the parties choose. This option may be more appealing than going to court, as the level of formality in conducting the arbitration is up to the parties, giving them more control over the process and potentially a feeling of more control over the outcome.
Interested in learning more about these ARD techniques in PA? Speak to one of our PA Divorce attorneys today!