Litigation alternatives: Is your goal to stay out of a courtroom?

There are many people in Washington and elsewhere who get nervous at the mere thought of stepping inside a courtroom. In situations where a spouse is filing for divorce, this can cause high levels of stress. Those who would rather not go to court to finalize a divorce will be glad to know there are often litigation alternatives available.

Collaborative law allows spouses to resolve issues without standing in front of a judge. There are a few ground rules that both spouses must agree to follow before the process begins, one of which is that each spouse must be represented by an attorney during collaboration sessions. As opposed to mediation, another litigation alternative, a collaborated divorce does not involve a neutral party acting as a facilitator. Rather the parties commit to work together -- to collaborate -- with a view toward achieving a fair and balanced settlement.

An impartial mediator is used in divorce mediation. Spouses who are concerned with expenses and finances often choose this alternate dispute resolution option because it typically costs less than litigation. It also takes less time provided spouses adhere to the agreed-upon terms of the process. Mediation involves discussion sessions wherein the spouses create the terms of their own divorce settlement, then submit their signed agreement to the court for approval.

It sometimes happens that Washington spouses intend to use litigation alternatives to resolve their differences and finalize their divorce without going to court, but are ultimately unable to do so. Perhaps a spouse disregards the agreement to avoid confrontation, and keeps bringing up toxic topics during sessions. Maybe issues arise that cause a spouse to suspect a hidden asset problem. In such cases, it is possible to convert a mediated or collaborated divorce to litigation. An experienced family law attorney can explain more about each option and help determine which might be best in a particular set of circumstances.

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