When couples file for divorce in New Jersey, most think they have a pretty good idea of what lies ahead: courtroom battles and lengthy negotiations. But litigation isn’t the only approach to divorce. In fact, a large percentage of divorces are settled outside of the courtroom.
There are three main alternatives to a litigation divorce: mediation, DIY (do-it-yourself) and collaborative.
1. Divorce Mediation
The mediation approach works best for couples that are willing to cooperate with one another. In this case, a neutral mediator works with the couple to help them come to an agreement on all issues related to the divorce.
Some – not all – mediators are lawyers, but will be very familiar with NJ divorce laws.
It’s important to remember that mediators are neutral parties, meaning they won’t advocate for either partner. If you choose the mediation route, both you and your former spouse will need to consult with your own lawyers throughout the mediation process and before signing the final settlement agreement.
The Benefits of Mediation
- Allows you and your ex to remain in control of the divorce. You make the decisions – not the court.
- Saves you money on the cost of your divorce.
- Allows for a quicker and less stressful divorce.
- Keeps the details of your proceedings out of the public eye. Litigated divorces are public, whereas mediation is private.
- Allows you and your ex to part on better terms. Heated courtroom battles can lead to a lifetime of bitter resentment.
The Drawbacks of Mediation
- A poorly drafted mediation agreement may render it unenforceable.
- If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement, you will have wasted time and money.
- Legal complications may arise, as the court must rule on any issues of law.
- The settlement may not be fair. Mediators cannot offer advice. Their sole intent is to get an agreement – any agreement – in place.
Mediation may be a great alternative for some couples, but it’s not the right approach for all divorcing couples. If one spouse is dominant and the other is submissive, the agreement may wind up being unfair. And if the couple refuse to cooperate with one another, mediation will likely wind up being a waste of time and money.
2. DIY (Do-it-Yourself)
Most divorce lawyers in New Jersey don’t recommend taking the DIY approach. Divorces can be very complex both financially and legally. It’s very easy to make mistakes with no have legal expertise, and those mistakes are often irreversible.
Laws regarding marital property and child custody in New Jersey are often misunderstood and complicated, so it’s often best to hire an experienced divorce lawyer to guide you through the proceedings.
The only instance where a DIY divorce makes sense is in the case of a short-term marriage with no assets, no children, no alimony and comparable incomes. The situation also calls for couples that have used services like that from http://irenasbookkeeping.com.au/bookkeeping-services-north-sydney/ to carefully record everything financial, if the paperwork is messy, doing it yourself will be messy. Even if your marriage meets this criteria, you’ll still want an experienced lawyer to review the final documents.
The Benefits of a DIY Divorce
- Quick and inexpensive.
- Allows you to take full control of your divorce and the decisions related to the divorce.
The Drawbacks of a DIY Divorce
- Issues of law will still need to be ruled on by the court.
- Inexperienced parties can easily make costly mistakes.
A collaborative divorce is exactly what it sounds like – both parties work together to create the settlement without having to step foot in a courtroom.
While the collaborative approach sounds very similar to mediation, it differs greatly. Rather than having one neutral party oversee the negotiations, each party will have their own respective lawyer advocating on their behalf.
Each lawyer will advise and assist their client during the negotiation process. At times, you’ll meet with your lawyer separately, and at times, you’ll meet with both your ex and his or her lawyer as well. Other neutral professionals may also get involved to help both parties work through certain issues, including therapists and financial planners.
When taking the collaborative approach, both parties and their respective attorneys sign an agreement stipulating that both attorneys will withdraw from the case if the couple cannot come to an agreement and/or there’s a threat of litigation.
If the divorce winds up going the litigation route, both parties will need to start back at square one and find new attorneys.
While most of the work will take place out of the courtroom, both parties will likely have to appear in family court to have a judge sign the divorce agreement.
The Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce
- Quicker and less expensive than litigation.
- Each party has their own respective lawyer to advocate on their behalf.
- Each party is more likely to walk away with a fairer settlement compared to mediation.
The Drawbacks of a Collaborative Divorce
- If litigation is threatened, both parties will have to start over and hire new attorneys.
- Not ideal for couples with complex financial situations or significant assets.
- Financial disclose is voluntary, which makes it easier to hide assets.
We discussed the three alternatives to litigation divorce: mediation, DIY and collaboration. But litigation is still the most common approach to take when getting a divorce.
When most people hear the word “litigated,” they assume this means hashing out the entire divorce in a courtroom, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, more than 95% of litigated divorces are settled out of court.
Like with a collaborative divorce, each party will have their own respective attorney. The goal is to come to a reasonable agreement with the other party, but if an agreement is not feasible, the courts can step in and settle the issues.
Litigated divorces are often the only option for divorcing couples who cannot agree on anything or cooperate with one another.
The Benefits of a Litigated Divorce
- Both parties have their own respective lawyers advocating on their behalf.
- If the issues cannot be settled, the case can be taken to court without both parties having to hire new lawyers.
- It’s more difficult for parties to hide assets.
The Drawbacks of a Litigated Divorce
- If the case does go to trial, the courts will decide on the issues.
- This method is typically more expensive.
- The divorce may take longer if neither party can agree on the issues.
When it comes to divorce, it’s important to weigh your options carefully. Every couple’s situation is different, and there is no right or wrong method to choose. Couples that can cooperate with each other may do well with a collaborative or mediation divorce, but if you simply cannot agree on any of the issues, a litigated divorce may be your only option.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has a special expertise in working with high asset divorce. You can read more on this topic by visiting our divorce blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.