Getting a divorce can be a complicated matter, regardless of the reasons why a couple’s marriage is ending. Even if a couple is parting on good terms, they are likely to encounter disagreements about how certain financial issues should be handled or how they will share custody of their children.
However, most divorces will involve conflicts over multiple types of issues, and a couple whose relationship has broken down beyond repair will most likely have trouble working with each other to resolve these disputes.
Dispute Resolution In a High Conflict Divorce
In a high conflict divorce, even seemingly minor issues can become major sources of friction, and hostility between the spouses can make it seem difficult or impossible to reach agreements that will allow them to complete the divorce process. Typically, spouses will be able to use one of the following methods as they work to finalize their divorce:
Cooperation Through Divorce Mediation
In many cases, the quickest, easiest, and most efficient way for spouses to resolve divorce-related disputes is to use mediation. During this process, they will hold one or more meetings with a mediator, and they will work together to create a divorce settlement that is agreed upon by both parties.
The mediator acts as a neutral advisor who will help the spouses discuss their issues in a productive manner. All decisions will be left up to the spouses, and the mediator will guide them toward solutions that will work for both parties while offering suggestions on areas where compromises can be made. The mediator may also provide guidance on how the law applies to the spouses, ensuring that they both understand their rights and are able to consider each other’s positions when addressing their outstanding issues.
Mediation may be appropriate in some high-conflict divorces since it is completely private and confidential. The spouses will be able to discuss their concerns with each other, but the mediator will help them stay on task and focus on reaching agreements rather than arguing over the reasons why their marriage failed. However, if high levels of conflict make it impossible for spouses to have effective discussions or reach compromises, mediation may not be a good solution.
Settlement Negotiations Through Collaborative Divorce
If spouses are willing to work together to negotiate a settlement, but would like to ensure that they have an attorney assisting them during these negotiations, collaborative divorce may be an option. During this process, the spouses and their attorneys will sign an agreement stating that they will work together cooperatively while providing each other with information when requested. They may also work with other experts as needed, such as financial advisors or family counselors who can assist with matters related to sharing custody of their children.
Since each spouse will have an attorney advocating for their interests, they can make sure their rights and interests will be protected in their divorce settlement. To help minimize conflict and avoid further disputes, the attorneys will agree to withdraw from the case if the couple cannot reach a settlement. This gives the parties and their attorneys the incentive to find effective, mutually agreeable solutions.
While collaborative divorce can help spouses focus on creating a divorce settlement instead of becoming involved in contentious disputes, it may not be effective if one or both spouses are unwilling to cooperate and engage in productive negotiations. This process may also become derailed by a spouse who does not turn over information when requested, attempts to hide assets, makes unreasonable demands, or refuses to compromise.
Resolving Outstanding Issues Through Divorce Litigation
Negotiating a divorce settlement is the preferred option for most divorcing spouses, and divorce court judges will usually prefer to have couples resolve their issues outside of court. However, there are some cases where high levels of conflict between spouses make it impossible for them to work together with each other and agree on a settlement. A divorce trial may need to be held to determine how all divorce-related issues should be handled, or litigation may be necessary to address any outstanding issues that could not be resolved through negotiation, mediation, or collaborative divorce.
Litigation will often take a great deal of additional time, and it can lead to significant expenses for each spouse as they work with their attorneys to prepare arguments and evidence and plan for witness testimonies by the spouses, other family members, or experts who can provide insight into the case.
Before proceeding to trial, the parties will usually be required to hold a pre-trial conference with the judge in their case, and the judge may ask them to make a final attempt to settle their outstanding issues outside of court. If the case proceeds to trial, the parties’ attorneys will present evidence and make arguments. Witnesses may be called by each side, and the other side will be able to cross-examine these witnesses.
In a divorce trial, the final decisions about how to resolve the outstanding issues will be made by the judge, and neither party may be satisfied with these decisions. Because of this, spouses are usually encouraged to negotiate a settlement that they will both be satisfied with, sparing them the time, expense, and emotional difficulties of litigation.
Contact a Family Lawyer for Legal Help With Divorce
As you determine the best approach to take during your divorce, you can protect your rights and find effective solutions by working with an experienced family law attorney. Our lawyers can help you understand your options for resolving disputes, and we will provide you with representation as you work to create a workable divorce settlement.