Divorce can be a complex process based on many different factors. Ultimately, any divorcing couple has several options when it comes to how they go about ending their marriage. A divorce is a civil case. It is possible for it to proceed through litigation, just like most other civil claims. However, the divorcing spouses also have the opportunity to settle privately through divorce mediation.
It is natural to have many questions about divorce when you are facing the choice between mediation and litigation, and the right attorney can offer specific insights into your unique case. However, no matter what your divorce entails, you should understand the differences between divorce mediation and divorce litigation, so you know what to expect from either route.
How Does Divorce Litigation Begin?
The legal process of dissolving a marriage begins when a married individual or couple files a divorce petition at their local courthouse. In St. Charles, MO, there is no legal need to list a reason for filing for divorce. A petitioner may simply list “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the divorce. When a divorce petition is filed with the court, the court then officially serves divorce papers to the respondent, offering them the opportunity to sign off on the divorce proposal as-is or contest the divorce.
It is very rare for divorcing spouses to immediately agree on every possible topic related to their divorce right away. Additionally, there may be some matters that demand legal attention, and the couple will not be able to address them on their own. In some cases, a divorcing couple may qualify for an expedited dissolution of their marriage via joint petition divorce. However, the criteria for qualifying for this option are quite strict.
Ultimately, divorce begins whenever a married person decides they no longer want to be married or when a couple mutually agrees to divorce. The legal divorce process begins with the initial divorce petition and then may proceed to litigation or alternative dispute resolution.
What Are the Drawbacks of Divorce Litigation?
Most St. Charles, MO divorce attorneys steer their clients toward collaborative divorce and mediation instead of divorce litigation whenever possible. Divorce litigation proceeds like any civil case and can require months of depositions, hearings, cross examinations, and other proceedings that are extremely expensive for both spouses. Litigating your divorce also means leaving the final decisions about your divorce agreement in the hands of a judge. Strict legal statutes will likely prevent you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse from obtaining a truly personalized divorce agreement that works out for both of you.
Divorce litigation tends to lead to further legal proceedings in the form of appeals and post-judgment modifications. While these issues may also arise following mediation, the mediation process provides a much more personalized approach to divorce settlement. Generally, it allows divorcing spouses to develop more comprehensive and individually tailored divorce agreements. This, in turn, reduces the chance of either spouse needing to return to court to revisit the divorce agreement in the future, providing both spouses with peace of mind.
Why Is Divorce Mediation the Better Option for Resolving Divorce?
Most divorce attorneys in St. Charles and throughout Missouri recommend their clients pursue collaborative divorce or mediation whenever possible. Though it may be difficult for some divorcing spouses to imagine having a civil negotiation with their partners, doing so offers significant savings of time, money, and stress for both spouses.
Mediation will typically take place at a neutral mediator’s office. This mediator is a third-party attorney with no conflicts of interest that would favor either spouse. The mediator’s job is to facilitate a constructive negotiation between the divorcing spouses as they discuss asset division, spousal support, and care and custody of their children. The mediator will keep the conversation focused and productive, clarifying legal statutes when necessary and ultimately helping the couple draft their divorce proposal.
Divorce mediation is also entirely private. When a divorcing couple litigates, all of the case proceedings become public record. It is easy for most to see how many married couples would prefer some discussion topics to remain private. During divorce mediation, divorcing spouses may discuss sensitive topics without fear of their conversation becoming public record. This is a tremendous advantage for any divorcing couple, especially those with a strong presence in their local communities.
How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?
Another notable benefit of divorce mediation is the fact that the process generally requires only a fraction of the time required for divorce litigation. While divorce litigation can easily drag on for months or even years for very complicated divorces, the mediation process only requires as much time as a divorcing couple needs to comprehensively negotiate divorce terms. The divorcing couple will coordinate meetings with the mediator and their respective legal teams, and it is possible to resolve divorce mediation in as little as a few weeks.
Divorcing couples should remember that divorce mediation does not “cut corners” when it comes to fully exploring all components of a divorce case. It is still possible for divorcing spouses and their attorneys to consult with expert witnesses and conduct the same level of formal fact-finding one would expect in a litigated divorce. Mediation simply allows these proceedings to unfold privately in a more comfortable, low-pressure environment.
Do I Need an Attorney for Divorce Mediation?
It’s wise to secure legal representation no matter what type of divorce proceedings you expect to face. Divorce litigation is an arduous process, and hiring an attorney ensures you will meet all procedural requirements with the court. While divorce mediation is a more relaxed process, it is still a legally binding one. It is best to have legal representation you can trust during your divorce mediation proceedings. You can request some mediation sessions with legal counsel and others to only include you, your spouse, and the mediator. Your spouse has the right to make similar requests, and it is best to be as cooperative as possible to streamline the overall mediation process.
If you are certain your marriage is about to end and are unsure of the best approach to dissolving your marriage, speak with an experienced St. Charles, MO divorce attorney as soon as possible. Even if you expect a hotly contested and highly complex divorce, mediation is still a potentially viable option that can save you a tremendous amount of time, money, and stress.