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Does a divorce in Virginia always mean litigation?

A couple going through a divorce may feel like the whole reason behind the divorce is that they cannot agree on anything or it is impossible for them to have a healthy, meaningful relationship. Despite that, not every couple necessarily wants to continue to fight all the way to the courtroom. Fortunately, there are options.

One option is mediation. Through mediation, the spouses will work with a mediator to settle their divorce issues. The mediator is a neutral entity. They can be an attorney, but there are also non-attorney mediators.

In addition, each spouse can still be represented by an attorney during the mediation process. Mediation involves cooperation, so it can set the stage for future positive communications between the spouses, especially if children are involved. Mediation is sometimes quicker and cheaper than litigation. Mediation allows the spouses to stay in control over the outcome of their divorce. It is also a private process. That being said, it is important that a settlement agreement achieved in mediation is fair and legally sound, so that it can be enforceable.

Another option is collaborative divorce. In this process, both spouses are represented by an attorney. The parties and their attorneys will meet separately and meet together, with the aim that the outcome of the collaborative law process is to achieve a settlement to their divorce issues. In fact, the spouses and their attorneys will execute an enforceable agreement stating that if the collaborative law process does not result in a settlement, then the attorneys will recuse themselves from the case and the spouses will have to hire new attorneys. Other professionals, such as financial experts or therapists, can also be involved in a collaborative divorce.

Mediation and collaborative law are two options for those who want to try to settle their divorce without going all the way through the litigation process. Since there are plusses and minuses to any of these options, it is important that spouses considering mediation or collaborative divorce do their research, so they can make the choices that are best given their unique situation.

Source: Forbes, "The Four Divorce Alternatives," Jeff Landers, April 24, 2012

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