The end of a marriage can be a tough time for many couples in Virginia. After all the disagreements and heartache, sometimes the last thing a couple wants to go through is a lengthy, adversarial trial process pitting one side against the other. However, there are ways that couples can resolve their divorce legal issues in a manner other than through litigation: mediation and collaborative law.
Through mediation, the parties will work with a neutral third-party, called the mediator. The mediator does not advocate for one side or the other. Instead, the mediator helps the parties by facilitating discussions in which the parties will work out their divorce legal issues.
Mediation has a number of plusses. It reduces the adversarial nature of a divorce, since it encourages cooperation, rather than a "fight." This is often better for the parties, especially if they have children. It can be quicker and less expensive than litigation, and the parties may be more satisfied with the outcome, because they were in control of it. However, couples should be wary of agreeing to things in mediation simply to reach an agreement, rather than making decisions that are in their best interests.
Collaborative divorce is similar to mediation in some ways. It too is an out-of-court method for resolving a divorce in a cooperative manner. Also, it puts the parties in control of the outcome of their case. Through collaborative law each party along with their attorneys will sign an agreement to reach a settlement out of court. The parties and their attorneys are incentivized to reach a settlement, since as part of the agreement, should the collaborative law process fail each attorney will bow out of the case and the parties will have to retain new attorneys. Other neutral professionals, such as therapists or financial experts, can assist in the negotiations in the collaborative law process.
Mediation and collaborative law are two alternative dispute resolution processes that couples seeking a divorce may find useful. While they do not always lead to a settlement, when they do it can be a way to end a marriage in a manner that allows both parties to walk away feeling that the result of the divorce is fair and just.