Some people think that once their divorce is being litigated, or is being mediated, that they’re bound to that decision until the divorce becomes final. And people who think they’re stuck with that first choice might come to regret it.
Deciding to litigate a divorce, for example, might feel good in the heat of the moment – especially when responding to adultery or some other immediate, painful disruption to a marriage. And yet, it might seem less appealing later on, when looking at the costs, acrimony, and lack of control the participants have in what the judge ultimately decides. Mediation might look like a fair and quick way to go about things, but some mediation clients find that they’d prefer a method in which they’re getting legal, strategic advice from a lawyer throughout the divorce process – something that mediation doesn’t always offer.
Recently, a client came to me, concerned that her husband had retained an attorney and filed for divorce. She thought that she and her husband would be able to work out a settlement outside the courtroom, but feared that litigation was inevitable since her husband had already started them down that road.
I could have filed an answer to the divorce claim, which would have taken us one step closer to the courtroom. Instead, I contacted the husband’s lawyer, we agreed to put the case on hold, and eventually, we were able to come to a finalized divorce without going to court.
The lesson worth exploring here is that it’s okay to change what method you’re using to resolve a divorce if you’ve opted for mediation or litigation – especially if you and your spouse can come to a consensus on the issues. Because Collaborative divorce requires a signed agreement committing all parties to the Collaborative Process, it’s harder to jump from Collaborative to another method. But if a method isn’t working for you to help you arrive at your ultimate goal – coming to a divorce settlement that creates a better post-divorce life – you absolutely owe it to yourself to explore whether the Collaborative Process will work better for you.