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Consideration of alternative dispute resolution in divorce

A court appearance may be intimidating for a California resident who is going through the divorce process. There is often a sense of antagonism between the parties as they address issues such as child custody and property division. Leaving these decisions in the hands of a judge can be frustrating. However, going to court may not be a necessity as options such as alternative dispute resolution are considered.

California family law allows for resolution of divorce issues outside of court. Alternative dispute resolution involves the parties as well as their lawyers in informal negotiations. The outcome of this effort is often a voluntary settlement. There are several processes included in ADR, and not all are used in any specific case. Some couples may use mediation to work through any disputes. Others may require arbitration to get through tougher decisions.

Although ADR takes much of the divorce-related activity out of the courtroom, legal representation continues to be beneficial in collaborative approaches. However, the role of a lawyer is more focused on achieving a successful resolution for a client through counseling, advising and coaching. The success of ADR is typically dependent on the willingness of both parties to work toward a resolution. It is also important to understand that a court still typically approves any agreements reached. However, the actual court time is dramatically reduced because of preliminary work done through alternative methods.

An individual who is considering divorce may want to discuss alternative dispute resolution approaches with a lawyer prior to filing. This may provide insight on the process. It may also facilitate the consideration of areas that may be more contentious as settlement terms are discussed. Understanding one's goals and potential challenges in dealing with child custody and finances may help in determining whether ADR is a viable option.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce and Out-of-Court Proceedings: Alternative Dispute Resolution", accessed on Feb. 5, 2015

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