If you and your spouse are currently going through the process of legally and financially untangling your intertwined lives, you may want nothing more than to start over with a clean slate. However, if there are significant assets or debts to divide, or if you're unable to agree on child custody or visitation matters, you may feel that your divorce will never be finalized. What can you do to speed up the divorce process when you and your spouse can't come to an agreement on important issues? Read on to learn more about your options.
Undergoing divorce mediation can be one way to come to a mutually-satisfactory agreement without duking out the issues during multiple court hearings that could span the course of months or even years. In some cases, a judge may order you and your spouse to mediation, while in others, you may voluntarily request it.
If you're concerned about being able to control your temper while sitting in a room with your spouse during the mediation, you won't need to worry. Rather than requiring you and your spouse to remain in the same room, the mediator will travel back and forth between separate conference rooms, engaging in discussions called "caucuses."
During these caucuses, the mediator will try to get each of you to elaborate on your goals, concerns, and offers. For example, you may be asked to rank the 3 most important things you'd like to achieve through your divorce settlement (such as being able to keep the marital home, gaining primary custody of minor children, or avoiding the payment of alimony). You might also be asked to name 3 things you're willing to concede in furtherance of these goals.
By removing emotion from the situation and allowing the mediator to present requests and figures to both you and your spouse in a calm, judgment-free manner, you may find that both you and your spouse are more easily able to negotiate without feeling either of you is giving up ground. Most mediation results are not binding on the parties, even if they come to agreement, so you'll still need to finalize your decision at a court hearing before your case concludes.
While the terms "arbitration" and "mediation" are often used interchangeably, these processes can be quite different. Unlike mediation, arbitration is binding on the parties; and unlike a court judgment, an arbitration award may not be appealed. For these reasons, it's important to enter arbitration only if you're certain you're willing to abide by the arbitrator's decision.
However, arbitration can be very useful in contentious divorce cases or situations where it doesn't seem likely you and your spouse will ever come to an agreement on even the most minor issues. Following an arbitration judgment, you'll be able to immediately liquidate your settlement assets without worrying about potentially losing them upon appeal.
The arbitration process is somewhat similar to mediation, although both parties are usually in the same room with the arbitrator for the duration of the proceedings. Both you and your spouse (or your attorneys) will present your cases to the arbitrator, who will ask questions to clarify tricky issues. After the session has concluded, the arbitrator will draft a written opinion, which will be circulated to you and your spouse and provided to the trial court so that it may close your case.
For more information, speak with professionals like Warfield Darrah & Erdmann.