Some people like to joke that the only thing about a marriage that is more expensive than a wedding is a divorce.
In fact, in a high conflict divorce there can be a huge emotional cost in addition to the financial, and it can drag on for quite a while. If your marriage is coming to an end, and you find yourself looking for an exit strategy that works well for you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, there are a number of alternatives to the standard divorce litigation that could spare you a lot of emotional stress, interpersonal turmoil, and money.
1. “Kitchen Table” divorce
Simply put, this involves you and your spouse sitting down together and working out your own divorce settlement.
This can work for a couple where there is a high level of cooperation and trust. While it is possible for the couple to then complete and file their own divorce papers, we recommend that they still have lawyers prepare the paperwork and review the terms with them to make sure the agreement is accurately reflected.
The lawyers may also alert the couple to issues they have not adequately addressed and might need to discuss further. Making sure the papers are done correctly can avoid some huge headaches down the road. Somewhat like the old car mechanic commercial: you can pay now to have it done right, or you can pay (more) later to try and fix it.
If we are helping you with an amicable divorce, kitchen table or otherwise, the process can be simplified somewhat from typical litigation process. For instance, we can avoid having to pay someone to serve the Petition on the other side by simply having them sign a receipt for it, or we could have both parties sign the Petition as co-petitioners, which would also avoid the need for a Response to Petition.
Typically, a kitchen table divorce will only work in situations where both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, such as the division of assets and debt, custody and visitation for any children, as well as any spousal or child support that will be paid following the divorce.
If you and your soon-to-be ex spouse agree about the terms of the end of your marriage, a kitchen table divorce can save you the stress and financial burden that comes from divorces turning contentious as the process goes through the courts.
Often called Early Mediation, (as opposed to a settlement conference, a type of court mandated mediation that occurs late in a litigated case), this involves the two parties working with a third party mediator to have discussions similar to those in a kitchen table divorce, but with help.
The mediator’s role is to provide some structure for the discussions, and to assist the parties in moving forward when things get tough. These services can be provided by Seattle Divorce Services, if we are the lawyer for either side, or we can you refer to an outside mediator if we are the lawyer for one of the parties.
Mediation may involve a series of meetings over time, with homework assignments (gathering needed information such a property valuations) in between. Many mediators find that the process works best if meetings are kept to no more than two or three hours at a time.
Typically the attorneys do not attend early mediation sessions, though they can if both parties wish to have them there. By discussing frankly what they wish to accomplish in the divorce, what is most important to each, and what their goals for their futures are, both parties can usually come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Some couples have very deep issues or complex situations to discuss and work out as part of their divorce process. For these couples, mediation may not be the right option, as it can lead to decisions without sufficient in-depth consideration. Collaborative divorce may be a great alternative to a drawn-out, contentious divorce litigation.
In a collaborative divorce, the lawyers for both parties actually work together to assist both clients in coming to mutually agreeable solutions. The parties agree up front not to threaten or bully, which means any agreement needs to work well for both of them.
Typically the professional work is divided up between the two attorneys, a financial specialist, a divorce coach (or one for each if desired), and possibly a parenting specialist. Collaborative divorce can be ideal for couples who have a lot of issues to address in order to have a functional relationship after the divorce, such as couples with shared parenting or shared business interests.
Collaborative divorce is also a great option for couples who are having trouble communicating with each other during this stressful time, but who are hoping to preserve an amicable relationship with one another going forward. Many attorneys view collaborative divorces as a best-case scenario, as they can help create the foundation for a positive future relationship based on mutual understanding and respect, something often difficult to preserve during contentious divorce litigation.
If you believe that your marital union is faltering and divorce is imminent, your best option to protect yourself, your children, and your future is to contact professionals with legal experience in divorce proceedings.
Seasoned attorneys, like the ones who work for Seattle Divorce Services, can help turn the end of something close to your heart into the beginning of the rest of your life!