While there will always be a need for litigation in some high conflict divorces, more and more people are recognizing that non-litigation approaches to resolving divorce issues can provide more customized solutions at a lower emotional cost.
In my experience, the thing clients dread most about an impending divorce is the fighting. When they learn we have methods to help them get divorced with little or no fighting, they say “THAT is what I want!”
The issue at this point is that until we tell them, the majority of potential clients are not aware of dispute resolution options like Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce.
Most people facing divorce are still primarily familiar with the “fight it out in court” litigation model, so they go looking for the meanest, most aggressive litigator they can find.
However, we do find that the number of potential clients who are already aware of dispute resolution options when they first come through our door is rising. In part, this may be due to the increasing use of dispute resolution in their own professional environments for dealing with workplace issues.
Because the emotional cost of divorce litigation can be so high, I believe that as knowledge and understanding of these alternative dispute resolution models becomes more widespread, non-litigation will become the default approach to divorce; and litigation will be the fall-back for couples who are not willing or able to engage in dispute resolution for whatever reason.
The question is simply how long it will take for that information to become common knowledge. When it does, it is likely that the model for future divorce will be much more collaborative.
The fact that many couples these days choose to cohabit in long term relationships without marrying does not really change this. When those couples separate, they still face many of the same issues: dividing joint property and debts, and making parenting and financial arrangements for children of the relationship.
They still need to “divorce” even if it is not called that. In fact, the reality that the law deals less well with ending these types of relationships may be an additional spur toward increased use of other dispute resolution methods.