For some, thoughts of prolonged litigation, a custody battle, hurt feelings and extended emotional distress may themselves cause a hesitation to file for divorce. The options provided by alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, methods in the area of divorce have become much more available to couples in recent years, with encouraging results.

The benefits of non-litigated divorces are many. A divorce that is settled out of court is far less expensive and takes much less time than one that is contested. Divorce litigation costs include fees for the lawyers on each side, court filings, appraisals and court costs. The proceeding itself can last for two or more years, and retaining a lawyer during that time is costly.

A non-litigated divorce is civil and usually allows both parties to come out of it with something of value. Having a win-win outcome to negotiations leads to a more amicable settlement, which is good not only for the spouses but also for the children. And such divorces remain private. Many people do not realize that their divorce becomes public record when it goes to court.

Resolving divorce out of court in California

Two approaches to a divorce agreement that are becoming more common in California are mediation and collaborative divorce. In mediation, an impartial person, the mediator, works with both sides to find points of agreement. Often the mediator will meet individually first to discuss the priorities and concerns of each party. Then, when both sides meet, the resolution of some issues can provide momentum for tackling the more difficult ones.

The emphasis in mediation is toward creating a resolution that both sides can feel comfortable with; in other words, a win-win resolution. The mediator is often an attorney or a judge trained in mediation techniques.

Collaborative divorce involves the skilled resources of a trained collaborative lawyer, one for each side. Often these cases involve a contract signed by both spouses and both lawyers that states that the case will not go to court. And, if an agreement cannot be reached, the lawyers will withdraw from the case before that happens. In this type of process, both lawyers and spouses work together to resolve conflicts over financial, custody and child support issues.

It goes without saying that an amicable divorce is far less painful and traumatizing for both sides, especially for the children, than a court battle. The outcomes provide the possibility of a peaceful transition to a new life chapter for everyone involved.