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The role of non-adversarial methods in a Michigan divorce

Some couples treat their divorce like a boxing match; they come out swinging, and keep fighting until they can't fight anymore. Most of these couples will end up in protracted court battles that are expensive and emotionally draining, not only for the husband and wife, but also for their children and other loved ones who are along for the ride.

Others want a non-adversarial method, a way to address concerns and issues without proverbially killing one another. For these couples, traditional divorce that plays out in a courtroom may not be the best fit. Fortunately, there are out-of-court options - mediation, collaborative divorce and negotiation, to name a few - that give them a forum to work together, making important decisions at their own pace and in a spirit of cooperation.

More about mediation

Many people have a vague idea of what mediation is, but are a bit lacking on details.

Mediation involves the couple sitting down with a trained mediator, often an attorney, who facilitates a discussion of contested issues, with the goal of reaching a settlement without going through the family court system. Mediation fosters an open line of communication between the parties, something that can be particularly helpful if children are involved and the two will be co-parents for years to come.

A key difference between mediation and a traditional, contested divorce case in a courtroom is that the mediator is not the one who ultimately makes decisions. Whereas a judge takes on the responsibility of analyzing evidence and making a determination that the parties are bound to obey, a family law mediator is more like a referee, keeping the parties on task, but not imposing his or her will upon them.

Additional benefits of mediation:

  • It is more cost-effective than a lengthy court battle
  • The parties have significantly more control over the outcome
  • It is non-adversarial, and not designed for one party to "win" at the expense of the other
  • It is completely confidential, and no part of it will appear on a public court record

Mediated settlements are truly created from start to finish by the couple, so they know exactly what will and won't work for their unique situation.

A new option

In recent years, another method has started to play a role in family-related disputes in Michigan and around the country: collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce is similar in many ways to mediation in that it is non-adversarial, confidential, fosters communication and encourages the parties to work together. It differs from mediation in that it does not involve a single impartial third party guiding the proceedings, but instead uses a team of experts whose unique knowledge and experience add value to the discussion.

Collaborative divorce can, depending upon the situation, involve attorneys for both parties, financial experts, psychologists/psychiatrists, divorce "coaches" to keep the proceedings on track and child advocates to ensure that the children's rights are adequately protected throughout the process. Not every couple will require the full range of expert assistance, but the option is always there to bring in additional skilled parties to ensure that a fair settlement is reached.

Are you concerned about the costs and animosity arising from traditional contested family proceedings? Would you like more information about "alternative" Michigan divorce options? If so, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney in your area who can answer your questions and address your concerns.