On the surface, it may seem that the only option during divorce is to go to court and fight over terms with your ex. However, there are multiple ways to resolve your case outside of the courtroom. If you are unfamiliar with the alternatives to the traditional divorce model, you may be wondering: Why is there more than one way to divorce?
Divorce and the Courtroom
Sometimes people think that going through a divorce automatically means having to go through lengthy and dramatic court hearings with their ex. However, contrary to this belief, most divorce cases settle outside of court. The ways a couple may reach a divorce settlement can vary. Some opt to negotiate an agreement through their attorneys. Others choose or are ordered to participate in divorce mediation. There are also couples who elect to resolve their disputes in the lower conflict Collaborative Divorce model. When parties are able to use one of these processes successfully, they can avoid having to air their grievances before a divorce court.
Settlement Allows for More Control
One of the main reasons a divorcing couple may choose to settle outside of court is to retain control over their divorce terms. When you leave decisions about your home, finances, and family in the hands of a judge, there is a certain degree of risk. Additionally, the court is limited in what it can do during a divorce case. Judges can only do what the statutes allow them to do. By contrast, when the parties choose to work out their differences on their own, they can decide what terms work best for them and their circumstances. For instance, if the couple has a pet, they may want to share “custody” of the animal and its expenses. This is not how pets are normally handled under Wisconsin’s law. Wisconsin treats domestic animals as property in a divorce. Therefore, a judge can only award ownership of a pet, not custody or placement. If the pet’s owners choose to settle outside of court, they will be free to develop divorce terms that relate to sharing their pet’s custody and expenses.
Why Use Divorce Mediation?
In Wisconsin, many people use divorce mediation to settle their cases. The mediation process involves both parties working with a trained divorce Mediator to resolve their disputed issues. The Mediator is a neutral third party who is there to listen and help facilitate settlement. Often, the Mediator is a former judge or a practicing family law attorney who has experience with divorce cases.
In Wisconsin, divorcing parties who disagree about custody and physical placement of their minor children are required to go to mediation, but mediation can also be entered into voluntarily and can include all terms of the divorce, not just those involving children. Neither party is under any obligation to settle, but many couples find that by working with an experienced Mediator they can reach agreements regarding the critical issues in their case. It can be less expensive to have one Mediator rather than two attorneys when a couple is determined to resolve all their issues outside of court.
Another option is for a couple to use the Collaborative Divorce model. This low-conflict process allows parties to settle their divorce terms by working with trained Collaborative Divorce attorneys and neutral professionals and signing a promise not to resort to adversarial proceeds in court. Collaborate Divorce focuses on reaching equitable results by examining what is important for everyone involved in the case. With the help of trained professionals, the parties can get a complete picture of the issues and make choices with as little conflict as possible. For instance, if a couple has minor children, they may consult with a child specialist during their Collaborative Divorce. The specialist would meet with the kids and provide the parents with the insight they need to make emotionally supportive choices. This gives the children a voice in the process, without putting them in the middle of a battle. One of the goals of the process is to help the parties resolve their disputed issues without resorting to conflict. Those who can utilize Collaborative Divorce have the potential to end their cases in a manner that benefits everyone involved.
Divorce is as unique as the people it involves. While traditional divorce is certainly an option, it’s not always the best solution. For many, using divorce mediation or Collaborative Divorce is preferable to enduring stressful court hearings. Further, these processes allow the parties to develop solutions that fit their circumstances. Having more than one divorce option gives couples the freedom to end their cases in the manner that works best for them. The best way to learn more about your options during your Wisconsin divorce is by working with an experienced family law attorney. Your Wisconsin family law attorney can provide you with the information you need to understand your choices and make an informed decision about your case.
Consult with an Experienced Wisconsin Family Law Attorney
Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping clients assess their situations and consider their options during and after their Wisconsin divorce. She understands the complexities of going through the divorce process and can help you identify the best solutions for your circumstances. Come in, and let us take a “first look” at your situation so you can figure out your next steps. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.