Debbie stared at the perfect dinner growing cold on the candlelit table and knew she could not go through this one more time. She was done.
When couples decide their marriage is over, they have often come through a long, emotional journey. Now–they face a new journey. Deciding where to start often proves confusing and overwhelming. Though divorce seems common–questions abound. How does it work? Who do you trust? Will I be ok?
Couples entering the divorce arena benefit from understanding options so they can choose the best route to creating a secure future.
Choosing a Process
In divorce, couples first must decide what process to use. Options include:
- Clients representing themselves. The cost of attorneys often tempts couples to act on their own. When couples choose to represent themselves, they remain fully in control of decisions, but without legal protection.
Couples must file the required documents for beginning the dissolution process. Required documents include, but may not be limited to, a Petition for Dissolution, Pro Se Appearance forms for each, and a Waiver of Service.
The couple then decides how they will split their assets and debts as well as make decisions regarding their children. They will put their decisions into an agreement to file with the Court.
Any issues the couple cannot resolve on their own are settled by a judge after a hearing. During the hearing, each spouse presents their positions to the Court, and each is held to the standard of an attorney. Many fail to get the decision they want because they don’t know how to meet standards of proof on a given issue. Because the judge must remain a neutral decision-maker, the judge cannot help them. A spouse who fails to ask for a particular asset or help with a debt because they didn’t know their options cannot ask for decisions to be changed later even if life changes dramatically.
For couples married a short time with few assets, this option can work. Most other couples risk lifetime consequences for ill-informed decisions here.
- Attorney representation. If choosing litigation, each spouse hires their own attorney who advises the spouse on the best outcome for them. Attorneys file the relevant documents, advise clients about their options, and negotiate settlements on behalf of their clients.
Though many attorneys try to cooperate with the other side to protect the family system, the adversarial nature of litigation often pits spouses against each other. This inherent dynamic often makes it hard for former spouses work together after the divorce–especially in the area of co-parenting. More, decision-making rests largely with attorneys rather than the clients who must live the decisions.
- Mediation. Mediators educate couples on the issues of divorce, the options for each issue, and the pros and cons of each option. The mediator then guides the couple to choose the best combination of options for their family’s situation.
Generally, the mediation process offers enough information for couples to make well-grounded decisions. However, sometimes one or both need advice about what options they should choose. Either or both can seek attorney advice and bring that advice into mediation. The couple enjoys the benefits of understanding all their options while remaining in control of the decisions that affect them.
Once all decisions have been made, the mediator drafts an agreement to file with the Court. The agreement is fully enforceable by the Court and is as binding as an agreement created through litigation.
- Mediation/Arbitration. This combination offers couples the benefits of mediation with the security of knowing they will resolve all issues. Couples use mediation as the decision-making process. Just as in mediation, couples are fully informed as to all options and work to come to agreement between themselves. Most couples reach full agreement.
However, should the couple be unable to resolve some or all issues, the process converts to an arbitration where either the mediator or another mutually agreed person makes the final decisions. Some couples forego mediation because they fear wasting time and money on a process which might break down and then leave them in Court anyway. Med/Arb ensures efforts will not be wasted and all issues will be fully resolved. With the added benefit of the final decisions being informed by and in harmony with the priorities of the parties as expressed in mediation.
The decision to divorce often leaves couples feeling like they have stepped into a black hole. Swirling through confusion and fear. Knowing options returns stability.
If you have decided to divorce, The Resolution Center offers both divorce mediation and mediation/arbitration to help you resolve the issues of divorce and move into a secure future. If you have children, our process focuses on helping parents protect and care for their children during and after the divorce. If you would like more information, please call 317-344-9640 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.
Taking a thing apart is always faster than putting something together in everything except marriage. Joe Hill