Four ways to approach your divorce in San Diego

April 30, 2012

Divorce is never easy, but it is nice to know you have options. You can approach your divorce in four different ways, each of which has their pros and cons. Make sure to select an option that is right for you. No two marriages are the same and therefore, no two divorces will be the same. Just because something worked well for someone else does not mean it is the best option for you and your family. In any case, you should consult an attorney before filing the final paperwork with the court.

1. Do it yourself Divorce

Most attorneys would advise against doing the divorce yourself. The reason for this is that divorce can be very complicated and a single mistake can cost you a lot. Doing it yourself may save you the time and expense of getting an attorney, but you may not get the best result in the end. Because divorce often includes emotions, finances, property, assets, and important decisions about children, it is recommended that you get an attorney in a long term marriage. However, if you have a short term marriage that was only 1 or 2 years, don't have any assets or property, and no mutual children, doing a divorce yourself may be your best option. Nevertheless, it is still highly recommended that you have an attorney look over the final documents just to be sure you didn't miss anything.

Pros- doing it yourself may result in you:
• Reducing expenses by not having to hire an attorney.
• Saving time by not having to go to court as often.
• Being in control of the process.

Cons- doing it yourself may also result in you:
• Not getting the best outcome.
• Losing time with your children.
• Missing out on financial support.
• Failing to discover hidden assets.
• Not having legal support in court.

2. Divorce Mediation

In divorce mediation, you work with a third party neutral who helps you come up with an agreement about the terms of your divorce. The mediator may or may not be an attorney, but is most often well educated in divorce and family law. The mediator is neutral and does not represent either party; they are not allowed to provide legal advice to you. They are simply there to guide the conversation and facilitate communication between the parties which gives you a chance to come up with a mutually acceptable agreement that is in the best interest of everyone involved, rather than letting a judge decide for you. Because the mediator does not represent the interest of either party, it is important for each to be represented by an attorney to review the final agreement before signing it.

Pros- divorce mediation may:
• Expedite an agreement.
• Reduce expenses.
• Result in a better long-term relationship with your ex-spouse.
• Be easier on children since the divorce proceedings may be more peaceful.
• Help you stay in control of your divorce because you are making the decisions.
• Provide privacy. Mediation is private where litigated divorce in court is public.

Cons- divorce mediation may also:
• Waste time and money. If mediation fails, you'll need to start all over.
• Lead to legal complications. Issues of law still need to be ruled upon by the court.
• Result in an unenforceable agreement. A mediation agreement that's lopsided or poorly drafted can be challenged by either spouse.
• Fail to uncover certain assets. Since all financial information is voluntarily disclosed and there is no subpoena of records, your spouse could potentially hide assets or income.
• Reinforce unhealthy behavior patterns. If one spouse is dominating and the other is submissive, the final settlement may not be fair or in the best interest of both parties.
• Fuel emotions. Mediation could increase negative behavior of a spouse with a propensity for physical/mental harm or drugs/alcohol abuse.

3. Collaborative Divorce

This is where divorcing couples decide to work out a settlement between themselves, through their attorneys, without going to court. Each attorney advises and assists their client in negotiating an agreement for the divorce. The parties themselves get to come up with the terms of the agreement, rather than letting the Judge decide for them. Each party has the opportunity to seek legal advice from their individual attorney. Arrangements can be made for finances, selling of property, child support, spousal support, property division, child custody and visitation and other issues pertaining to your specific divorce. It also provides the chance for ex spouses to communicate in a safe, yet controlled setting that is private.

Pros- Collaborative Divorce can lead to:
• A mutually acceptable agreement.
• Saved time and expense.
• Better relationship with your ex spouse.
• Less negative impact on children.
• More satisfaction and compliance with the agreement.
• Better control of the process.

Cons- Collaborative Divorce can also lead to:
• Waste time and money. If negotiations fail, you'll need to start all over.
• Failure to uncover certain assets.
• Reinforcement of unhealthy behavior patterns.
• Fueling of emotions and tension.
• Result is an unfair agreement.

4. Divorce Litigation

Because about 80% of marriages end with a unilateral decision of one person wanting to end the marriage, there is often tension and a lack of desire for cooperation and communication between the parties. These two things are essential in divorce mediation and collaborative practice. This leaves you with only one option, divorce litigation. Where there are a lot of issues and no points of agreement, litigation may be your best option. You will have a fair opportunity to be heard on each issue, get the chance to ask for discovery of finances, assets, liabilities and other important information, you will get the opportunity to call witnesses, and have your attorney make arguments on your behalf. If you and your ex spouse are unable to reach an agreement, the Judge will make one that he or she feels is reasonable and fair for everyone involved.

Pros- divorce litigation may result in:
• A fair and reasonable outcome.
• You getting more time with your children.
• Discovery of hidden assets or income.
• Ability to receive financial support from ex spouse.
• More evidence presented regarding best interest of the child.

Cons- divorce litigation may also result in:
• Long drawn out proceedings.
• Very expensive legal fees.
• Negative emotional impact on children.
• Prolonged healing process for you.
• Loss of time with your children.
• Outcome you're not happy with.

Divorce can be a very difficult time for everyone involved and we are here to help. If you need assistance, contact divorce attorney, Nancy J. Bickford, in San Diego, Del Mar, Carlsbad, Encinitas, or La Jolla. She is a Certified Family Law Specialist who will fight for your rights. She can also assist you in preparing for the mediation process. Call (858) 793-8884 to schedule a consultation today. We look forward to working with you.