When you are considering a divorce, the amount of money, time, and legal hurdles can seem insurmountable. Many of us, when facing divorce, only think of the bitter, acrimonious separations we have seen or read about in movies and magazines””the traditional litigation-style divorce””but there are other options that may be right for you and your family. Here are a few:
- Traditional Divorce. This type of divorce is the most common and familiar to most people. In a traditional divorce, each party hires his or her own attorney, and the process goes to litigation to determine division of joint property debt, maintenance fees, and child custody. This is often a necessary choice in cases of mental or physical abuse or when the emotions are so high that the two parties cannot communicate civilly. However, hiring an attorney by no means forces you to take your whole case to trial. Often times attorneys can help resolve issues that are not highly contested in a divorce proceeding, and they can help clients enter into agreements regarding every part of their divorce, to avoid the stress and pain of fighting things out before a judge. In every traditional divorce in Colorado, you will be required to attend mediation with a qualified mediator.
- Mediation. Parties may choose to engage in mediation before being ordered by the Court to do so or before filing for divorce. Typically, mediation discussions involve you, your spouse, both parties’ attorneys (if attorneys have been retained), and the mediator. Your mediator serves as a neutral party whose role is to help you and your spouse reach a mutually beneficial agreement and avoid costly litigation. Mediation may last just one session, or it may span several sessions over the course of a few weeks. A mediator will not provide legal advice, and if you cannot reach an agreement, you may still proceed to litigation. You and your spouse may consider hiring an attorney to review your case and accompany you to mediation for advice on the law. This can be especially helpful as mediators cannot give legal advice to parties.
- Early Neutral Assessment. Part of the Colorado Dispute Resolution Act, an early neutral assessment is a blend of collaborative law and traditional mediation. It involves you, your spouse, and two evaluators (typically an attorney and a therapist or mental health specialist). Each party is provided the opportunity to express their concerns, feelings, and questions. The evaluators will assess the situation and””unlike with mediation””will then provide the couple with advice and suggestions on what they could expect if they went to litigation. This early understanding and awareness typically leads to a shorter and less expensive divorce.
- Do-It-Yourself Divorce (DIY): Colorado permits parties to represent themself in their divorce proceeding, and the internet is filled with DIY divorce kits, companies selling forms and drafting assistance, and handbooks for those who want to execute their divorce without hiring a lawyer. This may seem like a cheaper, easier way to go. But when you look a little closer, the process is fraught with challenges, such as complicated procedures and paperwork, confusing deadlines, inadequate agreements and plans that don’t protect you in the future. Mistakes made in DIY divorces can often make the process even more costly than a traditional divorce would have been. Oftentimes, a party has a full-time job, and trying to figure out the law in your “spare” time can be next to impossible.
Conclusion People tend to view divorce as expensive and time-consuming. And in many cases it can be. But there are also alternative routes that can be taken, if the couple is amenable to it. The first step is to know your options. Next is choosing a divorce that meets your needs and goals””no path is perfect, particularly in the face of the many difficult decisions you will make going forward””but some options are better than others, depending on your unique situation.