Divorce or dissolution? Which is right for you? Both are legal processes that end a marriage. A divorce is when one party files a formal legal complaint against the other. The party must be able to prove legal grounds for the divorce. A dissolution is a joint petition filed to the court to request termination of a marriage. The separation agreement is decided upon outside the courtroom.
I find that when most people think about divorce, they are thinking about the "movie version" where each party retains an attorney to battle out the divorce settlement in court. While that is certainly one option, most divorce cases actually get settled outside the courtroom. Still, many divorces are handled in an adversarial process, working through their two attorneys.
Did you know that's not the only way? There are several kinder, more gentler approaches to divorce when you engage the right professionals. The Center for Principled Family Advocacy is a group that is committed to alternative dispute resolution. The Center provides training for professionals who want to engage in these processes and maintains a directory of its members on the website. Examples of alternative dispute resolutions processes in which I am involved in are as follows:
Mediation: Both spouses meet with a neutral third party to have them facilitate a conversation in order to come to mutually agreeable solutions (e.g., parenting plan, division of assets, etc.). The process is confidential. Mediators come from a variety of backgrounds as a law background is not required. I find my financial background to be particularly helpful when discussing family-owned businesses and other investments. Once the mediation is completed, the parties can take their agreement to an attorney and have them draw up the paperwork that is filed with the court or individuals can print the forms online and do it themselves. I always recommend that even if you complete the forms yourself, you have it reviewed by an attorney prior to submission. For information on using a Financial Neutral in your mediation, take a look at my blog post on the topic.
Collaborative Divorce: I'm a little bias on this one because I think this process is excellent. Both spouses retain their own specially trained collaborative attorney and agree not to take the case to court. Agreements are made through meetings of the two attorneys and the two spouses. Other neutral parties may assist in the collaborative group such as a Financial Neutral, Communications Coach and/or Parenting Coordinator. I find that it is particularly beneficial to have the attorneys present to advise their clients while also collaborating together to come up with a mutually agreeable solution. I am trained as a Financial Neutral. A Financial Neutral can make the process go a little faster when they are able to visually guide the couple through the financial issues of their divorce. The process is confidential and leaves the parties in a better place, emotionally, to co-parent.