Steven J. Gaba - Rockville Family Law Attorney
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Is alternative dispute resolution an option in a high conflict divorce?

Even when divorce is the best option for a couple, it is still emotionally and financially difficult in many cases. There are often advantages in using alternative dispute resolution, but Maryland couples who are in high conflict may think the courtroom is their only option. However, ADR is often a great approach for couples with difficulty agreeing on how to separate.   

An article in Divorce Magazine.com addresses the myth that ADR is only an option for amicable couples. While it is tempting to view mediation as open only to parties who are on friendly terms, the opposite is true. Litigation expenses can skyrocket in a high conflict divorce. Furthermore, in divorce proceedings, a judge determines the final terms. In a hostile separation, those terms may be unlikely to be followed.

ADR addresses these issues in a few ways. Disagreements can make court appearances lengthy and frequent. While an attorney is still useful in mediation, the legal bills are usually much smaller because the negotiations occur outside the courtroom. The opportunity to resolve the frequently arising conflicts in a less expensive setting is one reason ADR may be especially useful in a high conflict setting.

Another way ADR is useful to couples in conflict is that the parties come to an agreement together, thereby making the separation terms more likely to be followed. While it may be hard to imagine coming to an agreement with your spouse, in a collaborative ADR setting, experts, including a neutral third party, help you communicate with each other and decide a plan that works. On the other hand, the courtroom setting is adversarial with little focus on getting along. The judge’s orders may reflect your lack of agreement with each other and make compliance unlikely.  

You may have thought ADR was only a solution for couples who already agree, but fortunately, that is often not the case. For couples who want to separate and are having difficulty settling on a plan, mediation is often an excellent option. With an attorney or mediator skilled in alternative dispute resolution, couples may be able to divorce each other with less financial and emotional damage than had they used the traditional courtroom approach.  

This information is for educational purposes and is not intended as legal advice.   

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