4 Divorce Options: Mediation, Litigation, Four-Way Meetings and Collaborative Law

Maryland Law Blog

June 16, 2015
Category: General

Divorce is a far more complex legal matter than most people think. And until you are personally involved in one, you have no idea about how it works and what options you have. Our Maryland divorce attorneys have guided hundreds of clients through divorce, and some of them didn’t realize at the beginning that going to court is not their only option. That’s right! Besides litigation, there’s also mediation, four-way meetings and collaborative law — less stressful and sometimes more productive methods of conflict resolution, which we will talk about today.

Shake hands

What is Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is a more “peaceful” alternative to divorce. A typical mediation involves the spouses and a third-party, neutral mediator who helps them find common ground and come up with solutions. All the same decisions are made during mediation and litigation, but in mediation the couple decides between themselves through the mediator and without the involvement of the court. The result of the mediation is a separation agreement that both parties have approved.

Benefits of Mediation

  • Costs less than litigation
  • Less stressful for children
  • You are in control of the outcome
  • It’s private and low key
  • You decide when, where and how it happens
  • You can settle issues with your spouse directly

The Role of Attorneys in Mediation

While both attorneys don’t always directly interact during a mediation, this doesn’t mean that there is no room left for your Maryland family lawyer. In fact, an attorney can be extremely helpful before, during and after the mediation by explaining your rights, providing negotiation tips, and preparing and filing necessary paperwork. The lawyer in this case plays more of a consultative role rather than advocating as your legal representative.

What is Divorce Litigation?

Divorce litigation occurs when the spouses can’t agree on the divorce terms, so they go to court to have the judge decide who gets what. Each spouse typically has an attorney who speaks for them before the judge, presents evidence, questions witnesses, etc.

Benefits of Litigation

  • You don’t have to interact with your spouse directly. Most things can be done through an attorney.
  • Fewer opportunities for either spouse to hide assets.
  • Levels out the field, preventing one spouse from dominating another.

Third Option: Collaborative Law

Divorce under collaborative law is a bit of a mixture between mediation and litigation. The spouses don’t go to court, but the attorneys get actively involved in the negotiation of the settlement, hence the collaborative aspect. Unlike in mediation, in collaborative law attorneys work together with each other, with experts in other disciplines, such as mental health professionals or financial professionals if necessary, and with the spouses to arrive at a mutually satisfying agreement.

Fourth Option: Four-Way Meetings

Four-way meetings are just what you’d expect: you, your spouse, and both attorneys all meet together to attempt to reach an agreement on all of the issues involved in your marriage, or to at least reduce the number of disputed issues which need to be dealt with at a trial.

Which Divorce Pathway Should You Choose?

Whether you go with mediation, litigation, four-way meetings or collaborative law will depend on your specific situation and the relationship dynamics with your spouse. For example, if you feel like you are at a disadvantage in your marriage due to your social status, financial background or other factors, mediation may not be the best option for you. On the other hand, if both you and your spouse agree that the marriage is over and want to make divorce easier on your children and on yourselves, you may find mediation, four-way meetings or collaborative law relatively painless and effective.

No matter which pathway you choose, be sure to consult with your Owings Mills family law attorney first. You will need an attorney regardless, either as a legal representative or as a consultant, to help guide you through this complex legal matter.

Feel free to give us a call to further discuss your options when it comes to divorce, separation agreements or child custody.

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