If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, you are probably not looking forward to hashing everything out in court.

However, there are options to consider. If you and your spouse can work together to arrive at an agreement, you can choose collaborative divorce or mediation.

Minimally invasive

The traditional divorce process can be lengthy and costly. It can turn into a confrontational exercise that results in bitterness between the parties and a less-than-satisfactory divorce agreement as decided by a judge. On the other hand, both mediation and collaboration are forms of alternative dispute resolution that take place in a more relaxed atmosphere outside of court. As compared with litigation, both are minimally invasive alternatives in that couples control the outcome themselves with less stress and expense than litigation requires.

Mediation basics

You and your spouse would meet with an attorney trained as a neutral, unbiased mediator. With the mediator providing guidance as necessary, you make your own decisions about issues such as property division, assignment of debts and child custody. Studies show that not only is mediation the less stressful option for participants but also for their children. When the parties are able to work as a team, mediation provides the basis for a respectful relationship going forward.

About collaborative divorce

In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse would engage your own attorneys to advise you and help to negotiate a settlement agreement that is satisfactory to you both. It is not unusual for outside experts to assist in this kind of divorce; for example, child custody professionals, accountants or social workers. You and your spouse can control costs by agreeing on the legal procedures. Like mediation, collaborative divorce also provides a good starting point for creating civil and effective post-divorce communications.

Looking ahead

If you believe that either mediation or collaborative divorce might be a viable alternative to litigation, the first steps are to discuss the possibilities with your spouse, then look into your legal options. Ending a marriage is a stressful, emotional task, but remember there is more than one way to handle divorce.