Any divorce proceeding requires the local court to ratify the final property, custody and visitation agreement and issue a legal decree ending the divorce. This does not mean that the process needs to begin with a court filing. To the contrary, most family dispute settlements begin outside the courthouse with a conversation with an attorney who can represent you in the settlement negotiations and when a deal is reached file for the divorce in court. Conversely, you can contact a mediator who will sit with both sides and work through to a settlement. These are the two most frequented procedures in the family law area today. It is the client’s responsibility to begin researching and asking questions regarding these processes and it the attorney’s professional responsibility to outline all the options that are available while reviewing the pros and cons of each.
It is important to note there are definite cases when a traditional settlement approach is not warranted. The courts and court psychologists consider cases of domestic violence inappropriate for family mediation because of the power imbalance – the trauma, fear, safety and non-constructive way in which the parties are communicating simply do not work in a mediation context. There also may be cases of infidelity, neglect, or abuse that cause one party to feel ill at ease in the presence of the other that mediation becomes a challenging option.
It is understandable that in almost all successfully negotiated settlements through mediation, there is a level of conflict that makes the process uncomfortable, uncertain, and difficult to predict the future. The important first step in the process is to meet with a trusted counsel who will have your interests in finding the right settlement or litigated process that fits your circumstances. It can be even more helpful when that individual can serve as your counsel or mediate the dispute.