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Is litigation the only way to sort child custody?

What delays many divorce filings is the idea of a child custody fight. Indeed, often divorcing couples, or those contemplating divorce, talk about waiting until the kids graduate high school before filing. This is because the idea of trying to figure out how to raise children separately, while trying to maintain two separate lives and battle it out in court can be a daunting proposition.  However, for those parents that are only together because of that fear, courtroom litigation is not the only option. Alternative dispute resolution can help unhappy couple find a path forward to a happier life without having to wait a decade or two by making the child custody arraignment amicable.

What is alternative dispute resolution?

ADR refers to the dispute resolution options outside of a courtroom. The two most common forms are mediation and arbitration. Arbitration is essentially court, but informal and outside an actual courtroom. Though, both sides present cases before a neutral arbiter. Mediations are conducted by a mediator, whereby both parties work with the mediator to figure out mutually agreeable solutions to their issues and figure out the best way forward for the couple.

The pros to ADR

The biggest reason why many choose ADR is cost. Avoiding litigation can save divorcing couples a substantial amount of money because litigation costs are by far the most expensive costs associated with a divorce. Another big consideration is time. Divorces right now are taking longer than ever, and with court backlogs ever growing, the delays are only growing. Avoiding the court system avoids those delays. Though, for those with kids, the biggest advantage is positive outcomes. The goal of ADR is not necessarily to win. Instead, it is to find the best path forward for both partners, and when children are involved, the children. This can make it possible to not wait for graduation to move on.

What about lawyers?

Our Monterey, California, readers may be confused about whether a lawyer is needed if one uses the ADR process. And, the answer is usually, yes. Even during a mediation, one will need legal counsel because the mediator must stay neutral and not give legal advice, even if they are a legal expert in the field. For those ADR processes that mimic litigation, like arbitration, a lawyer is essential for the same reasons one is essential in a courtroom.