Litigation would most likely be considered the “traditional” route. In a litigation context, to the extent the parties are seeking counsel, they typically each retain their own attorney.
While the parties are free to hold discussions with one another, as well as with their divorce attorneys, ultimately in the litigation context, unlike in divorce mediation or in collaborative divorce law, parties are able to avail themselves of the court and have a judge, hearing officer, or other court professional make a determination regarding their custody schedule, division of assets, support, etc., if they are unable to reach an agreement between themselves.
While this is referred to as the “litigation process”, it should be noted that there are many steps along the way if your matter proceeds in court with each of these steps largely being geared towards still encouraging settlement and resolution of claims. You’ll simply file your divorce and proceed to a trial. If you want to discuss how to dispose of your assets, there will be meetings with the Judge, the filing of documents, exchanges of proposals, all in an effort to try and encourage settlement and an amicable resolution prior to a hearing.
In mediation, the parties jointly retain the services of a mediator. A mediator is usually an attorney, although they do not have to be. They could be a psychologist or other professional who has completed the requisite training in mediation/conflict resolution.
It is the goal of the mediator and the parties in mediation to talk through their outstanding issues with one another to try to reach an amicable resolution. In the family law context, mediators may work with the parties to address custody schedules, division of assets, entering in to some sort of support arrangement and other issues that must be addressed as part of the separation process. The parties may take one of their outstanding issues to a mediator, or they may take all of them.
However, the mediator is not a legal adviser for either one of the parties. The mediator remains neutral throughout the process and discussions, while staying focused on maintaining a dialogue between the parties in hopes that the parties are able to reach a resolution. It is typically advised that each of the parties also privately consult with an attorney to get an understanding of the prevailing Pennsylvania law and what may happen in their matter if they are to proceed through court. This way they are engaging in fully informed negotiations with the assistance of the mediator.
If an agreement in reached in mediation, the parties’ attorneys can then memorialize this in writing so that it becomes binding and enforceable on the parties. As parties are not obligated to participate in mediation, the mediation process may end if either one of the parties believes it is not working or if the mediator determines that the parties are not continuing to make progress.
However, the benefits of mediation typically include: reduced costs and a greater understanding of and participation in the resolution process.
When most individuals think of law or lawyers, they think of courtrooms, of objections, of shouting, and of gavels banging. Seldom do they think of peace. While there have been methods of alternative dispute resolution for many years, the emerging field of collaborative law provides parties with another tool beyond the typical hammer of litigation.
Anyone who has been involved with the Family Courts as an attorney or as a party has likely had the opportunity to recognize the unique family dynamics and continuing interpersonal relationships in play cannot simply be pounded in to place. Collaborative law allows the opportunities for the parties to engage collaboratively trained attorneys who, along with the assistance of other professionals including a conversation-facilitating psychologist, financial neutrals who examine incomes and assets, or child specialists to help best express the needs, wants, and best interests of the minor children, work together to forge agreements between the parties.
In addition to shielding the parties, as well as their children, from the difficult, often emotionally draining Court process, and the intrusion of the Court upon their lives the collaborative law process also means the parties are afforded greater privacy and that their communications with their collaborative team and their meetings are confidential. Additionally, their agreements and other documents are not filed with the Court to be viewed by the prying eye of the public. In addition to greater privacy, statistics indicate that collaborative divorces often resolve much faster and also more cost effectively than traditional litigation.
The Professionals of Uncoupling Pittsburgh are here to discuss your options with you.