I often hear tales of horror and woe from a prospective client who has talked to a friend that heard that a friend of theirs about someone going through a divorce that got cheated out of everything, and was left penniless after the divorce. We have to remember that each divorce like each family is unique. Unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks of having a trial besides the cost involved is that when you ask the Judge to decide your case, you give up all control to make decisions regarding the outcome. At Anne E. Raduns, PA we try use all forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to settle your case, especially informal negotiations and mediation before taking a case to trial. There are many good reasons why our firm does this.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of ADR?
The court system uses an adversarial model. You're taking a position against your spouse, and you're asking the lawyers to fight it out for you, with the Judge acting as the ultimate decider. The lawyers in these battles often use tactics that are aggressive to win - this without a doubt will increase hostility between the divorcing spouses. To the victor goes the spoils! That's not what divorce should be about.
ADR, on the other hand, helps the divorcing spouses to work together to create a plan with which they will agree. These spouses with the help of their lawyers can come to an Agreement. Generally people who formulate their own agreement are more likely to follow it. After all, no one likes being told what to do - even by the Judge. This can actually stop the hostility and acrimony, leading to an improved the "working relationship" between the divorcing spouses. It's about as pleasant as a divorce can be, and provides a path that will allow them to have a working relationship that will be very beneficial, particularly if there are children and parenting plans involved.
Taking divorce litigation to court is also expensive. Having lawyers "fighting it out in court," can prove to be an extremely expensive endeavour. These court battles can cost upwards of $10,000. There are times when the parties have to hire appraisers, expert witnesses, therapists, and maybe even a Guardian Ad Litem for the children. The list can go on and on. The more the divorcing spouses spend on court and lawyers and witnesses, the less of what they have is left for them. This could deplete their assets, leaving them owing money instead of dividing what they have.
Using the ADR process can ultimately be less costly both financially and emotionally for the divorcing couple, particularly with the help of a divorce lawyer who tries to create an environment that is conducive for spouses to reach an Agreement.
Lastly, the court system also tends to be overburdened: there are just not enough Judges to give each family the time that they require. Sometimes you may only have 30 minutes to argue a case before a judge, not nearly the time necessary for the Judge to understand all the facts and circumstances. Consequently, the outcome may or may not be fair. With ADR, there's time to deal with all the important issues that are unique to this family on a more personal level, giving the time necessary to reach a successful outcome.