Coronavirus and Divorce – Part 1

It should come as no surprise to anyone that, during a global lockdown with all its complications, relationships have been strained. It should also be no surprise that I’m seeing more divorce requests than ever come into my office. Let’s talk about the possible options.

During normal times using the court system can be difficult, time consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining — especially with the specter of the virus and quarantines affecting every aspect of the legal system. For some cases and situations, litigation simply is the only answer — but for many others there are powerful alternatives to try before doing things the hard way.

In legal matters we have processes called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that can reduce stress, cost, wasted time, and the length of wait for already overloaded systems.

The first alternative that should be considered is Mediation. Mediation is a method for resolving differences in a manner that is likely less contentious, usually more expeditious, and often less expensive. People work together to identify, discuss, and jointly resolve disputed issues. Mediating offers significant advantages over litigation and other processes. With mediation you can: a) Save time and money; b) Preserve valued relationships; and c) Reduce stress.

Mediation puts you/the party, in control of the process, which helps control costs. For example, the spouses determine who participates in the mediation (including any attorneys or experts), the length and frequency of mediation sessions, etc. Often they can be scheduled and completed within weeks of being started. Resolving a dispute doesn’t have to mean the end of an important personal (or even business) relationship.

The mediation process encourages effective communication by: a) Affording each person opportunities to have concerns addressed; b) Enhancing opportunities to find common ground; c) Promoting clear communication; d) Preventing misunderstandings; and e) Exploring a “win-win” result. One very frustrating aspect of litigation is the fact that someone else controls your destiny. Mediation makes you directly involved in all decision-making such that you need not worry about important decisions affecting your life being imposed on you. It allows you to work together with the “opponent” to resolve your “case” without a Judge/Jury/Hearing Officer/Master.

A trained mediator will guide you through a process of identifying, discussing, and resolving the issues. The participants themselves make all decisions, such as what matters are to be addressed, the timetable desired to resolve the concerns, what information is needed and from whom, and how each matter is resolved. A mediator is a facilitator whose role is to help the parties without substituting his/her judgment for that of the participants.

Many types of disputes can be mediated, such as divorce, alimony, division of property, as well as the related areas of child custody and support. In addition, this method has been successfully used for Business breakups and management issues, Employer-employee disputes, Modifications/Interpretations/Breaches of contract, Neighborhood disputes, Disputes between estate heirs, Landlord-tenant disputes, and Workplace discrimination issues.

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