If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, or if one of you has filed a divorce petition in Springfield, MO, it’s natural to have lots of questions about what to expect during dissolution proceedings and how your divorce is likely to influence your future. Unfortunately, when most people think of the divorce process in Missouri, they imagine emotionally charged litigation and protracted court battles that take months or even years to resolve.

The reality is that divorce litigation is primarily considered a last resort when resolving modern divorce cases in the US. Most divorcing couples in Springfield, MO, and throughout the US choose alternative dispute resolution for the many benefits available compared to litigation. It’s understandable to feel uncertain and confused about your legal options in an emotionally demanding situation like a divorce. The following are the most frequently asked questions regarding alternative dispute resolution for Springfield, MO, divorce cases.

Q: What Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution Are Available in Missouri?

A: The three primary forms of alternative dispute resolution used instead of divorce litigation in Missouri are arbitration, collaborative divorce, and mediation. It’s worth taking the time to evaluate each of these options and discuss your concerns with an experienced attorney to determine which option would be best for your situation.

Q: What Does Arbitration Include?

A: Arbitration is a private settlement that unfolds in front of a judge. This process allows for a private settlement negotiation, and the judge overseeing the case will make all final decisions regarding the couple’s divorce. An arbitrated divorce order carries the same legal weight as a divorce order issued by a family court judge after litigation. It’s pretty rare for divorcing couples in the US to opt for divorce arbitration, but it may be suitable for couples who have very detailed prenuptial agreements and want a judge’s formal review of their contract.

Q: What Is Collaborative Divorce?

A: Collaborative divorce requires both spouses and their respective divorce attorneys to meet privately and negotiate mutually agreeable divorce terms. This process typically offers a more comfortable atmosphere than litigation in a courtroom. The spouses must agree to session scheduling and will typically cover every aspect of their divorce item by item until they have reached a mutually satisfactory divorce settlement. They must then present their settlement to a Springfield, MO, family court judge for final review and approval.

Q: What Is Divorce Mediation?

A: The most popular method of alternative dispute resolution for divorce is mediation, which is similar to collaborative divorce but unfolds under the guidance and direction of a mediator. The mediator’s job is to guide negotiations and help the couple draft a divorce settlement. Once the couple has resolved as much as possible through mediation, they must present their negotiated divorce agreement to a family court judge for approval.

Q: How Long Does Alternative Dispute Resolution Take?

A: One of the most attractive benefits of alternative dispute resolution for divorce is that it typically requires far less time to complete than divorce litigation. Some couples can complete their alternative dispute resolution sessions within a matter of weeks or a month or two. Depending on the complexity of a divorce, litigation can potentially take several months to a year or longer to complete.

Q: What Can’t Be Resolved in Alternative Dispute Resolution?

A: The family court system of Missouri has a legal obligation to preserve the best interests of children affected by a family court order. This means you cannot resolve child custody or child support privately in alternative dispute resolution. You can develop a negotiated parenting plan, but it must be approved by a Springfield, MO, family court judge. Some couples may also be unable to resolve very complex issues pertaining to high-value assets, domestic violence, or intentional refusal to disclose financial records.

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer for Alternative Dispute Resolution?

A: It is technically possible to complete alternative dispute resolution on your own, but this is never a good idea. If your spouse has legal counsel and you do not, this inherently puts you at a disadvantage in negotiations. Hiring an experienced Springfield, MO, divorce attorney is the best thing you can do to preserve your best interests in a divorce case, no matter how you choose to handle the process.

Q: What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Divorce and Mediation?

A: Most couples who opt for alternative dispute resolution choose collaborative divorce or mediation. These processes both allow the spouses to save significant amounts of time and money on their divorces and often yield more agreeable terms than what one could expect from a family court judge. In addition to saving time and money and providing the spouses more control over the outcome of their divorce, alternative dispute resolution is also entirely private. The record of the finalized divorce will be publicly available, but everything said during negotiations remains confidential.

Q: What Happens If We Can’t Resolve Everything in Alternative Dispute Resolution?

A: Many couples can resolve most but not all of their divorce-related issues in alternative dispute resolution. In this situation, the couple simply transitions to divorce litigation to have a judge rule on the remaining issues they could not resolve privately. In most cases, privately negotiated divorce settlements must pass through some final review before a Springfield, MO, family court judge.

Divorce is an inherently emotional issue. No matter what your feelings for your spouse may be or how ready you are to end your marriage, divorce is always difficult on some level. It can be very challenging to determine the best approach to this process when you struggle with the emotional tensions and uncertainty that divorce often generates. Whatever your situation entails, the best way to approach a difficult divorce is with the help of an experienced attorney. If you are unsure of how you should handle your impending divorce, consult an experienced Springfield, MO, divorce lawyer to start reviewing your options.