It used to be the case that going to court was your only option if you wanted a divorce. Nowadays, there are other choices, including both negotiation and mediation of the issues of divorce. The option you choose depends on your situation and your values.
The court will choose a ‘winner’
Family courts are set up to operate in an adversarial fashion. That is to say, each divorcing spouse becomes a “party” and the parties are required to argue their sides of each issue before the judge. The judge will then choose a winner and a loser on each issue.
The issues involved are your parenting plan, your support orders and the division of your assets. Are you comfortable with the judge picking a winner when it comes to these issues?
Many people would rather find a non-adversarial way to divorce – one that doesn’t breed acrimony. The most common ways to handle a divorce outside of court are negotiation and mediation.
Where a judge can only pick one side’s argument or the other’s, you can negotiate a wide range of options and outcomes. As long as you remain within Arizona law, you can make any agreement you can get your ex to go along with.
It is this range of options that is most attractive about negotiation. If you want to split your parenting time in a novel way, you are free to do so. If you wish to divide your assets unequally, you can do that, too, as long as you both agree that doing so would be fair. There are limited options for negotiating child support, as that is largely determined by Arizona’s child support guidelines. However, you can work within the guidelines to come to a support arrangement that works for both of you.
Another option for an out-of-court settlement is mediation. In this process, a neutral third-party will help you and your ex communicate effectively as you negotiate your own resolution. The mediator’s job is not to hand down a ruling but to help you make the decisions you want. This is much less adversarial than divorce court and can be less adversarial even than negotiation.
Whether you choose negotiation or mediation, try to put aside your anger, suspicion and disappointment. If you have kids, focus on what will be in their best interest. Negotiate in good faith, participate with integrity and respect, and keep any agreements you make.
You can reduce the amount of conflict in your divorce by choosing not to engage in argument with your spouse. Avoid escalating any conflict that does arise. Process your feelings with a therapist or divorce coach. Most of all, focus on moving on.