Many believe that with a divorce proceeding comes a heated trial, as seen in the legal TV dramas, where they are in a large formal courtroom, involved in a days long trial before a judge. However, do not let this bring you fear, as there are many different alternatives to a trial to complete your divorce, with some couples never having to even enter a courtroom to obtain an official divorce decree. If you wish to know your alternatives to a trial before a judge for your divorce case, discus your options with your Florida Divorce Attorney. We will be able to enlighten you on the different options as well as the positive and negative attributes of each.
First, if you and your spouse are agreeable on all pertinent issues you may engage in what is known as an uncontested divorce. You and your spouse will mutually determine that a divorce is in your best interests and formalize the division of property, debts, alimony, child custody, and any other issues unique to you and your spouse into a Marital Settlement Agreement. An uncontested divorce leaves no issue for the judge to make a determination on. Therefore, you and your attorney may simply file the necessary paperwork required of any divorce, but in addition you will also file the Marital Settlement Agreement signed by you and your spouse with a proposed Final Judgment of Divorce. The judge will review to ensure all necessary documents are provided and the agreement is conscionable and will review the Final Judgment provided by your attorney and sign, declaring you and your spouse divorced. In these cases, a court appearance is rare and the timeline is much faster as there need not be any court dates set.
However, if you and your spouse do not agree on all terms of your divorce and need to seek resolution through third parties you may choose to employ the assistance of a mediator. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution focused on a collaborative approach. The mediator will be a go between and identify the issues between the parties, as well as aid them in a resolution that is agreeable for both sides. The mediator essentially promotes communication between the parties and facilitates an area of neutral ground where the parties can cooperate with one another to determine the details of their divorce. Mediation typically occurs in the mediator’s office, each party with their respective attorneys, are in separate rooms, and the mediator will go between each attempting to find the common ground for a resolution. Many couples find resolution in mediation, and are happy with the results of their divorce as mediation allowed them to be in control of their divorce details.
Other alternatives to a formal trial are hearings before a general magistrate or an arbitrator. In an arbitration, the hearings are less formal, and the parties hire the 3rd party privately to handle the matter. The arbitrator will hear the case and render a decision that is binding in court. You will have no input into the decision of the arbitrator, other than what evidence is presented during the hearing. These also will save some time in the divorce process as the private third party is usually more available than a judge. A hearing before a general magistrate is similar in nature to an arbitration. However, the general magistrate is appointed by the judge and the magistrate will deliver a decision that the court will then review and make final or reject. The difference here is that the general magistrate’s order is not officially binding on the court, as the judge will have ultimate decision-making authority, and the general magistrate is not employed by the parties. However, these hearings are also less formal in nature and allow you to receive quicker results as a general magistrate’s calendar tends to show more availability.
If you desire to resolve your family law matter outside of a formal trial, you have many options at your disposal. It is important to discuss with your Florida Divorce Attorney the different options and which will most benefit you in your specific case. Your Florida Divorce Attorney is experienced in many different forms of alternative dispute resolutions, and will be able to competently and aggressively represent you and protect your rights in each.
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