The popularity of mediation and collaborative law approaches has increased in recent decades to the point where it is used in 90% of divorces. The one defining factor that separates it from litigation is that the couple chooses to find equitable solutions without going to court to create an agreement.
While sometimes court is required for cases where the differences are too significant, couples embrace a collaborative law because it is less expensive, faster and involves a more positive approach (which can be critical if the couple plans to actively coparent). It also empowers the couple to develop their solutions, such as creating a parenting plan that works for their schedule rather than leaving the decisions to a judge.
There are different types of mediation and collaborative law formats. Couples can hire or mediator to act as intermediaries for divorce, custody disputes or other family law matters. However, it is recommended that each side have separate legal representation to negotiate and best protect that client’s interests and legal rights. Before hiring an attorney, it is good to discuss the attorney’s approach to mediation and whether it is a good fit for supporting the client’s goals.
The pandemic creates a great backlog
The courts here in Indiana are backed-up during the best of times — one reason why litigation takes so long is that court dockets are full. The pandemic has prompted many courts to work on limited schedules, thus creating an ever-growing backlog. Rather than getting stuck with this legal holding pattern, 98% of couples filing for divorce in 2020 turned to collaborative law. Now, some who originally opted for court over mediation have returned to the negotiation table to work out their differences rather than wait for court. Those beginning the divorce process commonly find themselves signing agreements that they will not end up in court.
Negotiation is often done via video conferencing
One new reality during the pandemic is the everyday use of video platforms for work or visiting with friends and family. Attorneys had used this technology before the pandemic because it was commonplace to conduct negotiations in separate offices. Some couples use this even when still living under the same roof, finding it more comfortable to work together when everyone is on screen rather than in-person.