Many divorce lawyers now encourage their clients to consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) when they want to end their marriages.
ADR is an umbrella term that includes collaborative negotiations, where the couple talk face to face with their lawyers acting as referees; mediation, where a third-party acts as neutral party to help the couple work out their differences; arbitration, where they rent a private judge who decides what a fair and reasonable settlement is.
Some jurisdictions mandate that divorcing couples must at least try to some form of ADR, although the parties retain the right to go to court if it fails.
Only courts can grant divorces but the objective of all ADR methods is a written settlement agreement memorializing the terms and conditions of the property settlement, alimony and child support and visitation. When this happens, a judge can rule on its fairness and grant the divorce.
ADR offers a number of advantages over a court battle. One, though mediation, collaboration and arbitration are not cheap, they are less expensive (emotionally and financially) than court warfare. Two, experiences have demonstrated that divorcing spouses are more likely to abide a negotiated settlement than one that is imposed by a court.