Stages and Decisions
Generally, the stages of a divorce -- and the decisions to be made at each stage -- are the same, regardless of whether you're using lawyers, mediators or doing it yourself. Understand that this is what you'll have to weather in a non-confrontational manner to maintain your friendly divorce. Generally, there will be a support and custody hearing after the petition is filed, in which temporary spousal support custody and child support is ordered. Next is discovery, in which each spouse completes a financial affidavit and answers questions that the other spouse has submitted. Next, is the property settlement and parenting plan. Usually, each spouse drafts a proposal, the two documents are compared, and the disagreements negotiated until an agreement is reached.
In a mediated divorce, a professional mediator may help the spouses come to agreements at each stage of the divorce, and in some cases, they prepare all necessary paperwork for the court. A mediated divorce can be perfect for spouses who are committed to a friendly divorce, but who know they'll need professional guidance. The mediator may be hired before any lawyers are retained and before any papers filed in court. The mediator applies his specialized training from the beginning of the process to keep the spouses focused, and the process moving.
Spouses pursuing a collaborative divorce may use lawyers, but both spouses and lawyers agree that the spouses will negotiate their issues in a fair and non-adversarial manner, in the best interests of any minor children and without litigation. The lawyers involved agree to withdraw from representation if either spouse in the collaborative process does not work and the spouses decide to go to court.
A negotiated divorce works much like a collaborative divorce. The spouses commit to negotiate all issues outside the court process, relying, instead on their commitment to fairness and the expertise of their lawyers to see negotiations to a successful end. The primary difference between a negotiated divorce and a collaborative divorce is that each lawyer in a negotiated divorce may continue to represent his respective client spouse if negotiations break down and the spouses decide to go to court.