When suddenly (or even gradually) faced with the prospect of a divorce or other major family change, many people begin to wonder what their options are. It is a very common question I hear from prospective clients. Very simply, there is a range of methods that can be employed to resolve family law matters.
Kitchen Table. In some cases, spouses can sit down together and work out agreements on all major issues on their own. Those cases involve relatively mature and intelligent people who are beyond the anger stage of the divorce process. It can be a great way to resolve issues while maintaining family relationships.
Mediation. In California and some other states, it is fairly common for the parties to go to a mediator without using attorneys and work out an agreement. In Texas, that rarely happens, but we use mediation in virtually all non-Collaborative divorces. It usually takes place after some court hearings and the completion of discovery (the exchange of information). Each party attends with an attorney and it is a very effective process in most cases.
Collaborative Law. When both parties want to try this, it can be an excellent method of reaching agreements. The parties agree to not go to court and work toward an agreement by having a series of face-to-face meetings with the parties, attorneys and other professionals. See my other blog for more information.
Arbitration. Although this is not very common in Texas, it can be a means to avoid the delays of the court system. A hired arbitrator hears testimony, reviews evidence and rules on contested issues. It can be expensive, but it is relatively quicker than a litigated divorce and might be cheaper.
Litigation. This is the most commonly used process in Texas. One side files for a divorce and usually serves papers on the other party. A temporary hearing is usually held to set up orders for while the divorce is pending. It usually takes about a year to get a contested divorce in Tarrant County. It often is resolved through mediation, but that most often occurs late in the process.
If you need to resolve a family law issue, you should think about and research the above approaches and then talk with a lawyer to get advice for your specific situation.