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I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Divorce options plentiful for couples who can cooperate

Every divorce in Massachusetts happens for a different reason. In some cases there may be infidelity. In others, the couple seeking divorce has simply grown apart and wants to move on to another stage of their lives.

When contemplating how to go about obtaining a divorce, there are several options from which to choose. Traditionally, a couple files for a divorce in the appropriate court and, along with their representatives, litigates the matter. This can include a great deal of court intervention and can last months or even years in cases where the spouses are not able to agree.

Relatively new trends in divorce rely more on negotiated settlements between the parties. Two popular choices for this approach are mediation and collaborative divorce. These alternatives typically involve less interaction with the court and may result in a savings of time and stress in some cases.

Mediation involves a neutral third party who works with the couple to negotiate a settlement. The negotiations can include all family law issues, including asset division, child custody issues and spousal maintenance. However, it may make sense to consider the character of the other party prior to agreeing to mediation because all financial disclosures in mediation are voluntary. Thus, a secretive spouse may try to hide assets from the other spouse as well as the mediator.

Voluntary financial disclosure in mediation is a concern for a spouse who suspects their soon-to-be ex is hiding assets. A similar concern exists for those choosing a collaborative divorce. In this case, the parties and their legal representatives meet to negotiate a divorce and also rely on independent professionals including financial experts as well as a child advocate. The final agreement is then presented to the court for approval.

It may make sense for Massachusetts couples to consider all available options as they work to finalize their dissolution. When a couple cannot agree on an issue, it most often will fall to the court to make a determination. And while that is sometimes the only way to resolve issues when the parties simply cannot agree, others may discover that a less adversarial approach fits their particular needs.

Source: Forbes, "The Four Divorce Alternatives," Jeff Landers, April 24, 2012

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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