What most people don’t realize when they get married is that there is a third party that is also joining the marriage relationship. That third party is a sleeping partner who remains quiet while things are going well in the relationship. It only wakes when there has been a legal filing, like a divorce. That third party is the State where the couple is living at the time they file for divorce.
Once a spouse files for divorce, the State then starts to assume more control in the relationship. It can dictate if the couple needs to wait or be separated before filing for divorce. It can require that parents take parenting education classes. Some states mandate mediation. Most states require a detailed accounting of each spouse’s finances including income, assets, debts, and expenses. The State also has ideas about how children should be parented and how financial resources should be allocated.
All of this can come as a shock to the couple. This is where the mediation and collaborative divorce processes can help. While general guidelines must be followed, some of the more aggressive and rigid procedures found in the divorce litigation can be avoided. For example, if the couple agrees, then they do not need to find and copy all of their financial records for the past two years. If they agree, they can decide what documents are needed for both parties to feel they have had fair disclosure of information.
The couple can also agree on the value of certain items like a residence instead of paying for an appraisal. Even if an appraisal is needed to determine a value of a house, a business or a pension, the parties can agree to use one appraiser instead of each of them hiring one, thus cutting the cost for such services in half.
Most importantly, where parents can work towards and agree on a parenting plan that they believe is in their children’s best interest, they and their children can avoid a devastating custody battle and can avoid being told how to parent by a judge ruling on motions in court.