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Two ways to settle a divorce without going to court

Many couples think that a courtroom divorce is their only option. However, the courtroom often seems formal and uncomfortable. The courts have a system and follow certain procedures that can be quite complicated for many people. If complicated issues are involved, there is a chance that the divorce may be delayed. It is because of complexities such as those that people hire an attorney when the end of a marriage is imminent.

Washington State laws permit family law disputes, such as divorce, to be resolved outside of court as well. The couple should first attempt to discuss and resolve the situation between them. However, if the couple cannot reach a mutual agreement, they may wish to consider mediation or arbitration as the next option.

If a couple opts for arbitration, they have the choice of picking a third party to help them reach a solution. This third party, also referred to as an arbitrator, may or may not be a lawyer, depending on the situation. The spouses will tell their side of the story and present evidence or witnesses, if needed. However, the rules of evidence for arbitration are less strict than they are for litigation. The arbitrator then makes a binding decision, which cannot be challenged further in court. Usually, arbitration is easier, quicker and less expensive than going to court.

The process of mediation is very different from arbitration. Unlike an arbitrator, a mediator can only help the couple to reach a decision on their own instead of providing a binding decision for the couple. Mediators often use their expertise to have discussions with both spouses and help them to come to an agreement. In the event that neither method works, the spouses may then consider going to court.

Source: Washington State Bar Association, "Alternatives to Court," accessed on July 23, 2015

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