Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a way to handle a divorce largely outside of court and allows couples to avoid argumentative or costly court discussions. Common ADR methods include collaborative divorce and divorce mediation. Qualified divorce mediation or collaborative divorce attorneys can help you and your spouse navigate the process of negotiating a fair separation agreement.

ADR can help many couples, particularly those who are splitting amicably and who want to work together on their separation. There are several benefits even for couples who are not amicable but are willing to collaborate to avoid court for their own well-being or for their children’s well-being. It can be worth exploring ADR to determine if it is beneficial for your separation.

Understanding ADR

There are many types of ADR, and the most commonly used forms in divorce are mediation and collaboration. Mediation is when two spouses negotiate the terms of their separation agreement in the presence of a third party, typically a professional mediator or mediation attorney.

A collaborative divorce occurs when each spouse is represented by their own attorney as they negotiate the terms of their separation agreement. Unlike divorce court, however, these discussions are private and cooperative between spouses.

Unlike litigation, ADR methods have spouses working together rather than facing each other on opposite sides of divorce court. Important decisions on property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support can be reached without court oversight. Ideally, couples are more able to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion.

The Benefits of ADR

Negotiating a divorce outside of court has several benefits, including:

  • Keeping Proceedings Private

    Divorce proceedings are often very public, and disputes or accusations that occur during them are part of public court records. The final divorce agreement and other decisions reached are also public records. Collaborative divorce and mediation can be handled privately. This often helps spouses and their children feel more comfortable and safer. It also enables couples to discuss potentially sensitive matters in a private setting.

  • Saving Time and Money

    Litigated divorces can take between months and years to resolve and settle. This takes significant time away from both spouses’ lives and adds up in court costs and attorney fees. Not only are attorney rates usually higher for litigated divorces, but the hourly costs can add up significantly. Couples must also wait for the court to be available and schedule around court availability, which can be frustrating.

    In comparison, collaborative divorce or mediation is usually less expensive and does not take as long. The rates for mediation or ADR attorneys are often less expensive, and there are few court fees besides a potential filing fee. ADR methods encourage collaboration, meaning spouses can work more effectively toward an end goal. Scheduling these negotiations can also be done around the schedules of each spouse.

  • Limiting Stress

    A litigated divorce, beyond financial stress, is stressful to attend to and navigate. Court dates are stressful situations for anyone getting a divorce and can be worse when your divorce is high-conflict. Court dates can be even more stressful when you have children, especially if children are needed to give testimony.

    ADR methods enable spouses to work together on their own schedules and to a beneficial result. For spouses with children, it can make creating a parenting plan easier and more adaptable to your child’s needs and your own needs.

  • Maintaining Control

    In divorce court, spouses do not have the final say on the divorce order. Although each spouse can present their own wishes and needs to the court, the judge on the case has the final say. This means that spouses do not have the final say on support, custody, or property division. This can be very stressful. In ADR methods, spouses can negotiate their separation agreement and have the final say on what is in the agreement submitted to the court.


Q: What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of ADR?

A: ADR, or alternative dispute resolution, is typically a faster, cheaper, and less stressful way to obtain a divorce. The outcome of a separation agreement is also within the control of both parties, unlike going to court. Parties who are willing to work together can get many benefits from ADR.

However, the main downside of ADR is that if couples cannot come to an agreement or reach an agreement that the court refuses, they have wasted a lot of time and energy. Negotiations may have to begin again, or the couple will have to litigate their divorce anyway.

Q: Can Mediators Impose a Decision?

A: When you get a divorce through mediation, the mediator cannot force you and your spouse to reach a conclusion or make a decision. The mediator is there as a third party to help couples negotiate and compromise a separation agreement. Spouses must work together to find a resolution that meets their needs and is likely to be considered fair by the court. A mediator, particularly a mediation attorney, can provide advice about legal requirements and preferences in regard to a separation agreement.

If a couple cannot reach an agreement, then mediation has failed, and the couple may need to try other methods or enter litigation.

Q: What Is Litigation in Dispute Resolution?

A: Litigation is one of the final steps in dispute resolution, and it refers to when the case goes to court. In divorce court, couples may try alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or collaborative divorce, before litigation. Litigation can be stressful, costly, and not in your control, which is why many couples attempt to resolve a divorce outside of court.

Q: What Is the First Step in Alternative Dispute Resolution?

A: Negotiation or mediation is typically the first step in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods in divorce. This allows each party to discuss their needs and wishes in a separation agreement and discuss where they are and are not willing to compromise. Negotiation is a part of many ADR methods, including mediation and collaborative divorce.

Mediation occurs when there is a third party mediating the discussion between spouses. This can help keep the discussion on track, provide solutions to problems the spouses may not have considered, and generally help negotiations resolve more efficiently.

Contact Stange Law Firm

Navigating your divorce with exceptional legal support can make a stressful process much easier for you and your family. Contact the attorneys at Stange Law Firm in Topeka to determine if ADR is right for you.