The familiar phrase "ugly divorce" usually refers to those that have gone to divorce court because they could not or would not agree on specific items (or anything!). There are some situations in which divorce court is the only option, but it should be avoided if possible. Afterall, a judge will be making decisions about your life, financial situation and how you spend time with your children. Court should be a last resort, because of the serious negative aspects of this particular means of settling marital dissolution.
As a wedding day approaches, most couples are consumed with thoughts of dresses, flowers, music, food, fun, and love. The last thing anyone wants to think about, much less talk about, is how assets will be divided in the event of divorce! However, this is a conversation that many couples need to have. Marriage is full of tricky discussions - it's ok to start practicing that skill now.
Parties often ask what is the best way to proceed when initially contemplating separation and/or divorce. Generally speaking, parties are encouraged to try to reach an agreement to resolve whatever issues have arisen in any legal matter. In family law, agreements are especially encouraged due to the personal nature of the issues at hand along with the belief that it is better for the parties to draft their own agreement rather than allow a stranger to dictate their family dynamics going forward. Additionally, litigation or time spent in court is often the most expensive aspect of a divorce matter.
Mediation is a neutral and voluntary process wherein two or more parties that have a dispute meet with a mediator who facilitates the meeting in an attempt to come to an agreement and keep the matter out of court. A mediator does not have to be an attorney. Oftentimes, counselors receive training in mediation as well. It is important to keep in mind that if an attorney is a mediator, they cannot give you legal advice since they are a neutral party. For this reason, some people also keep an attorney for legal advice while going through mediation. The benefit of mediation is that it often can resolve issues or at least narrows down the issues in dispute. This is helpful in the legal setting so that only money is spent litigating a very focused issue, if needed. If an agreement is reached in mediation, it can be drafted and signed by the mediator or it can then be taken to an attorney to review. Agreements that are reached in mediation not only help keep costs down, but they also help to keep the relationship more amicable since both parties have had input in coming to the agreement.
In Pennsylvania, pets are considered personal property in a divorce. Like any personal property, if they were a pet prior to marriage, they go to the party who owned the dog at the time of the marriage. If they were purchased during the marriage, then like any other personal property, either party is entitled to keep the pet. If the parties cannot agree, they can either go to arbitration or they can decide that neither party gets to keep the pet. It is unrealistic to expect that the Court will entertain a custody schedule for a pet in a divorce. In addition, the custody statutes only apply to children. If you want to share custody of the pet, it is something that is best resolved through mediation. Through mediation, the parties can decide what things they want to address to agree on and this can include an agreement to share a pet. If you opt for this, be sure to not only include the schedule for you put, but also who will pay the expenses or how they will be shared, including vet bills, food, regular shots, etc.
When getting divorced, there are several different approaches that a couple can choose. Some people opt for mediation to try to resolve their disputes and save them money. Others, take the traditional approach and opt for attorneys to handle everything. There is another approach that is less known but can be quite effective - collaborative law. Collaborative law, unlike mediation, involves two attorneys similar to the traditional approach. What makes collaborative law different, however, is that both spouses agree from day one that they want to settle everything out of court. They formalize this agreement in writing with their attorneys wherein they agree that they will make any and all efforts to resolve their issues involving divorce, custody, and support out of court. While they always reserve the option to go to court if they cannot reach an agreement, there is a hefty price to pay - loss of representation by both side's attorneys. Even if one party is still willing to work it out of court, both spouse's and their attorneys agree that if one of the parties decides to litigate, both attorneys will withdraw from the case and both parties will have to start over with new attorneys.