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Avoiding divorce court

The divorce process is a thriving enterprise in Texas and throughout the United States that may be associated with heavy burdens for spouses. Resolving these matters outside court through Alternative Dispute Resolution can address the toll of divorce.

Divorce filings comprised 111,409 cases or 89 percent of all actions in the state courts in 2014. The state Department of Health Services reported that 6,296 children were impacted by the end of a marriage.

The national statistics are even more staggering. Each week there are 46,000 divorces or one divorce every 13 seconds. Half of all marriages and 60 percent of second marriages lead to divorce. In fact, divorce ends almost three quarters of third marriages.

Additionally, divorce may take up to 77 percent of a person's wealth. Litigants have to pay for professionals such as lawyers, accountants or therapists. Other expenses include moving costs, living-expense increases, lost work, loss of savings and losses associated with the sale or division of property.

Lowering the potential for dispute and litigation in court can decrease these financial costs along with the toll on emotions and stress. Texas has three ADR methods to resolve disputes outside court.

The first of these methods is a voluntary Informal, Healthy Opportunity for Peace negotiation process between the spouses. Grounds rules and an agenda helps guide this process. Lawyers do not participate in IHOP but later draft and explain any documents coming from this negotiation.

The second ADR method allows spouses, their lawyers and other related professionals to work together to conduct negotiations. A court does not participate in this method.

Arbitration is a third ADR method which may be utilized although it is usually associated with other civil law matters. In this private and confidential procedure, the spouses present their arguments to a neutral professional outside a judicial setting who provides a resolution.

Acquiring a lawyer can help protect a spouse's rights while resolving divorce legal issues through ADR or in court. An attorney can help provide information on the available options to a divorcing spouse in any of these proceedings.

Source: Texas Lawyer, "The Big Business of Divorce," John and Laura Roach, Aug. 1, 2016

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