If you are preparing to divorce, you will likely look back on the process as one of the most challenging and emotionally draining experiences of your life. Divorce is never easy, even when a divorcing couple makes the mutual decision to end their marriage. The process requires formal division of marital assets, financial agreements for alimony in many cases, and a difficult child custody determination process when the divorcing couple has children together. Reaching a legally enforceable and mutually agreeable decision for each of these issues can take quite a long time. Depending on the complexity of your divorce and your spouse’s willingness to negotiate, the divorce process can take months, even years, to complete.

When facing a difficult divorce, it is natural to wonder what steps you could take to speed up the process, reaching a resolution faster and saving money on legal fees. Fortunately, there are several ways you could streamline your divorce proceedings in Columbia, MO.

Work With Your Spouse Privately Before Filing for Divorce

Divorce informally begins once you or your spouse has decided to end your marriage, but the legal process does not formally begin until one of you files a divorce petition with the Columbia, MO, family court. It does not matter which spouse files for divorce. While some people believe that the filing party has a legal advantage in divorce proceedings, this simply is not true. Do not feel rushed to be the first to file a petition. If you and your spouse are civil toward one another, it’s worth taking the time to discuss your expectations ahead of filing.

Sitting down and negotiating your divorce terms informally before taking legal steps is a great way to establish a baseline for your negotiations. You shouldn’t expect to make any firm decisions; the legal process will compel the two of you to cover each aspect of your divorce in detail to reach a legally enforceable resolution. However, preliminary negotiations can allow you to identify your most significant areas of contention. Working together to establish expectations, goals, and potential conflicts will benefit both of you. When you hire your respective attorneys, they will help you refine your positions, and your divorce proceedings can focus on the most difficult issues between you.

Take Full Advantage of Alternative Dispute Resolution

When most people decide to divorce, they imagine the process unfolding in a tense courtroom battle. However, litigation is not always necessary; it’s possible to reach a divorce agreement privately and in a timely fashion through alternative dispute resolution. Specifically, divorce mediation is one of the best ways to streamline your divorce.

The mediation process typically requires a fraction of the time necessary to complete a divorce through litigation. While divorce litigation can take several months or more than a year for a complex divorce, mediation could be completed within a few weeks or one or two months for more detailed cases. The only actual requirement for divorce mediation is that both spouses must be open to the process, but this does not necessarily mean they need to be entirely agreeable about every aspect of their divorce.

Suppose you and your spouse want to take advantage of the benefits of divorce mediation but are having difficulty maintaining civil discussions. In that case, your respective attorneys can assist with the process and ensure the two of you extract maximum value from your mediation sessions. It’s possible to complete mediation without any face-to-face interaction with your spouse if you wish. Instead, your attorney will speak on your behalf as your negotiations unfold, informing you of your spouse’s responses and keeping you up to date on the latest developments in your mediation case. Once you and your spouse have worked through all issues pertaining to your divorce, your respective attorneys and your chosen mediator will help draft your divorce resolution.

Minimize the Need for Litigation

In some divorce cases, litigation is unavoidable, but only to the extent of the issues that the couple cannot resolve through mediation. For example, it is not possible to reach a solid resolution to child custody or child support in divorce mediation. The Missouri family court must assess and approve a child custody and support agreement before it becomes legally binding. This is because the family court has a legal duty to ensure the couple’s parenting plan suits the best interests of their children. In addition, in some divorces, the couple may not reach a firm agreement on other aspects of their divorce, such as the division of high-value marital assets, complex investments, or family business-related issues. These matters require formal legal review through litigation.

While litigation may be unavoidable to some degree, the divorcing couple can still minimize the need for litigation by exploring as much as possible in mediation. If you and your spouse reach an impasse in your divorce mediation sessions, table the subject and move onto addressing other issues. You can return to the problematic issue later in your mediation sessions to minimize the number of matters you must resolve through litigation.

Hire the Right Attorney

Perhaps the most critical decision you can make when streamlining your divorce proceedings is hiring the best Columbia, MO, divorce attorney to represent you. A good attorney will take time to get to know you and your legal position to provide individualized legal counsel. In addition, they will help you take full advantage of alternative dispute resolution to reduce your legal expenses and the time required for completing your divorce.

Once you have decided to begin divorce proceedings, take time to research local Columbia, MO, divorce lawyers and choose one who inspires you with confidence about your position. Make sure you fully understand the attorney’s billing policy before agreeing to their representation. The attorney should clearly explain their legal strategy and representation style, so you know what to expect with your divorce proceedings. Reach out to a reputable and experienced Columbia, MO, divorce attorney as soon as possible to begin your divorce proceedings with confidence.