Know The Law: Civil Divorce

February 14, 2013
Published in the Union Leader:

Q: My husband and I have decided to divorce. We are sad about the decision and want to be civil for the sake of our kids, but I am also concerned about protecting my rights. Are there ways to resolve our divorce without a costly, nasty legal battle?

A: There are several ways to resolve your divorce.  Viewing your options as a range from cooperative and cost-efficient to contentious and expensive, they are as follows: (1) direct party-to-party negotiation; (2) mediation between parties; (3) collaborative law; (4) mediation with the assistance of lawyers; (5) negotiation through lawyers; (6) arbitration; (7) litigation. The first five options are considered the most respectful and civil ways to resolve a divorce.

Direct negotiation of an agreement is self-explanatory. If you have equal bargaining power, no disputes and no complex assets, it may work well. Even so, you should consult with an attorney before signing a final agreement.  Avoiding review of an agreement to save money may, instead, create costly headaches down the road.

Mediators facilitate discussions about needs, goals and solutions in an effort to help the parties reach an agreement.  You can attend mediation with or without an attorney or use an attorney as a coach to provide advice outside of the sessions. Without an attorney, you will attend multiple sessions with a schedule and agenda established by you, your spouse and the mediator. When attorneys attend mediation, the mediation may occur on one long day, instead of several sessions. Similarly, the parties may elect to be in separate rooms rather than face to face. Attorneys often request and exchange certain information in advance of mediation to prepare for the session(s), assist in the negotiation and discussion of complex issues and participate in the drafting of final agreements.

In collaborative law, an increasingly popular process in New Hampshire, the parties, their attorneys and jointly retained professionals, work as a team in a short series of meetings to cooperatively resolve the divorce. Collaborative law is uniquely focused on interest-based resolution and open, positive, direct communication, as opposed to rights and demands. A four-way participation agreement disqualifies the professionals from representing the parties in court if the process breaks down and, therefore, incentivizes everyone to work toward resolution.

The facts of your case, as well as your ability to work together, will ultimately decide what process is right for you.

Margaret can be reached at

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.
We invite your questions of business law. Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to: Know the Law, The McLane Law Firm, P.O. Box 888, Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.