DivorceChoice®
Vision & Mission

Our Vision

To provide a framework for parties to design and control their own process to resolve legal issues, that addresses their interests, and includes how the parties will address any disputes.

Our Mission

Promote the use of the DivorceChoice® by lawyers and other professionals and in the community.

Train lawyers and other professionals to increase the use, quality, and efficacy of the DivorceChoice® process.

Work cooperatively with professionals, academics, courts, government agencies, businesses, and other organizations to include DivorceChoice® as part of the broader dispute resolution system.

Educate the public about DivorceChoice® with accurate and appropriate information so that people can make well-informed choices in using different methods of negotiation and dispute resolution.

Develop best practices for DivorceChoice® in the resolution of divorce, business, and other matters.

Definition

DivorceChoice® is a procedure using a participation agreement designed by the parties, with the assistance of lawyers, that includes both a negotiation and dispute resolution mechanism with a goal of reaching an agreement that satisfies the interests of the parties. The process begins with negotiation and the parties can retain their lawyers in any dispute resolution mechanism, including litigation.

Description

DivorceChoice® practitioners recognize that there are many Negotiation Models and Dispute Resolution Mechanisms and believe that the choice among these options belongs to the clients. Providing clients with the ability to make an informed choice from the full spectrum of problem-solving options is a hallmark of DivorceChoice®. DivorceChoice® embraces the inclusion of related professionals as appropriate.

DivorceChoice® offers clients a range of choices in negotiation, including how much negotiation is done in face-to-face meetings, what additional professionals are used, if any, whether professionals are brought in as a team from the beginning or over time as needed, whether mediators and/or neutral evaluators are used, and whether lawyers attend mediation sessions, if any.

DivorceChoice® differs from traditional litigation, which does not involve a participation agreement that starts with a Negotiation Model and includes a Dispute Resolution Mechanism. It also differs from a Collaborative Process where parties cannot retain their Collaborative lawyers if they choose litigation.

In a DivorceChoice® process, lawyers explain to clients the common elements and distinguishing characteristics of each Negotiating Model and Dispute Resolution Mechanism, including benefits and risks, to enable clients’ informed decision making. Some of the major options include:

Negotiation Models

  • Four-way Meetings Only
  • Four-way Meetings as Requested
  • Mediation
  • Facilitation
  • Neutral Evaluation

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

  • Arbitration
  • Private Judge
  • Cooperative Litigation
  • Parenting Coordination

The following are brief descriptions of these models and mechanisms: 

Four-Way Meetings only is an interest-based process in which the negotiation is done entirely in face-to-face meetings among the parties, their lawyers and, from time to time, the related professionals determined to be appropriate to assist in the problem solving.

Four-Way Meetings as Requested involves interest-based negotiation that includes some negotiation directly between lawyers as well as some face-to-face meetings with parties. The parties and lawyers do not use contested litigation procedures during the process.

In Mediation, a neutral person helps parties to try to reach agreement in face-to-face negotiations but cannot impose a decision if the parties do not reach agreement.

Facilitation involves a neutral third-party who oversees the process, including gathering information and retention of experts when required, and may help parties settle certain issues.

Neutral Evaluation is a confidential process in which each side initially presents a summary of its perspective to a neutral expert who provides feedback to the parties. The neutral may then help parties try to negotiate a settlement. If they do not fully settle the case, the neutral may help the parties develop a focused plan to efficiently complete the case development process.

Arbitration is a process in which a neutral third-party listens to the presentations of each side of a case and then makes a decision, which is normally legally binding.

A Private Judge is a neutral third-party appointed by a court upon request of the parties to make a decision in a case. Unlike in arbitration, the court supervises the case and a private judge’s decision may be appealed, if permitted by state law. 

In Cooperative Litigation the parties agree to litigate and jointly plan the litigation process by identifying the issues and focusing solely on the merits of the issues. The lawyers avoid tactics that would unnecessarily aggravate the conflict. Lawyers work with the court to make the litigation as productive and efficient as possible.

Parenting Coordination is used in cases where parents have difficulty resolving conflicts arising from their parenting arrangements themselves. The parenting coordinator tries to work out problems in implementing a parenting plan and, if authorized, may make recommendations to a court or binding decisions about the parenting plan.