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Is alternative dispute resolution helpful in divorce battles?

In many contested divorce cases, the disagreements between both spouses can sometimes lead to long-standing disputes. These disputes can continue even long after the divorce has been finalized, especially if both spouses share custody of their children. Recently, the ex-wife of a former Dallas Cowboys football player was ordered to jail for refusing to honor a child custody arrangement. She reportedly refused to return the couple's children to the custody of her ex-husband at a prearranged time.

The causes of many divorce battles can be traced back to poor communication between spouses prior to the divorce decree. What many Texans don't realize is that under current state law, divorcing spouses are sometimes eligible to engage in alternative dispute resolution. Put simply, ADR generally refers to using a neutral third party to referee a settlement between disputing parties. In many cases, the ADR is overseen by a trained facilitator and held outside of a formal courtroom.

It is important to know that either party can motion the court for ADR regarding certain issues. The overall concept of ADR is to facilitate fairness and allow both sides to voice their opinions without devolving into unproductive fights. The ADR provides a venue for spouses to address underlying concerns, emotions and other issues that might be obstacles to forming working arrangements such as child custody and visitation rights.

Even if an agreement is eventually hammered out between the parties, the court will always review any settlement to ensure that it is in the best interests of the children involved. Once approved, that ADR settlement agreement is binding and can be enforceable through the court.

ADR is not for every divorcing couple. For example, ADR may not be appropriate for spouses who are victims of domestic abuse or in circumstances where a spouse is mentally incompetent and unable to make sound decisions.

If you are currently considering a divorce, it may be helpful in the long run to undergo ADR with your spouse soon. Having a neutral venue where you can communicate your concerns can sometimes prove extremely efficient and prevent future animosities from forming. Your Texas family law attorney can advise you on whether ADR is a good strategy for your pending divorce based on your individual situation.

Source: Texas State Legislature-Statutes, "Sec. 153.0071. Alternate Dispute Resolution Procedures" Dec. 29, 2014

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