One of the mistakes ex-couples make is assuming that divorce proceedings are quick. Many factors affect the duration, so some cases drag on for weeks or months. These include the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic shut down many businesses and government offices, which means pending divorce applications would have to wait. It also implies that the waiting time is longer.
Right now, the courts are back in business. But they are more likely to tackle criminal cases first than civil ones. And if they do deal with the latter, they might begin with the more complex situations.
Fortunately, former partners and their divorce lawyers can explore many ways to speed up the process:
1. Zoom Trials
Zoom trials are fast-paced, virtual hearings. They use technology to allow the parties and lawyers to appear before a judge without leaving their homes.
This is an excellent option for couples who have already agreed on the critical issues in their divorce. It can also save them money since the lawyers only have to appear in Zoom hearings.
But it’s not a good option if the couple needs extensive discussions. They might find it easier to make concessions to each other than negotiating over the phone or videoconference.
2. Private Judges
Two or more judges handle divorce proceedings to speed up the process in some courts. If your case is assigned to one of these judges, you can expect a quick resolution.
But this option is not available in all states. And it’s more expensive than the traditional route.
3. Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce is a relatively new process where both parties and lawyers agree on an amicable settlement.
What happens in a collaborative divorce? The parties and their lawyers meet in a process called “four-way meetings.” These meetings can take place in the lawyers’ offices, the homes of the spouses, or neutral locations.
The attorneys cannot file for divorce until all four participants agree on a settlement. But the parties will ask for this method since it helps them avoid some of the stress and expense associated with divorce proceedings. More importantly, their lawyers will recommend this option to ensure that the agreements are legally valid.
Mediation is another cheaper process where parties sit down with a neutral third party to negotiate a settlement. This process is often used in family law because it helps maintain relationships even after the divorce.
The mediator does not take sides and will help the parties develop a resolution that works for them. In most cases, mediation is cheaper than litigation, even if lawyers have to attend some meetings.
In a disagreement between former partners, they can choose arbitration or trial. Both options are more expensive than mediating, but they allow one party to push for a favorable resolution on specific issues.
Arbitration is the least expensive option compared with mediation. But it tends to take longer since there are fewer constraints on each party’s presentation of evidence and testimonies.
In most cases, arbitration is an excellent option if one party wishes to contest issues such as assigning custody or division of property.
6. Summary Judgment
If both parties have agreed on all the terms of their divorce, they can file for summary judgment. The court will review the evidence and issue an order if legally sound.
Summary judgment is usually faster than litigation because you’re filing a motion with the court, not initiating a lawsuit that requires discovery and trial.
7. Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce means that both parties have settled all issues. It’s the simplest type of divorce.
In an uncontested divorce, each party will hire a lawyer who drafts a settlement agreement based on the terms agreed upon by the former partners.
The lawyers will then file a divorce petition on behalf of their clients. A judge will review the agreement and issue an order if legally sound.
Based on the points above, couples have a higher chance of speeding up their divorce by:
- Working Together: Cooperation is the best strategy. Working together will take a lot of stress from the entire process, making it easier to settle. This also means each party should not make unreasonable demands or decisions that can delay or derail your divorce.
- Using Technology: Spouses who know how to use the internet and computers will benefit during negotiations. Lawyers can file petitions online together with all supporting documents. In some courts, spouses can even submit agreements without submitting them in person.
- Avoiding Dealing with the Court as Much as Possible: If spouses can settle matters independently, they should avoid court proceedings. Otherwise, they can strive to agree on as many aspects as possible. This way, the court has to hear and settle only a few.