While the issues that bring relationships to a close may be eternal, the process of getting a divorce does change, somewhat, over time. Fundamental changes to divorce law are rare, but we do see changes in the process of how the parties come to resolve the fundamental issues of divorce and post-divorce parenting.
Many of these changes are meant to make the divorce process less adversarial and promote an amicable path to resolution of issues such as property division, child custody, visitation, child support and alimony. They can also help divorced parents deal more effectively with the practical issues of shared parenting.
A recent article by a Minnesota family law attorney laid out some of the top trends in divorce and family law:
Postnuptial agreements: Most people have heard of prenuptial agreements, but agreements made by married couples after the wedding are gaining popularity. A postnuptial agreement, also called a separation agreement, can cover financial issues such as how property will be divided in the event of a divorce. For example, if one spouse receives a large inheritance during the marriage, a postnuptial agreement could set up in advance how or whether that inheritance would be divided if the marriage should end.
Initial case management conferences: Once the decision to divorce is made, many people are so relieved that they sometimes delay the actual process. In most situations, the earlier you get started, the better, however. Many states now require divorcing couples and their lawyers to meet with a judge within about four weeks of filing. This informal meeting, called an initial case management conference, is intended to help the parties hammer out agreement on as many issues as possible instead of setting them up to engage in a drawn-out battle where every decision is open to debate.
Earlier mediation and collaboration with neutral experts: Research has shown that the earlier in the divorce process the parties meet with neutral experts, the more likely it is they will be able to negotiate a divorce settlement agreement, which is less costly and time-consuming than divorce litigation. Mediators and other neutral experts can offer the parties candid assessments of their positions, which often helps them come to a resolution.
Web applications like OurFamilyWizard: Divorced parents still have to work together, but coordinating schedules, holidays, insurance coverage and shared expenses can be a challenge. Smart phone and web apps like OurFamilyWizard allow co-parents to keep all important information in a shared online location.
Parenting time expediters: When divorced parents come into conflict about visitation, historically there has been a dearth of options outside of taking the other parent to court for enforcement of the child custody and visitation order. This is not only expensive but also a real hassle for the adults and potentially traumatizing for kids. Many states are now appointing parenting time expeditors to handle situations that do not truly require litigation. For example, if one parent wants to schedule a vacation that would impact the other's parenting time, they could bring the issue before a parenting time expeditor for a decision.
If you're considering a divorce, going through one, or are co-parenting with your ex, consider taking advantage of these trends. They could help you resolve your issues less expensively, or even prevent disputes before they arise.
Source: The Huffington Post, "What is New in the Area of Divorce for 2011?" Minneapolis family law attorney Jonathan Fogel, February 21, 2011