You don’t want to drag your spouse and your children through a court case. Your spouse agrees. Both of you want to get divorced, ending your 10-year marriage, but you want it to be simple and easy for all involved.

One option may be Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR. It can largely keep the case out of the courts, allowing you to reach an agreement on your own.

This agreement does typically have to get signed off on by the court when you’re done. This is to keep it from including something illegal or avoiding necessary provisions — such as paying child support. However, that can usually get done at the end and you can work with your legal team to ensure that your agreement will hold up before you submit it.

What is the degree of dispute?

There are two important questions to ask when deciding if ADR is right for you, and the first revolves around the degree of dispute. Are you both fairly close on contentious issues, or is there still a wide gap? If you’re close, ADR can work, but a wide gap can pose problems.

For instance, perhaps you want sole custody of your kids. Your spouse also wants sole custody. That’s a massive gap, and sole custody is typically granted by the court when there’s a solid reason the other parent should not be around the kids — like a history of abuse. It’s not granted as often as it once was, with courts now leaning toward joint custody.

If you already want joint custody, though, and you’re thinking of just moving the kids back and forth every other week, you’re on the same page. That’s an agreeable solution and there’s virtually no difference of opinion. You may just use ADR to hammer out the details.

How willing are you to work together?

If you’re considering ADR at all, you’re likely interested in working together to reach a solution that is best for you and the kids. However, those who are only interested in ADR to stay out of the courts, but who do not want to work closely with each other, won’t find it an ideal fit.

Remember, this process is all about cooperation. It’s often used by couples who mutually want to get divorced or who, at least, remain on good terms. Their focus is often on finding a fair resolution that puts the kids first. If you and your spouse feel angry and can’t stand to cooperate, that’s when the court may need to step in.

Exploring your options

If you thought that going to court was your only option, you can see that others do exist. Be sure you understand how they work and the benefits they may hold.