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What are the Alternatives to Divorce Court?

Contrary to popular perception, courtrooms and confrontation aren’t mandatory for divorce. If you’re in the process of ending your marriage, you have alternatives to pursuing your divorce in divorce court.

Of course, not all legal options for divorce are the same. Each approach provides a unique path to resolving divorce-related issues. Before you move forward, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each one. An experienced family law attorney can help you choose the option that best fits your family’s unique needs and situation. 

Why use an alternative to divorce court?

There are several reasons why you might consider using an alternative to traditional divorce court in New Jersey. Legal alternatives to divorce court are often more affordable, private, and collaborative than traditional divorce. They also offer more control over the outcome of your settlement, compared to leaving major decisions up to the judge. 

Types of alternatives

There are three main alternatives to divorce court in New Jersey:

Both parties work with a shared team of professionals, as well as individual lawyers, to reach agreements about child custody, alimony, and other issues in a non-confrontational way.

A neutral third party facilitates negotiations between spouses in order to come to an agreement that works for everyone.

An impartial third party, called an arbitrator, hears evidence and renders a binding decision.

Each of these alternatives has pros and cons, which means that one may be better suited to your situation than another. Consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer to review all of your options can be helpful in making a decision you feel comfortable with. 

Collaborative divorce    

When you and your spouse undertake a collaborative divorce, you each secure individual attorneys who are trained in collaborative law and mediation. You, your spouse, and your attorneys work alongside professionals such as financial advisors, child specialists, and mental health professionals. Together, you craft your divorce agreement outside of court before filing.  

Any written settlement agreement emerging from the collaborative divorce process is considered legally binding and admissible in court. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement, you must start the process again with new attorneys before anything can proceed. 

Collaborative divorce can be appealing to clients because it is:

Collaborative divorce allows you and your spouse to have more control over the outcome of your divorce, but it can also pose some challenges. If the process is unsuccessful, having to start it over again can be time-consuming and stressful, and increase the cost of divorce as you must secure new attorneys before resuming the divorce.  

At Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski, our matrimonial and family law team includes members who are trained in collaborative divorce and mediation. If you are wondering whether collaborative divorce is right for you, contact us to schedule your free consultation


The mediation process involves hiring a neutral third party, called a mediator, to help you and your spouse come to a mutually acceptable agreement on the terms of your divorce. The mediator’s role is to guide the conversation and ensure that everyone involved remains civil and communicates well. 

Many clients prefer mediation to traditional methods of divorce because it is:

Most appealing of all, mediation presents the opportunity to tailor the resolution to your needs and circumstances. In addition to the division of assets and other factors, you and your spouse can use these methods to resolve differences of opinion about child custody and parenting time.

However, any agreement reached in mediation will not be legally binding on its own. Your family law attorney must submit it to the court for approval to be incorporated into the final divorce judgment.

Although it’s not legally required to hire an attorney when you start divorce mediation, it’s still advisable to work with legal counsel throughout the process. The mediator is not responsible for advocating for either person’s best interests. An attorney, on the other hand, can help you advocate for your own needs.  

Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose between a trained mediator and an experienced attorney. At Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski, our family law attorneys include knowledgeable mediators who can assist you in your divorce process. 


Arbitration involves hiring a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, to make decisions about the terms of your divorce for you. Unlike a mediator, who is also a neutral third party, the arbitrator will look at the evidence and arguments from both sides and make a legally binding ruling about your divorce settlement.

While some clients find that arbitration offers less control than other alternatives to divorce, those who find it difficult to work collaboratively with their spouse may find it favorable. Other benefits to the arbitration process may include: 

Things to consider when weighing alternatives to divorce court

There are many advantages to alternative divorce methods, but it’s prudent to consider all of the factors when determining the right solution for your needs

Alternatives to divorce may not be as thorough or offer the same legal protections as traditional divorce proceedings held in a courtroom. For example, in both collaborative divorce and mediation, all financial information is shared voluntarily. This includes income, assets, and debts. If one partner has been in charge of the “purse strings” in the marriage, they could decide to leave out important details, putting the other partner at a disadvantage in negotiations. In a divorce trial, on the other hand, the court can require each party to reveal certain financial information.

In addition, fair negotiations may not be possible if there is a significant power imbalance between spouses due to domestic violence.

Budgetary concerns are also worth considering. If a resolution is not reached during mediation or collaborative divorce, traditional divorce proceedings (and the expense that comes with them) may still be necessary.

Filing for divorce? Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski is here to help 

No matter which approach you choose for your divorce, it’s essential to work with an attorney for the best chance possible of a fair settlement. The family law attorneys at Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski are well-versed in both traditional and alternative methods of divorce and will advocate for your best interests when it comes to the distribution of assets, financial support, parenting time arrangements, and more.

Our skilled and caring team will give you the help and advice you need to navigate the divorce process and achieve the best outcome for you and your family.

If you are considering divorce and are unsure whether seeking an alternative to divorce court is the right choice, schedule your free consultation with Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski to learn more about your options.

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