Recent changes in divorce law have made it easier and less expensive for couples who agree that it is time to end their marriage.

New court rules are in place simplifying the process in family law cases for parties who can come to an agreement prior to filing for divorce. Denise Couling of Couling Law and Mediation said that many people don’t realize that when they file for divorce, they are entering into a lawsuit that is bound for trial if a settlement isn’t reached. While most cases end up not going to trial, this can still prove to be a stressful time for parties both mentally and on their pocketbooks, paying for attorneys.

Couling said that the new law, which took effect April 1st, allows divorcing parties more control over the outcome. If they can decide for themselves the issues at hand, it takes the judge deciding their fate out of the equation. This could apply to all matters from children to money to anything else that might come up in court.

If both parties can work out their details, they can file a mutual petition asking the court to enter a judgement of divorce, sparing them the expense of trial prep. They can even enter mediation before filing if there are sticking points to work out. Couling says the group Mediate First includes lawyers, mediators, court and Friend of the Court personnel, Mental Health Professionals, Financial Planners, Accountants, CPAs & Tax Experts, Real Estate Brokers, Appraisers and Judges who share a commitment to assisting individuals and couples mediate their personal, business and family law matters using mediation and other out-of-court options whenever possible. A link to their website is below.

Couling and Chief Deputy Livingston County Clerk Kristi Cox estimate in their experiences, roughly 75-80% of couple filing for divorce could take advantage of this new process.

Cox said it’s great for the court as it frees up more time for cases that need it and saves taxpayers money. Friend of the Court Conciliator Kathleen Oemke said that benefits couples with children, as research shows that when parents come together to figure out their own arrangement, they are more likely to abide by it. Cox said Livingston County Court just finished their first mediated divorce last week, and she expects to see it occurring a lot more.

Couling, Cox and Oemke will be gusts this Sunday on WHMI's Viewpoint program at 8:30am. (MK)