Some people still imagine divorces as nasty TV courtroom dramas fought in front of a judge looking down on everyone with gavel in hand. They show families torn apart, but the judge’s decision looks final.

Today’s reality is usually quite different. Like many states, ours officially recognizes the less stressful and expensive ways for couples to decide together how they want to move forward after their marriage.

State courts encourage mediation wherever possible

You can certainly rely on the word of the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. Late last year, he personally wrote the introduction to the “Mediation Guide for Colorado Courts,” posted by our court system.

The Guide is for state court officials. About divorce and child custody, the Guide warns that complex, impersonal court proceedings usually only worsen the anxiety and sadness people often feel about these cases.

Because the court often “has little, if any, neutral information about the family,” fights and confusion are likely to follow unilateral decisions, the Guide says. “These cases are highly suited to mediation.”

The earlier the better, Colorado says

The guide has an urgent message about mediation, and it is to start couples on a path toward mediation as soon as possible:

The need to get parties on a dispute resolution track as quickly as possible cannot be over-emphasized: ongoing conflict can be very expensive for the parties, and can be endangering to the children.

In fact, this is yet another reason to favor mediation. Waiting to move on to the next phase can be painful for everyone in the family. And there can be long waits to get onto the schedule of court officials, especially judges.

Mediation can generally begin much sooner, making for a faster and more relaxed as well as binding and enforceable process.