5 Ways to Get Divorced
While divorce is never an anticipated outcome when couples join together in marriage, it continues to be a likely outcome. In the US, a recent breakdown of divorce statistics remains sobering:
- 41% of first marriages end in divorce
- 60% of second marriages end in divorce
- 73% of third marriages end in divorce
Couples who are ending their marital relationship will most commonly find themselves focused upon three major concerns: the children, the property, and the financial/maintenance needs of each spouse. As with any important life-changing decision, knowledge and understanding are imperative, particularly when such family decisions affect others– especially children.
As you will learn, the cost– both financially and emotionally –can vary greatly depending upon which approach a couple chooses. Yet, it’s quite common for couples to not know there are multiple ways to effectuate a divorce. And not all of these options require outrageously expensive lawyers billing lengthy hours in legal fees.
In addition, the time frame for a divorce completion can vary greatly as well. Some couples can achieve a marital dissolution in a matter of months, while other couples can remain in contention for years.
By becoming fully informed about divorce proceedings and making informed choices based on personal needs, couples can more efficiently advance toward marital dissolution.
There are five options available to end a marriage. In this article, I will discuss each option as well as the benefits and drawbacks to each.
1. The Pro Se Divorce
Pro Se Divorce is the most efficient and cost-effective way to gain a divorce. In these instances, children are typically not a factor and large property holdings are essentially non-existent. Think of this option as a do-it-yourself style of martial dissolution.
Yet, by the time clients make an appointment to see me, most of them have children and property holdings at stake. This scenario usually precludes the Pro Se Divorce option, as there is a need for more and there are more determining factors that require attention.
For those couples, the Non-contested Divorce is the next least abrasive method for the dissolution of a marriage.
2. The Non-contested Divorce
For this option, couples must be capable of civility and information sharing. Therefore, trust is still operative in the relationship. When taking the Non-contested option, both spouses are resigned to moving forward separately but cooperatively through a low-conflict relationship. In doing so, these couples are capable of determining for themselves the division of assets, the allocation of debts, the financial needs for each household, and the necessary arrangements for child support and custody.
The silver lining of a Non-Contested Divorce is that couples are capable of remaining reasonable in the present and cooperative in anticipating the future. In this case, one spouse hires an attorney to facilitate the paperwork and attend to the proper court filings. With only one lawyer required, the cost is immediately reduced in the proceedings and time is also saved. Although, because attorneys can only represent one client in a divorce proceeding of this nature, only one spouse will have direct access to the attorney’s advice and directives.
This is why trust and open communication between spouses are paramount for Non-contested Divorce to work. Both parties will review the necessary paperwork and provide the necessary signage for a divorce decree, but neither party feels the need for third party control in determining the outcome. So with this option, couples remain in control of their financial concerns and childcare issues while judges, lawyers, and the court system take on a supportive role.
The Non-Contested Divorce works best for couples who feel confident in proceeding together with a common goal of having their highest needs met and the needs of their children. In the process, time and money are saved and a new precedent is set without dredging up undue trauma. These couples are capable of exiting the divorce process with goodwill exhibited for each other and, most importantly, the well-being of their children intact.
However, other couples require more direction, assistance, and guidance in dissolving their marital union.
3. The Mediated Divorce
In a Mediated Divorce, both parties together attend sessions with a trained mediator who facilitates their decision-making. The same key marital issues are covered regarding the property, cash flow, and children. The mediator is simply a neutral third party who structures the mediation sessions, promotes communication between the parties, helps them identify and clarify marital issues, and keeps the participants moving forward toward an agreed-upon settlement. Couples still retain self-determination and control without the necessary imposition of a judge or court order.
The mediator’s role here is to focus and maintain attention on the issues at hand– not on the emotional distress that has brought couples to this point in their relationship. Additionally, legal advice is always reserved for attorneys and not the mediator. So it’s important to note that a mediator is neither a therapist nor a legal advisor for either party, but rather a trained third party who has the skills to provide a respectful forum where differences can be discussed and resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.
This is an excellent option for couples who are capable of retaining civility in the midst of decision-making and are honest in providing full disclosure of all information required. It’s not unusual for mediation to be a process of learning for both parties, as often each spouse is more knowledgable about some facets of a marital lifestyle than the other. Thus, the goals for these couples are to reach an agreement of marital dissolution that will meet the highest needs of each party and those of their children.
Through Mediated Divorce, a costly, litigated, combative divorce is avoided so money, time, and emotions and be put to better use– such as supporting the children through this transition. These couples retain self-determination in their marital dissolution and avoid the more injurious self-devastation litigated divorce proceedings can bring where multiple attorneys and the court system become involved. This style of divorce is usually a win-win solution for both parties!
At other times, however, more legal representation and involvement are necessary, which brings us to the fourth type of divorce: The Collaborative Law Divorce.
4. The Collaborative Law Divorce
In a Collaborative Law Divorce, couples still desire to resolve legal issues in a non-adversarial manner. But unlike in the three previously discussed types of divorce, each spouse is represented at the negotiating table by an attorney. So each party uses legal counsel to assure fairness in the settlement of property, cash flow, and child custody matters and must meet in unison to work through communication.
In addition to each spouse being represented by a lawyer, a Collaborative Law Divorce also often involves the assistance of a mental health professional and a certified financial planner. Therefore the couple’s divorce team is typically made up of four professionals to guide them through the marital dissolution process. This style of divorce is often pursued when one spouse feels more vulnerable or intimidated by the divorce process.
As with previous types of divorce, the goal is to avoid costly and divisive litigation while also productively working toward an agreeable settlement. Thus, each spouse must sign a contract with their respective attorney that provides full and honest disclosure of all pertinent information, financial or otherwise. This contract binds the couple to the process and legally requires full disclosure of all necessary information. The goal is to keep resolutions at a round table rather than entering the court, and to proceed toward the future with the aid of a support team.
Collaborative Law Divorce can save time, cost, and stress, avoiding the devastation of ongoing, interpersonal conflict. Fortunately for all divorcing couples, 95% of cases do not go before a judge at trial.
Yet, there are still that 5% of divorce cases who choose the most rancorous divorce of the five: The Contested Divorce.
5. The Contested Divorce
This is the longest, costliest, and most bitter option for divorce. A Contested Divorce is programmed to be destructive, fueled by anger, and intended to punish. With most couples who engage in this style of divorce, huge egos are often at play. With so much property, cash flow, and children’s considerations at stake, most people who choose this style of divorce are seemingly insistent upon control and decision-making.
Yet, by choosing warfare instead of negotiations– which the other four types of divorce encourage –couples who choose a Contested Divorce forfeit their control in the decision-making process. In this case, the couples are basically incapable of servicing their own needs and require a judge to do so for them.
This option is the most destructive and often treats children as collateral damage. When couples choose the Contested Divorce route, the process will not only be bitter and brutal but also littered with casualties along the way.
I highly recommend against this option and suggest pursuing one of the four other divorce types to more healthily negotiate marital dissolution.
In any case, the best pursuit for divorce is through negotiation and mediation. If a couple can do this without the assistance of professionals, that’s great– but also rare. So it’s better in most cases to pursue the Mediated Divorce option. The Contested Divorce option should be avoided at all costs– for the sake of the couple, the finances, and the time, and the children involved.
For assistance in navigating which divorce option best suits you and your spouse, contact the law office of Marta J Papa.