A divorce is a divorce, right? While all divorces end the same way- with a married couple going their separate ways- how they get to that point can go a number of different ways. The most common types of divorce processes are litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and a do-it-yourself divorce. Let’s explore the pros and cons of the main four divorce process types.
This is the divorce process you are most likely familiar with. Litigation is when the court gets involved in resolving issues related to the divorce. This can be anything from financial disputes to child custody. Litigation is often quite costly and time-consuming. It can also lead to resentment among the parties, as some of their dirty laundry will undoubtedly be aired. More and more couples are choosing to avoid litigation. Although, this is still a viable option for those who have exhausted every avenue and are unable to come to a resolution.
A divorce process that is becoming increasingly popular is mediation. Split.fyi is a big proponent of this process. Our Split.fyi Founders put together a quick, easy, and eye-opening explanation of litigation vs meditation. Mediation is when a couple sits down with a neutral third party (the mediator) to determine all aspects of their divorce. This includes child custody, distribution of assets and liabilities, child support, spousal maintenance, retirement accounts, and any other issues that may arise. Mediators usually cost a fraction of what an attorney does and the divorce timeline is up to the divorcing parties, not the court system. Mediation is entirely voluntary and requires a commitment from both parties to come to a desirable resolution for all involved.
A collaborative divorce is something not everyone is familiar with, but it’s a good alternative to those who have been unsuccessful with mediation, yet still don’t want to go the route of litigation. A collaborative divorce attorney has extensive collaborative law experience. Once both parties have obtained a collaborative divorce attorney, they will help assemble a team of divorce experts- which may include a divorce coach, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and child specialist- among others.
Both parties usually sign a “no court” agreement at the start of negotiations to reinforce their commitment to the process. This also allows the attorneys to withdraw from the case if things are unable to be resolved out of court and go to litigation. While a collaborative divorce attorney costs more than a mediator, they also bring experience to the case which may be necessary to resolve tougher disputes. This can end up being more cost-effective than litigation.
A do-it-yourself divorce can only be used with uncontested divorces- meaning both parties have agreed to all major issues surrounding the divorce, including the division of property, child custody, and any child support/maintenance. Rules regarding a DIY divorce vary by state. Fortunately, most of the paperwork is located on the states’ court website or at the county clerk’s office. This paperwork can be lengthy and confusing if you aren’t familiar with the divorce laws in your state. It’s a good idea for an attorney to review the completed paperwork before it’s submitted. Submitting paperwork can be a lengthy process, involving making several copies, notarization, and paying a filing fee at the county clerk’s office.
Once you submit the paperwork and the county clerk accepts it, a court date goes on the calendar. Both parties need to attend this court date. In some cases, a divorce will be granted that same day. Others need several hearings before the divorce is final. While a DIY divorce may be less expensive, it can also be lengthy and confusing, with the possibility of errors being quite high. Consulting with a divorce coach or other divorce professional before starting the process is a good idea.
Whichever process you choose, protecting yourself throughout is important. Surround yourself with divorce professionals who have your best interest at heart. Don’t be afraid to do your research and to interview several attorneys, mediators, divorce coaches, financial specialists, child specialists, and other divorce professionals before settling on the best path for you.