by Daren Givoque, CDFA
There are many decisions that need to be made once a couple has decided to end their relationship. Contrary to popular belief, there are several options to choose from for couples that want to stay out of court and resolve things as smoothly and cost-effectively as possible. Here are a few of the available options for divorce processes and some tips about how to decide which one would work best for you.
An uncontested divorce works best when both parties are getting along and generally want the best for each other. This process relies on both spouses working together to agree on the terms of the divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both parties file separate paperwork with the court before amicably parting ways. Because things like division of assets and child support are decided on at the outset, there is no need for hearings, settlement negotiations, or other court procedures. If things are amicable, an uncontested divorce is a great option, because it allows the couple to end things congenially and with dignity.
Hiring a mediator is a good option when both parties are frustrated and hurt, but are still willing to work together to reach a settlement and stay out of court. A mediator will act as a neutral third party and listen to both sides of the story. They facilitate communication between the two spouses, so they can reach an agreement that can be used by a judge to craft the final divorce judgement.
Also known as collaborative law or collaborative practice, collaborative divorce is a good option when both parties are having a hard time communicating, but feel that they may be able to come to an agreement out of court with some help. It is like mediation or arbitration, but, instead of using a neutral third party, each person retains their own lawyer who specializes in collaborative law. Before starting the process, both parties sign a document stating that they will work together to come to an agreement. If this fails, both attorneys withdraw from the case and the process starts at square one. This is often an incentive for spouses to work together to make collaborative practice work.
This is the conventional “heated” divorce process, which involves each party retaining their own legal counsel and having more contentious issues worked out in court. This is the only option for spouses who are not amicable and are unable to work together to reach a settlement. The formal process involves hearings, settlement negotiations, and even a trial in some cases. This form of divorce may also be necessary when both spouses have a high net worth, considerable assets and liabilities, and a lot at stake in the proceedings.
Typically, the more the couple can work together to reach a settlement, the less expensive and time-consuming the divorce will be. Sometimes, a couple will go through several of these processes before they find the one that will work for them. It is not uncommon for an uncontested divorce to go sour during negotiations and need more intervention than first anticipated.
When going through a divorce, knowing your options is key so you can choose the divorce process that will work best for your situation.