Depending on your location, you may find that there are many ways to divorce. The differences between various types of divorce may lie in the letter of the law, i.e. fault or no-fault divorce; or they may simply lie in the way the parties approach the process, i.e. contested, uncontested, or default. Here, we describe different types of divorce in basic terms.
As its name suggests, collaborative divorce is a type of divorce in which cooperation happens. Both spouses hire divorce lawyers who have the training needed to work together, and who agree up-front to make an attempt to settle your case. While collaborative divorce involves a separate lawyer for each party, the goal is negotiation and settlement, not argument. One way collaborative divorce is different from other types of divorce is that you and your spouse agree that if your divorce doesn’t come to a successful settlement via the collaborative process, your original attorneys will be withdrawn from the case and each of you will hire different divorce attorneys to take your case to trial for you.
A mediated divorce involves a neutral third party or “mediator” who works with both parties to attempt to resolve all of the necessary issues surrounding divorce. The mediator doesn’t make decisions at all; he or she facilitates communication between spouses until an agreement has been reached. You may or may not need legal assistance after the mediation process, and if you can come to an agreement easily and file an uncontested or no-fault divorce, you may ultimately save money and have more assets to share once the divorce has been finalized.
Fault / No-Fault Divorce
Fault and no-fault divorces are among the oldest types of divorce; however, they are not available everywhere. In a fault divorce, one party has to prove that the other is at fault for causing the breakdown of marriage. In a no-fault divorce, no one is to blame. Instead, you tell the court that you have irreconcilable differences with your spouse, or that your marriage has suffered an irremediable breakdown. If seeking a fault divorce, legal counsel is almost certainly a necessity. In a no-fault divorce situation, you may or may not need help from a lawyer.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties are able to come to an agreement concerning the terms of the divorce, either with or without help from lawyers. Court documents are filed cooperatively, there’s no formal trial, and it’s unlikely that you’ll even have to go to court. Unlike most other types of divorce, an uncontested divorce can be simple, uncomplicated, and less costly to both parties. Because there’s less arguing (or the arguing takes place before the divorce proceedings begin) court costs are likely to be low, leaving more assets for the spouses to share once their divorce has been finalized. An uncontested divorce is a good choice for anyone who has the ability to put aside differences for a while in the name of ending the marriage with as many assets remaining as possible. Of course, both spouses have to be on board to make an uncontested divorce work.
A contested divorce is one that happens when spouses argue incessantly over issues such as property, money, or child custody. Because they can’t come to an agreement, it’s up to a judge to decide what the terms of the divorce will be. A contested divorce is typically costly, due to the need for lawyers, multiple court sessions, settlement negotiations, and maybe even a civil trial. If this sounds like the type of situation you are in, you will need to turn to a lawyer for counsel. It’s not practical to attempt a contested divorce without professional counsel.
Summary divorce is an expedited divorce procedure that’s available in some areas. It is usually an option for couples who have been married five years or less, don’t have children, and have neither a lot of property nor a lot of joint debt. In order to get a summary divorce, both spouses need to be in agreement. Court papers must be filed jointly, and a few simple forms are normally all that’s required. Summary divorces are typically filed in family court, and are often undertaken without any help from a lawyer. As divorces go, these are among the least costly. If your marriage feels like a mistake to both of you and you’re willing to go your separate ways amicably, a summary divorce may be better than other types of divorce.
In a simplified divorce, there’s no fault or contest between spouses. In the absence of conflict, these divorces are typically quick and inexpensive, sometimes being granted within as little as 30 days of filing. Simplified divorce may or may not be available in your location. If you have few assets, little debt, and no concerns over child visitation, child support, or other issues concerning children, a simplified divorce may be best for you.
Limited divorce is one of the rarest types of divorce. Limited divorces have more in common with legal separation than with divorce as most people view it. Couples who have serious financial issues to settle, lots of disagreement over children, or vast differences over money and other assets sometimes choose limited divorce as an avenue to get more time to come to an agreement about all the details. Limited divorces are not an option in some areas, and due to all the legal work that needs to take place, they can be among the most costly to settle.
No matter how you look at it, divorce has the potential to be time consuming, expensive, and emotionally painful. The most important variable for all types of divorce is how well you are able to lay aside grief, anger, and other stumbling blocks that could get in the way of reasonable cooperation on big, important issues such as child custody and property settlement.