For many people, the word “divorce” is synonymous with bitter fighting over asset distribution and child custody rights in open court. Fortunately, that’s not the only type of divorce you could have.
All 50 states now have no fault divorce. Started in California in 1970, this policy allows parties to divorce without the legal battle of blaming one side for the divorce. It reduces conflict and allows parties to dissolve their marriage more peacefully, which is particularly important when there are kids involved.
There are 7 different types of divorces that might be best for your family depending on your unique circumstances. In this post, we review the pros and cons of the different types of divorces.
#1: Traditional litigation / Contested divorce
This is a process where the two sides each hire an attorney to represent them. The lawyers present their arguments to the court who then rules in favor of one of the parties. This type of divorce starts off in an adversarial position and stays that way as each side tries to convince the judge that their side is the best. It can be long and involved and expensive and it tends to escalate tension and conflict between the parties. The judge is the decision maker in this process, not the couple.
Still, this may be the best type of divorce if one of the divorcing parties is being unreasonable, or has serious mental health or substance abuse issues.
#2: Pro Se divorce (Sometimes referred to as an Uncontested Divorce)
In a Pro Se divorce, both partners represent themselves in the courts as they attempt to reach a mutual agreement for their divorce. This requires trust and commitment on both sides. Partners have to reach an agreement on all of the issues involved including money, children/custody, parenting, etc. Since both partners might not know their legal rights, it might be a good idea to consult with an attorney to learn your rights or to have the attorney review your agreement before you sign off on it.
#3: Cooperative divorce
In this type of divorce, each spouse hires their own attorney, but selects the type of an attorney who will use compromise tactics to avoid litigation and to foster a peaceful resolution to the issues at hand. This can be a great alternative especially if there are complex financial issues or assets. You do have to be able to find attorneys that specialize in this type of divorce since the main goal to reach a mutually agreeable divorce decree.
In a mediated divorce, an impartial professional helps the couple come to a mutually acceptable agreement. This can be very effective and cuts costs. This type of divorce works best if there are some unresolved issues that have not escalated to a point where a judge and formal courtroom need to be involved. The mediator’s role is to help facilitate a resolution, not to make a decision for the couple.
In this type of divorce, both parties agree to hire a judge to hear their opposing views. The judge enters a ruling for one party or the other based on the facts presented. The judge’s ruling is official. In this model, the couple have chosen to give up their right to come to a resolution on their own. This type can also be cheaper than the traditional (i.e., contested) divorce type.
#6: Collaborative divorce
In this type of divorce, a team of professionals, working with the couple, come up with a fair resolution for everyone. The team often includes the two soon-to-be-divorced spouses, their 2 attorneys, and 2 neutral professionals (a mental health expert and a financial expert). Often this team will meet several times to help the couple come to an agreement. It can be expensive, however, since you are paying for 4 professionals instead of one or two.
This type of divorce has a great success rate (>85%), and particularly works well when children are involved. One reason it is so successful is that both attorneys agree to disqualify themselves from the case if things cannot be worked out in a timely fashion. Incentives are aligned for everyone involved to reach a resolution quickly.
#7: DIY divorce, often using an online service
Using an online service such as Wevorce to complete and file the necessary divorce forms for your state has become increasingly popular.
Using an online service can be much faster and less expensive than other divorce types. It also gives you scheduling flexibility as the tasks can be completed outside of traditional business hours.
It is not appropriate in cases where there are complex issues or disagreements involving assets or child custody. In those cases, you may still have to go to court if the judge wants to hear about these issues.