Gone are days when you just file something with the court and see what happens!
Is there one way to get divorced? Absolutely not. Most attorneys sell a “one size fits all” solution to anyone that needs to divorce their spouse. That is a serious disservice to the client. Divorce should be tailored to the specific needs of the client and their family. So, what are the paths you can take to get divorced?
You can go the traditional litigation route and file a complaint/petition for divorce with the court. The benefit is that the marriage, for most purposes, is over. However, you have entered the court system. Once you are in the court system, you must follow those rules, including mandatory filing of documents and court appearances. These cost money and time. However, if your spouse refuses to engage in reasonable settlement dialogue or if there is a serious issue that must be addressed by a judge, you may not have a choice but to take this route. In most cases, it really should not be your first option.
You can go the modified litigation route. Most good settlement minded divorce attorneys will try to settle cases prior to anything being filed with the court. If you can stay out of traditional litigation, you will likely save thousands in counsel fees. This route involves having an attorney try to settle your case without ever stepping foot in a courtroom, except for maybe the day you are divorced. A settlement proposal can be sent to your spouse, with or without some limited exchange of information and documentation. The benefits of this approach from a financial perspective cannot be overstated, although it does require two parties that want to settle.
You can go the mediation route. This is where you and your spouse agree to go mediation, either with or without attorneys, to find a resolution to your divorce. Mediators are trained to find ways to bridge gaps in the positions of the parties and find something that both parties will find acceptable. We always recommend that you use an experienced divorce attorney who is also a mediator, as that will ensure you reach a full agreement and do not miss anything of importance during your discussions. We will have more about mediation in our blog next week.
You can go the arbitration route. This is where you and your spouse agree to a formal process where you present your dispute to an attorney or retired judge who will make a binding decision on all your issues. You get to set the ground rules and often get a speedy resolution, but you have to pay the arbitrator to conduct the proceedings, which can get costly. Once the arbitrator makes a decision about things like custody, support, and division of assets, you typically have very limited rights to an appeal. Still, this is a great option for people who cannot find a way to settle, want to avoid the court process, or have reasons a judge cannot get involved in their life, like a tax problem.
Finally, you can go the consulting route. Broadly speaking, this is where you work out a settlement with your spouse largely without an attorney. However, you use an attorney to give you valuable advice in your discussions with your spouse. At some point, you might need an attorney to draft legal documents to get you divorced, but you can do most of the negotiation on your own and save on legal fees.
Therefore, do not let anyone tell you that there is only one way to get divorced! We can help you decide which route is best for you and your goals. Once you decide which direction to go, we can help you find the best attorney for you. To talk to us about your situation and whether divorce coaching can help you have a better divorce, book a discovery call today.