Ask the average American about how marriages are ended in this country and visions of “Divorce Court,” “War of the Roses,” “Kramer versus Kramer” (for us older folks), and other scenes of matrimonial warfare immediately will come to mind.
Here’s the real story: Most divorce cases are settled; only a small minority go to trial. That means that most couples facing divorce have multiple options for obtaining a divorce, some of which are focused on their futures rather than on arguments over who did what to whom during the marriage.
Here is a quick primer on some ways you can get divorced short of trial:
1. “Kitchen Table” Divorce
For couples with simple assets (house, household goods, cars, bank accounts) and no kids, a “kitchen table” divorce may be a good option. Couples who are ready to split but can peacefully discuss how they want to divide their “stuff” can often work things out themselves and then either represent themselves in court or have one or both spouses hire lawyers to review their agreements, draft the necessary legal documents, and file them with the court. If they use a lawyer, no court appearance is usually necessary, and legal fees can be kept to a minimum.
Couples who need more assistance in working through their divorce issues may opt for mediation, a process in which a trained, impartial third party works with the couple to help them gather the necessary information and negotiate the terms of their divorce, including devising a parenting plan. The mediator applies a problem-solving approach focused on the family’s future rather than on determining who is “right” or “wrong.” The mediator can’t provide legal advice but can provide legal information to assist the spouses. Each spouse can have their own lawyer advise them through the process, review the final agreements, and prepare the legal documents for filing.
3. Collaborative Divorce
Similar to mediation in its underlying problem-solving philosophy, a collaborative divorce process will typically include a team of professionals to assist the couple: a lawyer for each spouse, a mental health professional, a financial professional, and, frequently, a child specialist. Other than the lawyers, each of whom represents their client’s interest, the team members impartially support the problem-solving process. All professional team members receive specialized training. (For more information, see: What is a Collaborative Divorce? | PCB Law Firm)
4. Lawyer-Assisted Negotiation
The most common way for divorce to be resolved is through negotiations between the spouses’ lawyers. This may happen through exchanges of written proposals, face-to-face meetings with or without the clients present, and even sometimes in the courthouse on the day a case has been set for trial. If agreements are reached, they are reduced to writing and submitted to the judge for approval.
Every marriage is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A conversation with a Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal family law attorney can get you on the road to determining which path to divorce is best for you.