Just as there are multiple reasons why couples choose to seek a divorce, there are also multiple paths available to obtain the divorce. The type of divorce you choose will depend on a number of factors, including size and complexity of the estate to be divided, whether or not minor children are involved, and whether or not you and your spouse are cooperative with one another.
Of the four types of divorce, which are collaborative, litigated, mediated, and do-it-yourself, both the collaborative and litigated divorce processes require attorneys. A collaborative divorce is less expensive and allows the couple to avoid court until the end, but if the spouses aren’t on civil terms, litigation may be the only appropriate path.
If a couple want to avoid going to court, a collaborative divorce may be a good option. A cooperative effort must be made throughout the process because all parties in a collaborative divorce, including the attorneys, must sign agreements that require both lawyers to remove themselves from the case if litigation is threatened or the parties cannot reach a settlement. That means that you will have to start over completely and hire new lawyers. So, cooperation and flexibility are essential in a collaborative divorce.
In addition to an attorney experienced in handling collaborative divorces, you may want to consider hiring a therapist to help guide you through emotionally charged issues. You may also need a neutral divorce financial planner if your assets are complex.
The biggest perk about opting for a collaborative divorce is that, even though you will still need to hire an attorney (and possibly additional professionals), a collaborative divorce is most often less expensive than a litigated divorce. You can also avoid the courts for the most part. You will have to appear in court at least once to sign the divorce papers before a judge,
If there is a history of mental and/or physical violence or drug/alcohol use, or if you fear that your spouse is cheating or hiding assets, then a litigated, or traditional, divorce is the solution. Additionally, choose litigation if you cannot reach an agreement on important issues, such as child custody and support and division of assets.
Often, litigated divorces don’t end up in court, as a settlement is reached first. However, many divorces are contentious and emotion-fueled, so negotiations end up in a stalemate. When that happens, the case is moved inside the courtroom and the lawyers change from ‘negotiation’ mode to ‘win’ mode. Court should be a last resort since the judge, who knows very little about the situation, is the one who will be making life changing decisions on behalf of both parties.
Consider all of your options carefully before deciding which path to take to divorce. If you have any concerns about your spouse’s integrity or commitment to cooperation, or if you’re concerned about fair division of assets or custody, then it’s best to play it safe and opt for a traditional, litigated divorce.