The decision to divorce is never an easy one. The divorce process is especially hard if there are children in the picture. There are a lot of emotions and issues to work through. The best thing to do is to prepare for what follows. Each divorce is as unique as every couple. Only you know what is the right choice for you. You and your spouse should learn and talk about the different types of divorce. Then choose which method best fits your situation.
5 Types of Divorce
There are five main types of divorce in the U.S. They are Do-It-Yourself, Mediation, Collaborative, Lawyer-Led Negotiation and Arbitration. Let’s explore each in detail to help you make an informed choice.
DIY (Do-It-Yourself) divorce is possible if your case has low complexity. For example, a couple hasn’t been married for very long. They don’t have any children and very few marital assets. DIY divorce involves just you and your spouse with no outside influences. You work together to form an agreement and draft the paperwork. Then you file the divorce with the courts.
You have a high level of control over your settlement in a DIY divorce process. The cost is low, about $300 to $1,500 in fees. It only takes a few weeks to months to complete. For DIY to be successful, there must be trust between spouses. You’ll need to compromise and keep everyone’s best interests in mind.
The downside to this type of divorce is that mistakes are possible. You may lack the knowledge needed about divorce and financial issues. You might not understand divorce and family law issues. Things may be left out of the agreement. It might not be as thorough as it should be. If there is a power imbalance between the spouses, you may end up giving in to simply get the divorce done.
Divorce Mediation: An Alternative Dispute Resolution
Divorce mediation is a cooperative option used to avoid litigation. It’s a great method for couples who are able to work together. Mediation involves you, your spouse and a neutral third-party mediator. This person doesn’t need to be a lawyer. They should be trained and experienced in the mediation process. It’s also a benefit if they have expert financial knowledge. This is the option to choose if you are reluctant to have lawyers involved.
The mediator helps you to identify and understand what issues to address. They guide negotiations about child custody and child support. What’s in the child’s best interest is kept at the front of negotiations. They help you to agree on alimony and the division of property and debt as well. Their job is to act as a peacemaker. They bring options to the table to resolve conflicts. Mediators empower you to make your own choices. Their goal is to help a couple reach an agreement that is fair to both spouses. They will draft all the paperwork for you.
Divorce mediation can save you time and money. It keeps the peace between parties and keeps you out of court. It is a faster method, taking anywhere from 2 to 6 months. The cost is $5,000 to $9,000 with outcomes that you have the most control over. There are no lawyers and judges deciding your choices for you.
However, for mediation to work, both spouses need to be transparent and willing to cooperate. You’ll both need to compromise on some things. If a spouse is dishonest, aggressive or uncooperative, then mediation won’t work for you. The next best option would be collaborative divorce.
When mediation doesn’t work, collaborative divorce is the next step. It’s another way to try to avoid litigation. Also known as collaborative law process, it’s a mix between mediation and traditional divorce.
Each party hires their own divorce attorney that’s trained in collaborative family law. The attorney provides legal advice and advocates for you. Before you meet to negotiate, each party must sign a contract. This participation agreement is to commit to the collaborative divorce process. When you sign it, you agree to not use combative tactics.
A collaborative divorce takes 8 to 14 months to complete depending on various factors. It can cost about $25,000 to $50,000. If no agreement is reached, both lawyers must be dismissed. New lawyers are hired, and the case moves to litigation in family court. This can add another $78,000 to $200,000 in cost. Due to the higher risks and costs, collaborative divorce should be used only when mediation fails.
Team Members and Roles
Think of it as a collaborative divorce team. Your lawyer is on your team to go to bat for you. Other collaborative professionals will be in your meetings too. There are therapists, coaches and mediators to help through disputes and possible mental health issues. Ending a marriage is an extremely stressful event at times. Child custody specialists can be called in to lend advice on what is best for the children. Financial experts are involved when there are many marital assets to divide. Even realtors can join to team to aid in property and housing advice. Collaborative divorce is a good choice if you need the support of others on your side.
If there is animosity between parties, collaborative practice may not work. Lawyer-led negotiation is needed. Lawyers go back and forth to negotiate a deal between you and your spouse. They act as a buffer and provide legal advice.
Communication happens by phone, email and mail, sometimes in person. Your family law attorney will share it all with you so you stay informed. These lawyers often begin the process of settlement. They hope to reach a successful deal, move into mediation and finalize the divorce. Costly legal battles in court can be avoided. The rate for a divorce lawyer ranges from $200 to $500 per hour. Most lawyers also require a starting retainer fee of $3,500 or more.
Going to Trial
If issues can’t be resolved easily, the divorce process drags on. It quickly gets ugly and heads towards litigation. A litigated divorce takes 18 months to 3 years to complete. This greatly increases costs to you both. The average cost for litigation ranges from $78,000 to $200,00. Litigation can damage whatever relationship is left between spouses too. This can negatively affect your ability to co-parent in the future.
It is also a matter of public record. If your divorce case goes to trial, anyone can be in the courtroom and hear everything. Family law isn’t always as clear as you think. You have less control over your settlement. You may not like the judge’s ruling. Litigation is best used only when there are no other viable options. If you want to keep things more private, collaborative divorce is a better choice. It takes less time and costs less as well.
Another way to try to avoid a trial is arbitration. Similar to mediation, it’s an alternative dispute resolution. Arbitrators are a neutral third-party. They act very similar to how a judge would in court. They consider all the evidence presented and give their opinions. Decisions are made by the majority vote of all arbitrators involved. It’s is a lawfully binding process that moves more quickly than a trial. Be aware though that the final judgement can’t be appealed. It is final and binding. This type of legal separation is best used when parties are able to reach agreement on most issues.
Reaching a Financially Smart Agreement
Try to choose the best, and most cost-efficient, type of legal seperation for your situation. Realize you could start one process and end up in another if things don’t go well. For example, when mediation fails, it leads to collaborative divorce. Financial experts can join your team to help you get the best agreement. They will know the ins and outs of all finance issues divorcing couples need to address. Your lawyer will be your advocate and help you find the pros you need. Seek out a consultation with an experienced, Tampa Denmon & Pearlman divorce attorney today.