The reality is that nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. With that in mind, many of us will eventually have to grapple with the basics of divorce law. Here’s a primer to get you started.
Every State Is Different
The most important thing you need to know is that every state has a different approach to divorce. It’s important to read up on the laws in your state before taking any action.
Four Types of Divorce
Generally speaking, there are four basic types of divorce that involve increasing costs and legal intervention.
- Uncontested: The cheapest and fastest type of divorce where both parties agree on all terms without involving third parties in the negotiations.
- Collaborative: In this type of divorce, the spouses each bring in a collaborative lawyer to negotiate the terms of the split.
- Mediation: In mediation, a neutral third party is brought in to hear both sides and help you reach a fair agreement.
- Contested: If an agreement cannot be reached, then a contested divorce is needed. This will take place in court, and both spouses will need to hire lawyers to represent them.
There Are No Winners
No matter how acrimonious the end of your marriage might be, approaching divorce court with the mindset that you need to “win” against your soon-to-be-former spouse is a reductive mindset.
Your best possible option is to work together to find an equitable solution. You’re unlikely to get everything you want in a court battle–and you just might lose more than you expected.
Your Divorce Is Unique
When you announce your intention to divorce, plenty of people will have an opinion. In fact, you may end up buried under well-meaning but unsolicited advice.
However, unless your friends and family are lawyers who specialize in divorce law, their opinions aren’t very helpful.
Instead of turning to advice and anecdotes from laypeople, stick with your lawyers. They know a lot more about how to navigate divorce court than your aunt who swears you can get more alimony by doing what she did 30 years ago.
Avoid Court If Possible
Not every divorce needs to be negotiated in court. In fact, most of them aren’t.
Instead, couples in the midst of a split can work with a mediator to work out an agreement. Alternately, you can hire collaborative attorneys that can help resolve any disputes legally without needing to go to court.
You should at least consult with a lawyer and a financial advisor before filing paperwork (or signing anything).
While you will have to spend money to hire these professionals, there’s a magnitude of difference between dealing with the dissolution of your marriage in court versus out of it.