You have made the decision to divorce. Now you need to determine how to get a divorce. How will you make all these important decisions with your spouse when they may be hard to talk to?
Tips on How To Get a Divorce
There are five main paths you can consider during the divorce process, as described below. If you and your spouse are in agreement, you can choose the way that best fits your situation. If you are not in agreement, one of you must file a petition for divorce. You will probably each hire attorneys to represent you (litigation).
If you don’t have children, substantial assets or debts, and won’t be discussing spousal support, then you may consider self-filing. You and your spouse would complete, sign, and file the forms to Co-Petition for Dissolution. You can obtain the packet of the required forms at the courthouse clerk’s office in your County. You can also get forms online in some counties that have clear directions for self-filing.
If your divorce is more complex (involving children, a home, spousal support, etc.) you can still self-file. However, you can expose yourself to more legal, financial, and tax risks if you file without professional support.
2. Divorce Mediation
A divorce mediator works with both of you to guide you through understanding, negotiating, and making decisions for all issues related to divorce. The mediator writes a detailed agreement which is then filed with the court and becomes your legal divorce settlement agreement.
You may experience many benefits of mediation, including lower cost, time, and conflict. Mediation does not require you to be on good terms with your spouse. Mediators have many problem-solving and conflict resolution tools to keep you productively moving towards settlement.
Mediation is not appropriate in situations that contain domestic violence, or in which either of the parties does not have the mental capacity to make decisions.
3. Collaborative Divorce
In a collaborative divorce you each hire an attorney that has been trained in collaborative techniques. This format helps you both arrive at a healthy, respectful settlement, as opposed to the aggressive adversarial approach of many traditionally-trained family law attorneys.
Collaborative divorce attorneys often work with other neutral specialists (including divorce coaches, a child counselor, and a financial advisor) as a part of a team approach. The divorce team then communicates with each other to help you reach a settlement that is best for the entire family.
4. Divorce Arbitration
If you mutually agree to hire a private arbitrator, you will each present your case and settlement proposals to the arbitrator. The arbitrator hears the facts and makes a decision on the disputed issues in the case. Arbitrators are usually highly experienced family law attorneys or retired family court judges.
You can represent yourself, but most people hire an attorney to represent them. With binding arbitration, you both sign a contract to accept whatever the arbitrator decides with your case. Binding arbitration operates much like a litigated trial, with less cost and formality because the person acting as a “judge” is privately hired by the spouses. You can also use “non-binding arbitration” that doesn’t require you to abide by the arbitrators’ decisions.
5. Divorce Litigation
In the traditional litigated approach, you would hire a divorce lawyer to file a Petition for Dissolution against your spouse. Once they are “served” with legal notice, your spouse’s lawyer files a counter-petition which responds to and contests the divorce. From this point forward, your attorneys negotiate with each other. Each attorney advocates for their clients best outcome while discouraging any direct communication between the spouses.
Approximately 80-90% of family law cases in the litigation process settle before a trial. Your attorneys will usually pressure each of you to compromise on some issues as the trial date gets closer. Cases that do not settle ahead of time are “tried” by a family court judge (not a jury). During the trial, each attorney presents the case to the judge through the testimony of witnesses (including the spouses) and supporting documents (exhibits). The most conflicted and expensive divorce litigation involves conflict around child custody and includes custody evaluations by family therapists.
All Ways are Not Equal
You may recognize significant differences in these five paths. The five options presented in this article are on a continuum regarding several factors. Beginning with number one, as you move down the list you will experience greater cost, conflict, and time in the process. You will also experience less options, control, and input over the outcome of your case.
This article is an abbreviated version from How to Get a Divorce in Oregon.