The path you take to navigate, negotiate and reach a settlement for your divorce will substantially affect your experience. In considering how to get a divorce, there are five primary ways: self-filing, mediation, collaborative law, arbitration, and litigation. Each of these five paths has different benefits, drawbacks, and costs involved. Yet, in deciding how to get divorced, you are not limited to these five options.
If you are like most people, your divorce involves multiple issues. You and your spouse may have different levels of agreement or conflict for each issue. Thus, the approach you take with your parenting plan can be different than the approach you use for alimony or the marital home.
Creative Options on How to Get Divorced
Variations of Self-filing
Getting a divorce in some U.S. States have the option of a quick, simplified version of self-filing. If you are getting a divorce in Oregon, this is called a Summary Dissolution. You must qualify for a Summary Dissolution, which involves having no children or real estate and few assets and debts.
If you have a spouse in denial about divorce, they may not participate or sign the paperwork to be Co-Petitioners in self-filing. However, if you are certain they will not argue your proposed settlement, you might solely file the Petition for Dissolution. Your spouse will be “served” the summons. When your spouse does not contest the petition within 30 days, you can move forward. You will then file for a Judgment by Default to finalize the divorce. Different rules may apply if your spouse is in the military.
Whether you file as a sole petitioner or co-petitioners, you can use a mediator to discuss and negotiate aspects of your agreement. Ask mediators or attorneys to provide advice about the parenting, financial, and tax decisions you are making. Also, you can obtain advice from a lawyer about your legal rights. You may want to utilize a lawyer to review the court forms for accuracy before you file.
If you do not want the hassle of completing the forms yourself, there are several paralegal services that will file the paperwork for you. Paralegals generally charge $150 to $300 for this service.
Variations of Divorce Mediation
You are making progress in divorce mediation but feel unsure what is a fair settlement. Or you have disagreements on some issues and are wondering how a judge would rule. In these cases, you can be better informed and supported if you consult with a divorce lawyer. You each bring what you learned about the predicted legal outcome back to the mediation table. With this more informed perspective, you will likely be able to reach settlement within the mediation.
You may have a tentative mediation agreement on the kids and bank accounts, but you are stuck around the house or spousal support. Then, use arbitration or hire attorneys to solely focus on negotiating and settling the stuck issues. This limits your legal costs and exposure.
Variations of Litigation
The attorneys representing and negotiating on behalf of you and your spouse reach an impasse on a certain issue. You are having mounting legal costs as the attorneys unsuccessfully attempt to reach settlement. Your attorneys may have different legal perspectives. However, the impasse is often due to the emotional charge you and your spouse have around the issue.
In these situations, you can use divorce mediation to negotiate that issue in a different way. Divorce mediators facilitate discussions about the underlying values, goals, and emotions of issues. This approach is often successful in helping you get unstuck and developing creative solutions.
Another variation of divorce litigation is one in which you use the family court to obtain a final judgment on your case without the help of attorneys. Each spouse can choose to go to a hearing and represent themselves instead of retaining legal counsel. If you want to protect your legal interests, this is usually not recommended. Representing yourself in a family court hearing is especially risky if your spouse is represented by a lawyer.
It’s Your Divorce. Be Creative
Regardless of your divorce process path, keep in mind that you are not trapped within that path. Pay attention to how your divorce is proceeding. Does it feel productive, like you are making progress? Are you managing the underlying conflicts well with the process you are using? How are you feeling about the cost and time involved, and are there better alternatives? By taking ownership over how you get divorced, you can make the best choices for yourself, your family, and your future.