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Divorce: choosing the right path for your family

You may have had myriad reasons for getting married. The biggest one is most likely that you loved the other person. Besides the physical and emotional attraction to your spouse, you may have also considered your financial future, the opportunity to purchase property and that you wished to raise a family together.

You accomplished everything you set out to do. Now, something has changed and the relationship part of the dream is over. You may have separated or are considering filing for divorce, but are concerned about the negative effect the legal proceedings could have on your children, finances and other aspects of your life.

Nonetheless, remaining in an unsatisfying or potentially even a toxic relationship to avoid the courtroom is probably not be the wisest option. Fortunately, just as there are many reasons for marriage, there are many choices for divorce. Many of these options can help you save time, money, frustration or protect future relationships - even if they are different now.

Mutual agreement

If you and your spouse wish to divorce and are in agreement with regards to finances, custody, and property allocation, you don't have to spend years in a courtroom. It is possible to hire a single attorney for both sides and draw up the paperwork.

If there are no contested items, this process takes only a matter of weeks and can be handled with a minimum of cost. It is by far the best way to go your separate ways and begin to heal emotionally.

Although it might seem like a good idea to use DIY-type services, you should still consult an attorney to make sure you dot all of your I's and cross all of your T's. Remember that while you are amicable now, the situation could change and divorce agreements are very difficult to modify. In some situations, you may not be able to modify agreements at all.


Mediated divorces are becoming more common. In these situations, a third-party neutral facilitates the conversation. This is often an attorney. The neutral does not take sides. You can, and should, still consult an attorney to represent you in your individual capacity.

Instead of spending months sending briefs and demands back and forth through separate offices, both parties sit down and work through commonly contested areas of the divorce agreement. With a little effort, you draw up a settlement and submit it to the court.

The results are more predictable than in a litigated proceeding, as the judge is not left to make arbitrary findings on an unfamiliar case. Another bonus is that you generally need less time to arrive at a mutual understanding.

Collaborative divorce

The newest approach to the oft-times emotionally draining divorce process is the collaborative approach or Collaborative Law. It is a formal statutory process which varies slightly from state to state.

In a collaborative divorce, you work with a mediation-type team, which includes your individual lawyers and often a therapist who provides support for the adults and children and a financial advisor. The team works together to build the best possible settlement for all parties involved while maintaining a positive, but changed, family structure moving forward.

If there are items that are unable to be agreed upon, the proceedings would move into litigation with your separate attorneys. With more professional consultants on the team, this option is the most expensive out-of-court choice, but still offers you more control over the outcome.


For the times when both parties simply cannot communicate, litigation remains a viable option for reaching a divorce settlement. You hire lawyers for both sides, file a complaint and response, conduct discovery and all other formal steps before a judge. The judge determines custody, and the division of property and finances.

In some cases, you can combine different processes. For example, you can use mediation to resolve most issues. If you and your spouse strongly disagree on an issue, such as custody, you can bring that sole issue to the judge for a ruling.

Your family's situation is unique. Take the time needed to choose the best way forward for you and your loved ones.

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