An amicable divorce means an uncontested or no contest divorce. An amicable divorce is not a “friendly” divorce, and make no mistake, “divorce [amicable or otherwise] is many kinds of agony. Amicable ones come with the surprising challenge of having no villain to blame,” writes Carolyn Hax, a Washington Post columnist. “That sense you’ve been left behind is a terrible, hollow feeling.”
Spouses who divorce amicably experience a “civil” divorce, which is one where neither spouse is completely happy but both spouses can live with result.
An amicable divorce means agreement on matters including, but not limited to, child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and property division – the core elements of a divorce. An amicable divorce happens when both spouses compromise.
The couple files the divorce paperwork in family court, and often there is a requisite separation or waiting period. The final divorce is subject to the court’s approval, and it incorporates the terms and conditions the couple negotiated.
Spouses who agree on terms and conditions of their divorce spare each other the pain and suffering of a divorce war. An amicable divorce saves time, money, and heartache. Not surprisingly, every jurisdiction now has no contest divorce laws to foster expedited divorces, which in turn make for amicable divorces.
Couples considering amicable divorce should give consideration to several approaches.
- Collaborative divorce: a process handled out of court, where each spouse retains legal counsel and control negotiations. The spouses and their attorneys hammer out their own agreements instead of surrendering control to the court. Collaborative divorce saves time and money. Lawyers facilitate the couple’s communication and continue to advise their respective clients, but all four work toward a settlement in a cooperative atmosphere.
- Mediated divorce: couples resolve issues out of court with the help of a mediator. The mediator helps the couple come to an amicable agreement. Some jurisdictions require couples to seek mediation on certain issues in divorce.
- Pro se Divorce: the spouses negotiate and file the paperwork without using a lawyer at all. When the spouses agree about everything, one of them can file papers and seek court approval in most cases without lawyers. Most courts have forms available online or in the clerk’s office and there are many commercial templates available online at little to no cost.
Sometimes, therapists help spouses as they move toward an amicable agreement. Overcoming heated emotions keeps the spouses on track. Regardless of the specific approach taken, when divorcing spouses commit to developing compromises and solutions that work for both parties rather than fighting, the pain and suffering of any divorce subsides, and the legal process of divorce works more smoothly. In turn, the parties move forward individually and as a family more quickly with less pain, effort, and expense.
Moreover, working to achieve an amicable divorce alleviates the loss and pain of divorce. “Even an amicable divorce creates feelings of loss and sadness. Often, the one who doesn’t want the divorce feels a sense of abandonment, anger or denial. Even the one who initiates the divorce experiences grief, sometimes guilt and, perhaps, shame,” says divorce mediator Eileen Coen. “Our best decisions are not made in anger, desperation or defensiveness.” She says that taking time to process emotions exerts a substantial impact on the ability to keep the divorce amicable.