Which Type of Divorce?

Generally speaking, the wealthier a couple is the more likely each will need legal advice in planning a divorce. Even when the spouses cooperate, each will find a need for a lawyer to counsel them.

At some point, couples, even those with good financial information in hand and livable budget, must decide what kind of a divorce they want. Ideally, they can agree, but often they cannot and a decision one spouse can force the hand of the other. There are four basic pathways to a divorce, and they vary greatly in cost, both emotional and financial.

Adversarial Divorce

In an adversarial divorce, both spouses hire lawyers and each lawyer negotiates the best possible deal for his or her client. Ostensibly, each lawyer works toward a settlement agreeable to his or her client and that failing prepares for a divorce trial.

Adversarial divorces happen when one spouse stonewalls the other about financial information. They are more likely when one spouse contests the divorce and when one spouse seeks a fault divorce. When one spouse goes to a lawyer, the other is forced to go a lawyer.

Over 95 percent of all divorce cases end in a settlement, "though it may be literally on the steps of the courthouse," as one writer put it.

Sometimes one angry spouse hires an attack lawyer who goes for the throat.

While adversarial divorces bring experienced negotiator into the picture, they also run the danger of getting out of control.

Two lawyers turned loose from their clients’ leashes very often can escalate what might have been a civil divorce into a bloodbath.

The cost of adversarial divorce quickly escalates.

An adversarial divorce is the most expensive way to end a marriage, usually costing each spouse $30,000 or more, depending on jurisdiction and circumstances.

Collaborative Divorce

Two lawyers and their clients meet face-to-face and reach mutual agreements. All pertinent information is on the table, so no one bargains from a position of unfair advantage.

The lawyers work cooperatively rather adversarially. Other divorce professionals, such as financial experts and child specialists, may enter the effort.

If the couple cannot reach agreement, the lawyers withdraw, and no lawyer who has represented a client in divorce collaboration may represent that client in an adversarial action.

When agreement is reached, each spouse may review it with his or her lawyer, but the lawyers’ involvement is generally much less than with an adversarial action.

Collaborative divorces may cost between $5,000 and $10,000 per spouse, depending upon location and circumstances.

Mediated Divorce

A neutral third party works with both spouses to reach agreement on the division of assets, spousal and child support, visitation and parenting plans.

This regime leaves the spouses in charge of the divorce and divorce negotiations.

Like the collaborative divorce, when agreement is reached, each spouse may review it with his or her lawyer, but the lawyers’ involvement is generally much less than with an adversarial action.

Mediated divorces cost about $2,000 and $6,000 per spouse, depending upon location and circumstances.

Pro Se (Do It Yourself) Divorce

One spouse completes all the necessary divorce paperwork, which is available online on in bookstores as a "divorce package."

Many couples choose pro se filing because it is inexpensive.

Pro se divorce packages can be purchased online for under $300.



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