Two different paths for divorce: Which is right for you?

Couples going through divorce today have many more options than previous generations. Having a basic understanding of the two main options can help you find the path that is right for your situation.

Option #1: Traditional divorce

Those who choose a traditional divorce generally face one of two paths. The direction the couple chooses will hinge on whether the split is contested or not.

If uncontested, the couple can develop a marital settlement agreement (MSA) without much aid from the court. A judge will likely review the agreement and sign off on it.

In contrast, a contested divorce is the path that is chosen if the split involves disputes. These disputes can include issues regarding property division, child custody or child support.

There are benefits and risks to the traditional divorce process. The process is often beneficial for marriages that involve abuse or have an uneven distribution of power. However, they can take longer and cost more money than options within the alternative dispute resolution process. This is particularly true for contested divorces.

Option #2: Alternative dispute resolution

The second option is a broad category referred to as alternative dispute resolution. Within this category are two options:

  • Mediation. This process generally utilizes a third party mediator who guides meetings between the future ex-spouses that are designed to result in the development of a MSA. Each individual can choose to have his or her own legal representation during the process.
  • Collaborative divorce. This form also takes place outside the courtroom. It generally involves a larger mix of professionals compared to the mediation process. This mix can include legal representation, financial advisors and mental health professionals. This group works together to aid in developing a MSA.

These forms of divorce are generally less costly and take less time than traditional divorce. However, they do require that the couple be open to negotiating. As a result, it works best if both individuals are invested in coming up with a resolution together.

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