Choose a Path

Take the time to choose the right process for you.

Deciding to separate from your spouse or partner, or deciding to accept that your partner has made the choice to separate, can be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make. It can be incredibly hard even if you are certain it is the right thing to do. In addition to the immediate emotional turmoil, the choices you make now can impact nearly every aspect of your life--your home, your job, your relationship with your children, your friendships, your families, and your security--for many years to come.

No matter which separation process you choose, though, you will have to address the fundamental aspects of legal separation--creating two financially feasible households (through division of assets, spousal support and child support) and creating a plan to address parenting time and parental decisions.

When you have to make choices about these critical aspects, which could have life-long impacts on you and your family, it makes sense to take a moment to choose a transition process that will work best for your situation and your family dynamics. Though your life is transitioning, you have a lot of control and choice over how that transition occurs. You owe it to yourself, your kids (if you have them), and yes, even to your soon-to-be former partner, to make good, careful choices that will set you all up for the most success after the immediate crisis passes. 

What are the options?

Below is a brief overview of the many ways couples can choose to separate. Click on each process for more detailed information. If you are unsure of which option is right for you, please schedule a consultation call and I can help point you in the right direction. 

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is an out-of-court, non-adversarial resolution method. Here, you and your spouse work through a specific, interest-based decision making process together in a series of private, safe, joint meetings. Each of you receives guidance and advice from your own attorney, who is specially trained in this process. You may also choose to incorporate other professionals in the process to support you and your family through the transition (e.g., a child specialist, divorce coach, or financial professional). This approach allows you to retain a high-degree of privacy and control over the timeline of your separation, since it is designed to keep you entirely out of the court system until it's time to file your final, agreed-upon judgment. It also allows for creative and well-informed problem-solving.

Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is an informal negotiation between you and your spouse, facilitated by a neutral third party specially trained in helping couples respectfully discuss the issues to be decided. You and your spouse retain all decision making authority. The mediator can offer suggestions, but can not "tell you what you should do" or settle disagreements. Because the mediator is neutral and does not represent you or your spouse, the mediator can not give either of you legal advice. Divorce mediation can happen at any time during the divorce process and can be used in a variety of ways to help you resolve some or all of the issues to be decided. 

Limited Services Divorce

Many people are wary of the cost and emotional harm associated with traditional litigation. Others simply wish to avoid retaining attorneys for financial or other reasons. While it makes sense for almost everyone to have some guidance from an attorney while completing a divorce, there are a number of ways to do this with limited involvement of legal professionals.

Uncontested Divorce - When both you and your spouse wish to divorce (or one of you does and the other at least accepts it and is willing to sign divorce papers), one of you can hire an attorney on a limited basis to help you complete the process, and prepare and file the documents with the court.

Kitchen Table Settlement - If you and your spouse are willing and able to work out the details on your own ("around the kitchen table"), you can hire an attorney on a limited basis to review your agreement, make sure you haven't overlooked anything, and if you wish, prepare and file the necessary documents with the court.

Divorce Consulting - This can encompass a variety of things. If you are representing yourself when your spouse has an attorney, you can hire an attorney on a limited basis to consult with you about your options or issues, to review documents prepared by your spouses attorney, or to review documents you have prepared. You can also consult with an attorney to help you prepare for mediation, prepare for difficult conversations with your spouse, learn about specific legal issues, or help you prepare for a hearing.

Online Divorce - If one of these Limited Services options sounds like it might be right for you, you might qualify for a quick and easy Online Divorce. Click here for more information.

Do I have to "go to court" to get divorced?

Clients are usually unsure where to begin the process of getting divorced or separated. I am often asked if a couple has to go to court to get divorced. The answer is: yes and no. If you are legally married or in a domestic partnership, you will eventually need to submit a judgment to the court to dissolve your legal relationship. However, you DO NOT have to resort to the traditional court process, known as litigation, in order to sort out and address the legal aspects of ending your relationship. 

There are several out-of-court processes that will address all the fundamental aspects of a legal divorce or separation without forcing you to "take your spouse to court." I specialize in and devote my law practice to these out-of-court processes: Collaborative Law, Divorce Mediation and DIY Divorce (also sometimes referred to as "unbundled legal services").

All of these out-of-court processes are non-adversarial. But that does not mean these processes are only for couples who have no disagreements. Nearly all separating couples have disagreement of some kind. Instead, these out-of-court non-adversarial processes are all premised on the idea that, though you and your spouse may disagree (even strongly disagree) about certain things, the two of you at least have the willingness and ability to work together to resolve your disagreements for the purpose of completing the divorce process.

  • In the Collaborative Law method, you and your spouse each have your own specially-trained attorneys, who guide you through a collaborative decision-making process focused on your interests and long-term goals. You may also choose to involve other specially-trained professionals to help with certain aspects of your situation, as needed (e.g., a financial neutral, a child specialist or a divorce coach).
  • In the Divorce Mediation method, you and your spouse meet with a neutral mediator who facilitates your conversations about how to resolve the issues in your divorce. The mediator does not tell you what to do, does not offer legal advice, and does not make decisions for you. You and your spouse are encouraged, but not required, to have your own attorneys review any agreement reached through mediation.
  • DIY divorce services come in many forms. You may choose a couples consultation, where you and your spouse learn together about the legal aspects you must decide in your divorce. You may also come to your own agreements about how to resolve the issues in your divorce and hire an attorney to prepare and file the paperwork for you. Or, if your divorce is quite simple, you can simply hire an attorney to do pre-filing review of divorce papers you and / or your spouse have already prepared.

If you and your spouse are able to communicate with enough candor and respect, then there are several ways to move through the divorce or separation process with relative ease and kindness, rather than the emotional trauma that often accompanies traditional divorce.

Love: Destroyer of Worlds

Relationships are the most important things in our lives, hands down. Careers are important, sure. Goals and dreams, super important, of course. Beliefs and morals, obviously crazy important. But love trumps all.

When we are in harmonious relationship with our families and loved ones, the rest of our lives flow with ease. Work isn’t such a grind, the air is a little softer, the sun is comfortingly warm. But when things are rocky or discordant at home, it ripples out to every other part of our lives. Traffic sucks more than usual. The weather blows and is personally targeting that weak spot in your jacket. And when a relationship ends, then shit can really hit the fan in all kinds of ways. Sleep suffers or leaves entirely, depression can creep in, job performance can spiral, friendships weaken, food loses its taste. 

Everyone knows this truth on some level. Our society is obsessed with relationships. There are countless books, workshops, TV shows, magazines, and articles devoted solely to relationships—how to dress to attract people, how to find love, how you may be sabotaging love, how to keep things spicy in the bedroom, which celebrities are dating each other, Disney movies, Jane Austen remakes, Oprah specials, etc… With this ubiquitous recognition of relationships as the driving force in our human lives, why is the end of a relationship so taboo? Why are the socially acceptable ways to engage with the end of a relationship so limited? We are allowed either to take voyeuristic pleasure in the end of someone else’s relationship or look the other way.

And when it’s the end of our own relationship, we are allowed only a tiny bit of social latitude to grieve. The relationship is supposed to morph into merely a practical, business-type arrangement that must be wrapped up at arms-length. We are expected to put on a brave face, to segregate our emotions from everyone and everything else in our lives, as if the emotional reality of the relationship existed in a vacuum. We’re told, quickly, to move on, get over it, show up to work and other obligations like nothing whatsoever is wrong. Like nothing has changed.

BUT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.

Relationships change us.  We all know it. They change us when things are magically perfect, and we are allowed to celebrate that. But when a relationship disintegrates and crushes our spirit, we should be allowed to delve into that change with just as much permission and respect. When we find ourselves teetering on the edge of the abyss called heartbreak, we should be encouraged and supported in exploring what transformation we find there. We should be taught how to safely feel the full extent of our emotions. We should be taught how to constructively use and transmute those emotions to become better, stronger, more complete and authentic humans. And we should help each other to do the same. 

This is a call to compassion. This is a call to courage. Love really is the most powerful force in the universe, for better and…well, for better-if-we-let-it.