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.