How to get a divorce without going to court

Divorce, Relationships

If you’re facing divorce, you may be envisioning months and months of courtroom negotiations, testimony, and hearings. However, depending on the path to divorce you choose and the relationship you have with your soon-to-be ex, you might never have to set foot in a courtroom and the whole thing could be wrapped up within a couple of months.

Mediation makes divorce easier

Mediation is one way to end your marriage without the courtroom. You and your spouse meet with a mediator (who usually has a background as an attorney or therapist) who acts as a neutral third party. The mediator helps you look at all of the issues that need to be resolved in your divorce and come to a mutually acceptable agreement for each.

The mediator doesn’t make decisions for you; instead he or she helps you find consensus and reach compromise. The end result is a signed agreement that becomes your divorce decree. Since everything is resolved in mediation, there’s no need to go to court, testify, or have your attorneys negotiate.

Another benefit of mediation is the decreased cost. Instead of paying two attorneys to draft documents and go to court, you and your spouse pay one mediator to meet with you and create a settlement. Mediation can also help teach you and your spouse how to resolve conflict yourselves. If you have children together, it is likely that you will need to work through some disagreements in the future, and mediation gives you the skills to do so while changing the tone of a divorce from “me against you” to “let’s figure this out together.”

Want to make it really easy? File for uncontested divorce with a local family lawyer

Collaborative divorce reduces your involvement

Collaborative divorce is a process similar to mediation, but lawyers do the negotiating. Each spouse hires a collaborative law attorney (these attorneys are specially trained for this type of case and will not take the case to trial). The attorneys work together to reach a settlement.

The process works like mediation, except it is the two attorneys who meet and discuss the issues and look for ways to compromise. In mediation, you and your spouse sit in the same room and work through issues. With collaborative divorce, typically you and your soon-to-be ex don’t have to sit in the same room, which can reduce anxiety and is useful if your divorce is very adversarial. (Some attorneys practice a form of collaborative divorce in which all parties – lawyers and both spouses – meet together; such practice is often referred to as “co-mediation.”)

Collaborative divorce usually takes longer than mediation, but not as long as a traditional divorce. Although it may cost more than mediation, it is still less expensive than traditional divorce.

Arbitration settles your differences

Not used as often as mediation or collaborative divorce, arbitration can be useful in divorces where the spouses are deadlocked and can’t reach a settlement. Retired judges or respected local matrimonial attorneys head up an arbitration process.

Your lawyers present the two sides of the case and the arbitrator determines what a court would decide. This determination then usually spurs a settlement, since everyone understands what the alternative resolution in court would likely be. Arbitration allows you to avoid a trial, which reduces your costs and wraps up the case more quickly.

Traditional settlements are an alternative

The truth is that the majority of divorce cases don’t make it to trial. Most attorneys work to settle the case from the moment it is filed. Often, cases are not settled until a scheduled conference with the court, but most do settle before a trial date. When the case settles, you sign the settlement agreement, your attorney files it, and it becomes the decree for your divorce.

And of course, if your relationship is such that you can come to a mutual agreement without any of the above negotiation tactics, you can take the easiest path of all and file for an uncontested divorce.