Research shows that approximately 40% to 50% of marriages across the United States end up in divorce.
While no one enters a marriage looking forward to its dissolution, life’s events can lead to a couple’s decision to end their union. Since each marriage is unique, so is each divorce.
Thus, it pays to understand the types of divorce as you think through how to handle the painful yet necessary process to end a marriage. Here’s a quick look at some divorce options to help you determine the most optimal course of action to take.
1. Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is where a couple can mutually agree to the legal terms of the divorce. Whether it’s child custody (of which you can view this website to gain a deeper understanding), how to divide property, or other thorny issues, the couple agrees on things without using lawyers.
Each state will have a procedure for couples to follow when processing an uncontested divorce. Once the soon-to-be ex-spouses agree to all the terms, the court will expect them to file all the requisite documents.
Only then can the couple wait out the mandatory waiting period before the court finalizes the divorce. In some states, there are procedures set in place to help couples process an uncontested divorce faster.
2. Contested Divorce
If the divorcing couple can’t agree on one to more critical issues related to the process, the court can allow the judge to negotiate the settlement via a contested divorce.
Here, both parties will navigate a lengthy process whereby they exchange information and court-mandated settlement negotiations. If there is a need for interim relief hearings, the couple will also need to attend to that.
Should the couple still not agree after all that, the divorce then goes to trial. At this point, lawyers and a judge are involved, making the process an all-out war. That’s not factoring in the mounting financial and emotional stresses too.
Inevitably, many couples will end up settling the terms before trial once the burden of navigating a contested divorce begins to sink in.
3. At-Fault Divorce
An at-fault divorce is where one party requests the court to end the marriage by blaming the other spouse for the breakdown. The filing spouse will have to publicly show that their partner has been responsible for specific actions that lead to the end of the marriage.
Common grounds for an at-fault divorce include:
- Substance abuse
Some couples will opt for an at-fault divorce because it can help them bypass the state’s mandatory waiting period. For others, the hope is that proving their partner orchestrated a specific type of misconduct might influence the judge’s decision on critical issues like property division, custody, etc.
Since one spouse has to prove the fault, such divorces tend to be financially intensive and take up more time. Only a few states allow couples to opt for this kind of divorce.
4. No-Fault Divorce
In direct contrast to an at-fault divorce, a no-fault divorce is where couples request the court to end their marriage without turning it into a blame game.
Historically, American courts would only grant a divorce petition if a spouse could prove fault. Over time, it became evident that it was challenging to prove fault in some instances, such as abuse. The justice system eventually introduced no-fault divorce to make the process easier and more peaceful.
No-fault divorce is meant to enable the spouse who no longer wants to be married to end things even if their partner does not want to split up. The filing spouse only needs to leverage the state’s legal grounds for terminating the marriage, which includes:
- Irreconcilable differences
- Irretrievable breakdown
Even if the other spouse disapproves of the divorce, as long as the filing spouse can prove they meet the state’s threshold on no-fault requirements, the judge will grant the petition.
Some states allow divorce petitions after a couple has separated for a particular period. In such scenarios, the couple will leverage a no-fault divorce to drive the process.
All 50 states offer a form of no-fault divorce, and in some states, it’s the only option if you plan to file a divorce petition.
5. Summary Divorce
While not as widely known among the different types of divorce, a summary divorce is a simpler version of an uncontested divorce. In this arrangement, a couple agrees on all the terms and prepares a settlement agreement for the judge’s approval.
A summary divorce will only apply if the couple has not had minor children from the marriage, doesn’t have extensive marital property, and carries limited debt.
Additionally, one can only apply for a summary divorce if they were married for a short period, don’t have separate property issues, and agree to all the related terms.
It’s worth noting that if a couple wants to go for a summary divorce, they will each need to give the right to spousal support.
6. Divorce Mediation
For some couples, a mutually agreed-upon settlement is preferable to going to trial. However, these couples may still feel the need to have a third party to help them navigate the process, and that’s where divorce Mediation comes in.
Under divorce mediation, a third party will help a couple negotiate unresolved issues standing in the way of the divorce settlement. In some states, the court will require the couple to first go for mediation before taking further action on the petition.
Typically, a divorce mediator will be a family law lawyer trained through the state in the latest mediation techniques. But, unlike an arbitration, a divorce mediator does not have the power to decide on divorce issues the couple can’t agree on. That’s left up to a judge.
Understand the Various Types of Divorce to Make the Right Choice
Ending a marriage isn’t easy. It’s fraught with heartache, and you need a plan to help you walk through this challenging experience. To help you know how to go about the process, research the types of divorce, then consult a divorce lawyer who’ll help you settle on the best approach to your petition.
Without the correct advice, divorce can become an acrimonious, expensive, and time-consuming process. Our website offers knowledge on family law and divorce to help you make informed decisions. Check out more of our content to learn how to make divorce as expedient and stress-free as possible.