Options for Divorce
Divorce is never a “once size fits all” situation. Every marriage is different, and so it only makes sense that each divorce scenario will vary as well. Some couples are able to dissolve the marriage easily and amicably by themselves, while others may need to take their time and bring in outside parties to help navigate the process.
In the vast majority of cases, however, the first step is to consult with an experienced divorce attorney. Even the most amicable divorces will still require certain steps to be taken (especially if children are involved), and having professional legal support will help make sure no stone is left unturned.
It’s also important to realize that there are multiple options to choose from when it comes to the actual divorce process. For couples divorcing in the state of California, these options generally include Mediation, Collaborative Divorce, and Litigation. The right choice for each couple will depend on factors like their interaction and relationship terms, their financial situation, shared assets, urgency, and more.
Legal consultation can help divorcing parties decide which process may be the right choice. In the meantime, here is what each entails:
Divorce is a very personal process, and the right course will depend on the couple. If agreements cannot be reached via Mediation and/or Collaborative Divorce, then Litigation may be pursued. The more steps that are taken, the greater the time and expense. It is important that people take their time to consult with their attorneys about the best option for them.
Managing Your Divorce Expectations
Going through a divorce is not an easy process, even for those who are on good terms with their soon-to-be ex-spouse. Many issues often arise that were not previously considered by either party, causing a divorce once considered amicable and straightforward to quickly become contested. You can help prevent any unwanted surprises by learning what you can anticipate during the divorce process and how to manage your own personal expectations.
The Divorce Process
The first part of any divorce process will be meeting with your attorney for a consultation. While you don’t need to be ready with answers to everything, the goal of this meeting is to find out your goals and expectations. Your attorney will ask you a variety of questions about what you hope to gain from the divorce (particularly in terms of financial support and property) and your experiences with your spouse. They will also help provide a sense of what reasonable expectations are for the situation, such as what kind of support you may realistically expect.
From there, your attorney will work with you to gather all necessary documents and evidence. It’s important to bear in mind that a good divorce lawyer will not be focused on “beating the other side” as much as they will be focused on helping you realize your goals and to secure any assets to which you may be entitled.
Your lawyer will also help you decide what kind of process may be best for your divorce. In California, you generally have the options of Mediation, Collaboration, or Traditional Litigation (in court). Each comes with pros and cons, but the goal is usually to save time and money by staying out of court. It can be difficult to avoid court entirely if you and your spouse are currently struggling to reach any kind of settlement agreement. Certain agreements, like child custody, will also need to be signed in court by a judge regardless.
Your Personal Expectations
Right from the start, it can be easy to say that you would like a peaceful dissolution of your marriage in order to move forward as quickly as possible. However, it is important to take a step back and examine the realities of the situation. Your attorney will help with this during your initial consultation and throughout the process, but these are some of the things that will need to be considered:
- What do your finances look like, and how much are you able to actually spend on divorce?
- What is the size of your (whether currently shared or personal) estate?
- Are you seeking spousal support? If so, on what grounds, and how much do you expect per month?
- Do you want to stay out of court if possible?
- Is your spouse willing to work with you to stay out of court and reach reasonable agreements?
- If you have children, what are your expectations for custody?
In many cases, your expectations will be feasible and can be supported by your attorney. If they are not grounded in reality, your attorney will work with you to develop a more realistic outlook. Keep in mind that the more willing you are to approach your divorce from an ethical, reasonable standpoint, the more likely your spouse will be as well. This can help you both move towards Mediation or Collaborative Divorce and keep court costs down.
Expectations When Avoiding Court
Your options for avoiding Traditional Divorce Litigation include Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. In both, the goal is to settle the divorce outside of the courtroom, and you also play a more active role in helping your attorney acquire necessary documents and information. That said, the two processes vary quite a bit.
In Mediation, a third party (a trained attorney-mediator) is present and acts as a neutral. However, they do not provide active advice and are there to simply help you and your spouse settle on agreements rather than shape them. You will meet with your attorney after the fact in order to go over the agreement and see if you need to go back or move toward Litigation instead.
In Collaborative Divorce, your attorney is present along with your spouse’s attorney. Both act as non-adversarial advocates to help you reach settlement agreements, though they are able to offer you critical advice in real time. Specialists may also be brought in to assess areas like custody and mental health. This usually means higher costs than regular Mediation, but it also comes with higher closure rates.
How Long Does Divorce Take?
The amount of time any divorce process takes varies greatly on the type of divorce process used, the amount of assets involved, etc. Many people are told that they can expect it to take around six months between filing for divorce and reaching a settlement agreement. However, the truth is that you can generally work through your divorce as quickly or as slowly as needed.