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Divorce Types: How To Choose

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Getting a divorce can be like peeling gum off your shoe. Sometimes it comes right off in one smooth lump. Sometimes it needs a little encouragement from a twig. And sometimes it sticks with such hellish obstinacy you wish you’d just left it alone.


Whether you’ve been married for several years or only a few months, divorce is never simple. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by legal and financial worries, not to mention emotional stresses. Knowing your options and choosing the appropriate path will make this difficult time no harder than it needs to be.


Absolute or Limited
Absolute divorce is exactly what it sounds like: the legal end of your marriage. A limited divorce, on the other hand, resembles a legal separation and is ordered by the court. This is more of a temporary state while you continue to negotiate alimony, property division, child support and custody. In a limited divorce, you cannot have sexual relations with anyone until an absolute divorce has been obtained. Different states have varying laws that may apply to you.


No-fault or At-Fault
An at-fault divorce used to be the only type possible, until California passed a no-fault law in 1970 and other states followed suit. One party is held to be “at fault” for the end of the marriage, because of infidelity, desertion, abuse or other reasons. If you file for an at-fault divorce, you will need to prove to the court that your ex is at fault, and provide supporting evidence. Generally, an attorney is required, and the proceedings can be pricey.


If neither you or your ex consider the other to be completely at fault, you will likely prefer a no-fault divorce (unless you live in New York, the only state which still does not allow them). In a no-fault divorce, no explanation is necessary. You don’t even need your ex’s consent.


Uncontested or Contested
Most divorces in the United States are uncontested. Either your partner doesn’t respond to you or doesn’t legally dispute your decisions, or else the two of you decide to create your own divorce agreement. If your partner files for divorce and you choose not to contest their decisions about finances or property, be aware that you may be unknowingly waiving important rights. Consulting with a lawyer can save you years of regret down the road.


If the two of you can’t agree, you will need to appear before a judge. This is known as a contested divorce and is much more costly and complicated.


Summary/Simplified Divorce
A summary divorce, also known as a simple or simplified divorce, is possible if you meet certain conditions. Just like an uncontested divorce, you and your ex need to determine the details of your agreement beforehand. In addition, you must meet specific eligibility requirements that may differ from state to state. Requirements may include having had a marriage lasting fewer than five years, not much marital property, or no children. A summary divorce can be finalized in as little as a month, and is not expensive.


Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce is a helpful approach when you and your ex-partner feel mutual respect and want the best outcome for all involved. You might view divorce as a transition in your relationship rather than an all-out war. In this type of divorce, you invite a team of professionals to help negotiate your divorce agreement. Your team might consist of attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial advisers. If you have children, your team could also include a child psychologist or social worker.


Mediation Divorce
Mediation divorce is similar to collaborative divorce in that you and your ex are willing to work together to come up with a mutually beneficial agreement. Rather than a whole team of professionals, however, you simply hire a single mediator for one or more sessions. The mediator does not create a specific agreement for you, but instead guides you through the process of respectful, honest communication so that you can reach an understanding.


Thousands of people get divorced every year, so you are not alone. Now that you know the different types of divorce, choose the one you are most interested in to research further. Explore your options and be proactive. Informed decision-making is your first step towards a new life.


Related stories:
Fifteen Common Divorce Mistakes
How To Find the Right Divorce Lawyer for You
Is Divorce Becoming a Luxury? 

By Antonia Harrison for YourTango

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