Kinds of Divorce

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Though most divorces seek the same end result, an amicable ending of a marriage and terms that both parties find satisfactory, there are many different paths that a married couple can choose to achieve that result. Prior to hiring an attorney and filing for divorce, both parties should be familiar with the different approaches to divorce employed by family law professionals.

No-Fault Divorce

No-fault divorce is when neither party involved in the divorce is required to proof fault of either party. The application for no-fault divorce can be filed by one or both of the parties involved. In the United States, 49 of the 50 states in the Union have adopted no-fault divorce laws. The grounds for divorcing in the United States under no-fault divorce laws are irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, and irremediable breakdown of the marriage.

At-Fault Divorce

At-fault divorce is the process of divorce that requires one or both of the parties involved in the divorce to prove which party was at-fault for the divorce. Only one state in the United States, New York, still requires fault to be proven during a divorce proceeding. If fault is not found then the divorce will not be ratified and the couple will still be legally married. The only way to end the marriage would be to separate and not live together anymore. If the couple is separated it means that they are not legally allowed to marry anyone else. To learn more, please read New York At Fault Divorce.

Summary Divorce

Summary divorce is when the two parties involved are able to agree on key issues prior to the proceedings or meet certain eligibility requirements. Some of the key issues for summary divorce are:

  • short marriage (five years)
  • no children (or the couple has already discussed custody
  • minimal or no real property
  • marital property is below $35,000 (not including vehicles)
  • each spouse’s personal property is the same as marital property.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, the parties have reached an agreement as to the major issues in the matter (child custody, visitation, property distribution, child support, etc.) on their own or with the assistance of their attorneys. In uncontested divorces, once the parties have agreed upon and signed a marital settlement agreement, the agreement is presented to the court and the final divorce decree is entered. Additionally, an uncontested divorce can also occur in a situation when one spouse cannot be located or chooses not to participate in the divorce process.

Mediated Divorce

A mediated divorce is one in which both parties attend several sessions with a professional mediator in an attempt to resolve their major differences. Mediation is generally not binding and the mediator does not make recommendations to the court. Rather, the mediator acts as a neutral party and will report to the judge only whether or not an agreement was reached by the parties.

Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, the parties agree from the beginning not to resolve their differences in court. Instead, the parties in a collaborative divorce engage in a series of meetings (or “joint sessions”) in which they confer with their attorneys, third parties, and other experts to achieve the best outcome for the entire family. Indeed, rather than focusing on their own rights and what they would like to obtain for themselves, the parties in a collaborative divorce focus instead on a holistic result that benefits all the parties involved.

Arbitrated Divorce

In a divorce that is “stuck” in the court system, parties sometimes opt for arbitration. In an arbitrated divorce, the parties agree to allow an arbitrator, usually a neutral attorney who has no connection to the case, resolve the outstanding issues in a procedure much like a trial or hearing. Arbitration differs from a trial in that the outcome of an arbitration usually is not appealable but either party.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is one in which the parties eventually allow a trier of fact, either a judge or a jury, to make a determination as to what the terms of the divorce will be. Divorces usually become “contested” after all attempts to negotiate a settlement have failed. The most common reasons divorces become contested is because of a child custody dispute or because of a disagreement as to how the marital property should be divided up. The only way in which a contested divorce is resolved is through a trial.


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