If you’re looking to get a divorce, one of the first things to know is that there’s not just one kind of divorce. Getting a divorce doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in a courtroom in front of a judge, though some divorces require that setting in order to be resolved.
No matter what kind of divorce you get, though, it is a process that results in a divorce decree, which creates legally-binding language pertaining to your children, your house, your money, and your assets, and it should be entered into with a lawyer you trust, knowing your priorities, and advocating for you.
These are the four main types of divorce.
Also known as an “agreed” divorce, this is the rare “white whale” of divorces. In these cases-typically with younger couples without children and with little or no shared property-the couple agrees to the divorce, drafts up a decree, and seeks a judge to approve it.
Even if a couple agrees to a decree, it’s still a good idea to involve an experienced family lawyer who can draft or review a decree, explain their obligations under the decree, and here in Bexar County, to help couples move through the process faster than they might utilizing the county’s staff attorneys.
But as I wrote in an earlier blog article, “Sometimes, in talking to those couples, the only thing they’re really agreed on is that they’re agreeing to getting a divorce.” Once a couple sits down and reviews their situations, they might determine that certain aspects of their proposed decree are worth disputing. Determining what’s best for children, in particular, can move couples to at least want to negotiate through alternatives to litigation.
This alternative to litigation is gaining popularity, and Texas has been at the forefront of refining it. In collaborative divorce, each party is represented by a lawyer, and those lawyers pledge to bring the couple to resolution. (In fact, under the pledge, if the couple decides they want to go to court and forego the collaborative process, they must get new lawyers for the litigation phase.)
The collaborative process offers advantages over litigation: it’s more convenient and private than court, as the negotiation meeting happen in a law office, scheduled by the couples rather than the courts. It also allows couples to share resources-a single financial neutral to help sort out asset values, especially helpful if the marital estate involves multiple assets or a business, and a mental health professional, who can help focus couples in meetings and can also serve as a resource for children caught up in the divorce.
This is another alternative to litigation, and it’s one I believe more couples should try. In mediation, couples work out the terms of a decree over a half-day or a full-day session. While each party’s attorney can be present-and that can be helpful for clarifying the terms of the decree-it’s the job of the mediator to help the couple agree on a resolution.
In mediation, each party is in a separate room during the process, they make their preferences clear, and the mediator works with each part during the session on the negotiation. While this process can require some give and take, it is an efficient, focused means of arriving at a settlement for couples seeking to move past divorce.
A number of divorces are best handled through litigation; situations involving abuse or endangerment, for instance, are most appropriately handled in a courtroom. Some couples with the option to pursue other avenues of divorce, however, may choose litigation because they feel resolute about their issues, and feel that no amount of negotiation would move their closer to resolution.
Actually, though, many divorces following this track are settled before the couple can reach the courtroom. Some couples realize that they can resolve their differences and work out a settlement before they get to court-with some of them doing so because they tire of waiting for their court date to arrive, and want to move past their divorces.
For those couples who do go to court, though, we prepare a case advocating for what our clients want, and prepare to defend our clients for whatever the other side might argue.
My colleague recently wrote on how we help you through the divorce starting with the initial consultation, where we hear about your situation in a confidential meeting, and walk you through your options and help you determine the best path for you.
No matter what route you choose, our goal at the Law Office of Lisa Vance is to help you secure a decree addressing what’s most important to you, and to help you move on to a happy post-divorce life.