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Dissolution of Marriage: Your Guide to the Different Types of Divorce

Every year, more than 787,000 couples in the United States get divorced.

Are you getting ready to help a client who’s part of this group? Do you need to brush up on your divorce law knowledge?

One of the first things you ought to keep in mind is the fact that there are many different types of divorce.

Read on to learn about them so that you’re prepared and know what kinds of situations you may have to help your clients through.

No-Fault Divorce

Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, if a person wanted a divorce from their partner, they had to prove that their partner was at fault in some way. For example, they had to prove that they were guilty of abuse, abandonment, or adultery.

Now, though, it’s possible to file for a no-fault divorce. This type of divorce is based on the acknowledgment that, in most cases, both parties contribute to the end of a marriage.

No-fault divorces are the standard these days, especially for couples who aren’t anticipating a lot of fallout over asset division and other matters.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is what most people think of when they think of a heated, high-stakes divorce.

This type of divorce involves both partners retaining their own attorneys. They have to take contentious issues like disagreements over custody or asset division to court and receive a final ruling from a judge.

A contested divorce involves a lot of hearings and negotiations. A trial is sometimes required as well. It’s most common among people who both have high net worths and considerable assets.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce, which is sometimes referred to as a joint divorce, is the opposite.

In this type of divorce, both spouses work together to come to an agreement. Each spouse will file their own separate paperwork with the court.

They’ll then go their separate ways in peace. There’s no need for hearings, negotiations, or any other court procedures.

For many people, an uncontested divorce is an ideal option. Unfortunately, things don’t always play out in a peaceful, uncontentious way.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Your client may not be able to go through an uncontested divorce that’s completely peaceful. That doesn’t mean their divorce has to be tough and contentious either, though.

There’s a middle ground between these options, and it’s known as alternative dispute resolution. This is an option for couples who don’t want to go into an intense legal battle with each other but also can’t quite agree on the terms of their divorce without additional help.

In these cases, both spouses will work out of court with trained professionals who help to guide them through the process.

Mediated Divorce

One way how couples will try to work things out without going to court is with the help of a mediator. During mediated divorce proceedings, a mediator will sit down with both parties and help them come to an agreement.

The mediator is a neutral third party who guides the conversations and helps both spouses reach a resolution. They don’t make any decisions on behalf of either individual.


Arbitration is another option that falls somewhere between a contested and uncontested divorce.

If the couple decides that arbitration is the best option for them, they’ll hire a private judge (also known as an arbitrator). That private judge will make decisions about the couple’s divorce agreement.

The couple then agrees to honor those decisions the same way they would honor a judge’s decisions if they were made in the court of law.

Collaborative Divorce

A collaborative divorce is similar to mediation and arbitration.

The key difference, though, is that both spouses retain their own legal counsel instead of working with a mediator or arbitrator. When both spouses have hired lawyers, they’ll sit down together and work as a team to come up with an agreement that works for everyone.

Before the process begins, both spouses also have to sign an agreement saying they’ll collaborate and work together to find a solution to the problem. If they don’t do these, the attorneys will both withdraw from the case, and the spouses will have to start over again with new attorneys.

Default Divorce

In some cases, a judge will grant a default divorce to one spouse. This usually occurs in situations where the other spouse does not respond or participate in court proceedings.

In a case where the spouse has left and can’t be tracked down, for example, a judge may agree that granting the spouse a default divorce is the best course of action.

Summary Divorce

A summary divorce is an expedited divorce process meant for couples who have been married for a short period of time (usually less than five years). These couples usually do not own much (if any) property, don’t have any children, and don’t have a lot of joint debts. 

For a summary divorce to work, both spouses have to agree to it. They must also file their court papers jointly. Summary divorces are easy for couples to carry out by themselves, often without any assistance from a lawyer.

Learn More About These Different Types of Divorce 

As you can see, there are many different types of divorce that a couple can go through.

Now that you’re more informed about all the options out there, you’ll be more prepared to help all the different kinds of couples that come into your office.

Do you want to learn more about divorce law? Do you need help getting up to speed and feeling confident before an upcoming client meeting?

If so, head to the resource center on our site today to find all the information you need.

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