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Four Alternatives to Getting a Traditional Divorce

x marks on a couple's handsAlternative divorce methods offer many benefits over traditional divorce, but they each come with their risks and costs.

Permanent Separation

Many couples, typical older couples, are choosing permanent separation over divorce. Permanent separation enables the spouses to continue to enjoy the benefits of marriage, e.g. joint tax returns, shared health plans, and favorable credit treatment. But it only works if both spouses remain committed to collaborating. If those amicable relations breakdown, either spouse could do substantial damage to the other’s finances and credit.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce

The DIY is the cheapest divorce option. DIY divorce means that couples file their paperwork and agree to divide up the marital assets themselves. DIY divorce is best for couples that own few assets, were married for a short period, possess little to no retirement accounts, and no children.

DIY divorce carries many risks namely that couples overlook critical issues which could complicate the divorce process and later on end up costing more money.

Mediated Divorce

Mediated divorce is part of the new wave of “alternative” divorce methods. Mediated divorce consists of the couple hiring a mediator (not necessarily an attorney). The mediator works with both couples to resolve their differences and to bring them closer to an agreed settlement. The mediator cannot compel either spouse to accept an outcome. Mediated divorce is better than DIY because the mediator can identify issues that the couple may overlook, thus reducing the possibility of future disputes.

Mediation works if both people cooperate. Proponents of mediation argue that even if the mediation does not result in a full divorce, it at least narrows the issues which reduce overall costs. However, opponents argue that is increases costs because the couple must pay for a mediator and when negotiations break, their own attorneys.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce, like mediated divorce, is a cooperative process. Unlike mediation, in collaborative divorce, each couple hires their own attorney. They sign a joint agreement in which both attorneys agree to cooperate to reach an amicable settlement, each side commits to disclosing everything, and the attorneys agree that if the process does not work, they will both recuse themselves and the couple will hire new counsel.

Collaborative divorce usually results in a complete divorce agreement. However, if cooperation collapses, couples end up spending more money as they hire new attorneys and prepare for litigated divorce. Collaborative divorce, like any alternative, depends on people’s ability to work together.