If you’ve said yes to divorce, what’s the next step? What is more appropriate for you, a lawyer or mediator?
Should you pursue kitchen table divorce, mediated divorce, collaborative divorce or contested divorce?

From what I’ve learned, if you want peace while going through divorce, you will consider the first 3 options and
avoid contested or courtroom divorce, but sometimes the latter is unavoidable.

Much of the information below is taken from Marta Papa’s book, The Divorce Whisperer. I highly recommend it!

4 Types of Divorce

1) Kitchen Table or Pro Se Divorce.

  • Fastest and cheapest way (good when no children involved, little income and assets).

  • You and spouse (not a representing attorney) negotiate directly in person, by telephone, etc.

  • You may consult with an attorney to get legal advice if you want, prepare Separation
    Agreement, Parenting Plan, and Petition for Dissolution but it’s not required.

  • No use of discovery tools such as interrogatories, document requests, depositions
    or subpoenas.

2) Mediated Divorce

  • Mindset: win/win. The mediator is there to help you reshape the future
    in which there is room for both mom and dad to be involved… NOT rehash the past.

  • Costs more than Pro Se but much less than courtroom divorce.

  • Sanest, healthiest, fastest, least expensive and least damaging (except for pro se).

  • Great if you and spouse are motivated to come to agreement but have a difficult time resolving
    certain matters due to fighting. It’s great for couples who love their children more than they
    hate each other.

  • A neutral mediator facilitates the discussion and guides you through the issues. They do
    not give legal advice, but will prepare Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan.

  • You may have to consult with your own attorney during the mediation process if mediator
    can’t file the agreement, which is a rule in some districts.

  • No use of discovery tools such as interrogatories, document requests, depositions or subpoenas.

  • Not appropriate when there is domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse and a myriad
    of other circumstances, such as if one party is unable to stick to decisions, is an extreme narcissist,
    very controlling or a pathological liar.

3) Collaborative Divorce

  • Mindset: win/win to create best possible future where each party has enough money to live on,
    fair share of marital assets, both involved with kids, but can also lead their own lives. Best gift to
    your kids is to cooperate and commit to keeping conflict away from the children.

  • Great for you and spouse where you want to come to agreement but one spouse feels intimidated
    by the other and more confident in the presence of attorney.

  • Each spouse has an attorney who has received collaborative training.

  • The couple and their attorneys sign a Participation Agreement, pledge to work toward resolution of
    issues, negotiate in good faith, and voluntarily share full and accurate financial information.

  • No use of discovery tools such as interrogatories, document requests, depositions or subpoenas.

  • You, your spouse and both attorneys pledge not to file anything in court until a resolution of all issues
    has been reached.

  • Settlement negotiations take place in four-way sessions (lawyers and clients are all present).

  • The Collaborative Team can be expanded to include other professionals: Divorce Coaches –
    Child Specialists – Financial Specialists.

  • The collaborative attorneys will withdraw if no settlement is reached.

  • The collaborative attorneys will prepare the Separation Agreement, the Parenting Plan,
    and all other documents required by the court.

4) Contested/Courtroom Divorce

  • Longest, most bitter, most stressful and most costly.

  • It pits family against family and is a waste of money, time and relationships.

  • You and your spouse do not have an agreement before the Petitioner spouse files for divorce.

  • The attorneys do not pledge to cooperate or work together; it’s an adversarial process.

  • You may end up settling, or the attorneys may end up cooperating, but this is not known at the time of filing.

  • Communication loop is closed – you do not talk to your spouse.

  • Evidence tends to focus on the past, on blaming, who’s “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad.”

  • Discovery may be used, such as depositions, subpoenas, interrogatories and document requests.

  • Judge controls the timing of hearings and trial, and it’s all public record.

  • Judge makes decisions about property, maintenance, custody, child support and other issues after
    hearing evidence at a trial.
    This is a very subjective gamble, and you hope to get a fair judge.

  • You or your spouse may appeal.

What Kind of Legal Support do You Need?

Depending on what type of divorce you have will determine whether you need a mediator, an
attorney or no one.

  1. A lawyer is needed to file the legal paperwork, but if you’re going for a non-contested divorce,
    that’s really all they are needed for.
    An attorney is not necessary for pro se divorce.

  2. A mediator’s primary goal is to try to get you to reach a resolution of the details and custody
    issues of your case. 

  3. An attorney is needed for a contested divorce, and an attorney who has received collaborative training
    is needed for Collaborative Divorce.

  4. Guardian Ad Litem. Where there is greater concern about one party’s parenting skills, or
    concern about the children’s safety in another parent’s home, a Guardian ad Litem is more
    appropriate in this case. However you don’t get to choose this person, they are assigned by the court.

Go with your gut on this.  Yes it’s ok to use your intuition. Does the person share some of the same values
that you do? Do they seem to care? Check out their website which will tell you a lot about their values.

Select the method that makes the most sense for you.  Take into consideration how much it costs.
If you and your spouse can be rational overall, mediation is probably the best route.

A neutral mediator will do most of the heavy lifting for a Mediated Divorce, though you may still
need an attorney to sign off on the agreement if that rule is in place where you live.

There are also 3 types of Mediators:

Facilitative—more hands-off approach
Highly Directive—more controlling approach of all details
Transformative—Goes beyond dissolving marriage and equips couple to resolve
future, co-parenting issues

If you have a willing partner, mediation is the best route to take because it can reduce stress, anxiety,
aggravation, and anger. There is less collateral damage than going to court. Mediation can preserve
a civil relationship with your ex and takes a long-term perspective and minimizes the negative impact
of divorce on your kids.

Your Next Steps:

1) Join me for this free workshop on 2/8/22 at 5pm CT. Register HERE
”3 Secrets to Survive the Stress of Divorce: Helping Moms
and Their Kids Through It.”

2) Schedule some time to chat with me and see if partnering
privately or through my women’s group, Women’s Empowerment
Through Divorce and Loss, is the right next step for you.

Guiding women to a brighter future after divorce/loss,

Angie Monko