While movies and television have convinced many people otherwise, divorce doesn't have to be a blood sport. Litigation is one of five ways to get divorced, and also happens to be the most arduous option. The other methods are faster and cheaper, so long as you and your ex can tolerate one another enough to make compromises.
Consider each of the following ways, listed from the most economical divorce options to the most expensive, before getting divorced so you can make the best choice for you.
You and your spouse have resolved all financial, tax, and parenting issues. You have the time to read through lengthy instructions, draft the paperwork and file papers in court. Most states or bar associations sell handbooks (often called a "Friendly Divorce Handbook") on how to manage your own divorce (without the help of an attorney) and fill out the paperwork. You can also search online for your state's website on uncontested divorces for a brief version of the information.
Cost: $200–$500 for filing fees
Speed: It takes a couple weeks to do the paperwork and obtain notarized signatures, but you'll still have to wait for a final divorce order from the court, which could take 2 weeks to 6 months, depending on the court.
Online Do-It-Yourself Divorce
This is similar to the do-it-yourself divorce, except that you don't have to obtain the blank court documents. Instead, the online software program asks you questions, you type in your answers and the program will fill out the paperwork for you. Then you print out the final documents, get them notarized and file them in court.
Cost: $400–$1000 for the online program and filing fees
Speed: It's slightly faster than the typical DIY divorce because the online program simplifies the paperwork.
If you and your spouse have not resolved on all financial, tax and parenting issues, but you are able to sit down in the same room together, then a neutral mediator who guides you both through the issues might be right for you. The goal of mediation is to help you reach a fair settlement without going to court. Not all mediators are attorneys. If he/she is also an attorney, then the mediator-attorney will prepare the legal documents and file them in court for you. Mediation is voluntary but becomes binding when a signed agreement is reached.
Cost: approximately $3,000
Speed: Settlement and final divorce can normally be reached within 90 days.
In a collaborative divorce, each party has their own attorney and other divorce professionals as a "team" in the hope of avoiding divorce court. Collaborative divorce lawyers are trained to approach divorce in a non-adversarial way that promotes negotiation instead of litigation.
Cost: approximately $20,000
Speed: The time it takes to obtain a collaborative divorce will depend on the willingness of both parties to negotiate a settlement.
In a litigated divorce, each party hires their own attorney to advocate for them during the divorce process. Due to its very nature, litigated divorce is more adversarial, doesn't promote conflict resolution and as a result, costs more money.
Cost: May cost over $25,000 depending on the degree of conflict
Speed: Litigated divorce can be a slow process and should be avoided, if possible.