There are numerous ways to process divorce. It will be important to know each option available in your state in order to choose the right divorce plan for you and your spouse. We have listed several methods below. This list may not represent all options or may have an option not offered in your state so discuss the laws of your state with your attorney as they pertain to your specific circumstances.

Also, refer to the DMK article Legal Process for Divorce for comprehensive information related to the overall process and types of divorce offered as they correspond to the methods to establish a divorce, as listed below.


Not offered in all states.

Each spouse hires his/her own attorney to represent each in the divorce process.

The attorneys do not go to court to litigate the divorce, but negotiate the terms of the divorce to include: alimony, child support, custody & property distribution.

Usually this type of divorce is more affordable than other options such as divorce litigation.


Not offered in all states.

A mediator will work with each spouse to resolve the negotiations related to the settlement to include, but not limited to: support, custody, asset and debt allocation and other terms of the settlement agreement.

Often, when spouses wish to avoid court or further legal expenses and their attorney's have reached an impasse, they are referred to a mediator.

The couple can hire a mediator independently or one can be appointed by a court or referred by an attorney.

Both spouses share a mutual attorney or a mediator to manage the negotiations of the divorce settlement but does not provide resolution like a judge.

In some states the mediator is not required to be licensed, mandated by any governing board or have formal training.


Some states limit arbitration to non-child related matters.

Usually this type of divorce process is reserved for high-profile celebrities or wealthy couples who wish to keep the specifics of the divorce negotiations private.

Usually an expensive process that involves each spouse providing his/her own attorney and a judge or retired judge to arbitrate in a private, neutral location.

Arbitrators are different from mediators in that mediators provide assistance to both spouses to develop a mutually agreed upon resolution whereas an arbitrator determines a binding resolution.

It is very unusual, bordering on never, to be granted an appeal following an arbitrated divorce.


The most complicated, costly and usually emotional cases are those that are litigated before a family court. Each spouse will have the opportunity to have a legal representative present their case and the judge will make a permanent ruling.

Each spouse obtains his/her own attorney.

Best suited for couples who can not agree on the terms of the settlement.

Each disputed issue is contested in court and eventually goes to trial.

Most divorce cases (95%) do not go to trial.

This can result in a lengthy and expensive divorce. Most divorce cases that go to trial take 1-3 years to settle.

Aside from the higher cost of legal fees , many times litigation cases better serve the less powerful spouse who earns less or has had less opportunity for earnings.

These cases can be appealed.


There are numerous services online that help spouses complete their own paperwork associated with filing for divorce.

The couple can also contact their local family court to get the established requirements to file a summary divorce.

Both spouses will negotiate their settlement directly with one another.

These are best for short term marriages, marriages with few marital assets and debts, no children and custody agreements and no established support.

Each spouse should also have a reasonable interest in cooperating with each other in order to mutually facilitate the divorce.


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