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A Quick Guide to Different Types of Divorce Proceedings

Many types of divorce proceedings exist, mainly because divorce can be complicated, and each situation can differ drastically. Studies show that 42-45% of first marriages end in divorce, so it’s important to understand you’re not alone and that there are different options available for you should you decide to seek a divorce. Experienced family lawyers are available to assist you, guide you through the process and help you understand the best course of action.

Uncontested Divorce

This is the best-case scenario kind of divorce, where both spouses agree to the divorce. In rare situations in an uncontested divorce, especially when the spouses have been married for a short period of time and have no children, both parties can complete the required paperwork to file with the court without assistance from an attorney. However, for the vast majority of cases, it is still recommended that the parties seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. Attorneys can assist the spouses in drafting a comprehensive settlement agreement which can then be submitted to the court to finalize a divorce. In such a scenario, there is no need for the parties to go to court.

Contested Divorce

With this divorce, it’s recommended to hire a family law attorney. In a contested divorce, the spouses have not come to an agreement on the issues at hand in the divorce or the reasons for the divorce. If parties cannot reach resolution, they will end up in court to litigate the matter.

Fault Grounds or No-Fault Grounds

In Virginia, a spouse may file for divorce based on no-fault grounds under two different scenarios: If the parties have minor children, they must live separately and apart (can be under the same roof under certain conditions) for one year or more. If the parties do not have minor children, they must have a separation agreement and live separately and apart (can be under the same roof under certain conditions) for six months or more. A spouse may file for divorce on fault-based grounds for reasons such as adultery, cruelty, desertion and constructive desertion. If a spouse is filing on fault-based grounds, they must have third-party corroboration of the grounds.

Whether uncontested/contested or fault/no-fault, there are different ways to approach resolving issues in divorce proceedings:

    • Litigation

Litigation relies on the court system to resolve issues that could not otherwise be settled. Through litigation, the parties rely on their respective attorneys to argue their cases in a trial before a judge who makes the ultimate decision in the matter.

    • Negotiation

Clients can often achieve their desired results through negotiating a settlement agreement, and at far lesser cost – both emotional and financial – than would happen by going to court. In this situation, when negotiating an agreement the attorneys provide guidance and recommendations, but the client is in control of ultimate decision-making.

Mediated Divorce

In divorce mediation, a neutral third-party called a mediator will be involved in the proceedings. A mediator is hired by both spouses to serve as an unbiased, neutral counselor who cannot advocate for one side over another, and as such cannot give legal advice or file paperwork on either party’s behalf. A mediator’s goal is to help both spouses resolve any issues from the divorce and come to an agreement or a compromise. It’s a very private divorce method, as there’s no involvement of the court until the agreement and paperwork is filed with the court without the need for the parties to appear. Through the mediation, both parties will make the decisions for the divorce, not the mediator.

Collaborated Divorce

Collaborated law offers a non-adversarial way to resolve cases. Both spouses each hire a lawyer whose goal is to help the couple work cooperatively. The process consists of a series of informal team meetings, which may include other professionals like financial planners and mental health professionals. The attorneys and other professionals must be specially trained in the collaborative law process. The parties commit to resolve outstanding issues equitably without seeking or threatening court intervention.

As you can see, there are numerous methods to obtaining a divorce depending on both personal choice and the circumstances surrounding a divorce. It's up to you and your attorney to decide which course of action is the most beneficial in your situation. At Hite Kaminsky Family Law, our skilled, experienced team of family lawyers, divorce lawyers and divorce mediators are here to help – contact us today.