How do you want to get divorced? An overview of your process options

You’ve made the decision to divorce, Now you need to consider the options for moving forward.  You may not be aware that most cases never go to court, and one size definitely doesn’t fit all.

Here are some different processes to consider:

  1. Kitchen Table. The couple negotiates all of the issues directly before filing with the court. One spouse may obtain a lawyer to file with the court or you may file on your own. This option works best for couples with low conflict, where both spouses fully understand the finances and property, and where there is a high level of trust.

Advantages: Quick and inexpensive

Disadvantages: No professional advice from an attorney (or only one spouse obtains professional advice) of legal rights and options; no formal method of information gathering (“discovery”) to ensure your spouse is being honest with financial information

  1. Mediation. The couple has a series of meetings with a trained mediator (usually a family law attorney) who does not represent either of you to negotiate and reach agreements. The mediator can provide legal information to facilitate negotiations, help generate options, draft the separation agreement, and, where appropriate, the parenting plan. Both spouses are advised, but not required, to consult with their own attorneys during the process. This option is best suited for couples who have disagreements but who are committed to resolving them outside of court and need the assistance of an unbiased neutral to help reach agreements.

Advantages: No court involvement; structured negotiation process; couple has control over all decisions

Disadvantages: More costly than kitchen table; a spouse that is controlling or abusive may take advantage of the other spouse during the process (i.e., there is an imbalance of power); no formal method of discovery

  1. Litigation. One spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage in court. Both spouses hire attorneys. The attorneys do most of the heavy lifting in this option by preparing the case and arguments, engaging in settlement negotiations, and handling any court appearances. This option is most suited for couples who have very low trust and no interest in resolving issues out of court. Discovery is routinely used to gain financial information. If no agreement is reached, the judge makes the final decision after a trial. 

Advantages: Formal discovery is available, e.g, subpoenas, depositions; temporary orders may be obtained (e.g., restraining orders, child support, and maintenance); disclosure is mandatory and under oath

Disadvantages: Often the most expensive option; adversarial couples become more so, lessening the chance of a successful co-parenting relationship; the judge, who doesn’t know you or your family, makes all of the decisions for you, so you have no control over the outcome; deadlines and scheduling are based on the court’s schedule, not yours

  1. Collaborative Practice. The couple and collaborative professionals have a series of meetings in a non-adversarial setting. Attorneys trained in Collaborative Law represent each spouse. The couple has the opportunity in this option of retaining other professionals trained in Collaborative Practice to assist in the process, including a mental health professional, financial professional, and a child specialist. This process addresses the legal, financial, and emotional issues of the divorce. The entire team signs agreements to work collaboratively with each other to problem solve, gather information, and explore options.  All agreements are reached before being processed through the court. This option is most suited for couples who are interested in resolving their issues outside of court in a non-adversarial way and may be interested in the benefits of having trained mental health and financial professionals.

Advantages: Uses a team approach to ensure that everyone is working towards resolving the issues in a non-adversarial, respectful manner; couple has the advice of a team of professionals to cover all aspects of divorce: legal, financial, and emotional; couple is in control of the outcome of their process; no court involvement; couple learns strategies in communicating and continuing their post-divorce relationship

Disadvantages: If an agreement cannot be reached (very rare), the couple has to retain two new attorneys and incur more legal fees; may incur higher costs depending on how many professionals are involved; if one spouse is not negotiating in good faith, the process is compromised; no formal method of discovery

Whichever process you chose for your divorce, make sure you are educated and informed about all of the options.

Why should I consider divorce using the Collaborative Process?

The Collaborative Process is an approach to divorce that emphasizes cooperation and negotiation between spouses, with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable settlement. It is a forward-focused alternative to traditional litigation that can provide a more amicable and efficient approach to resolving divorce-related issues.

Here are some key points about the Collaborative Process in Missouri:

  1. Voluntary Participation: Both spouses must willingly choose to participate in the Collaborative Process. It requires a commitment from both parties to work together honestly and respectfully to find solutions.
  2. Collaborative Team: Each spouse has their own collaboratively trained attorney who will guide them through the process. Other professionals, such as divorce coaches (mental health professionals), child specialists, and financial experts may be involved to provide specialized support and expertise.
  3. Agreement to Settle Out of Court: The Collaborative Process aims to settle all issues out of court. The spouses and their attorneys sign an agreement stating that they will not resort to litigation. If either spouse decides to pursue litigation, the collaborative attorneys must withdraw from the case, and new attorneys will need to be retained.
  4. Open Communication: The Collaborative Process encourages open and transparent communication between spouses. This allows for a better understanding of each other's needs, concerns, and interests, facilitating the negotiation of a mutually beneficial settlement.
  5. Focus on Interests and Needs: Instead of positional bargaining, the Collaborative Process aims to identify the underlying interests and needs of each spouse. By focusing on common goals, creative solutions can be explored to meet the needs of both spouses and their children.
  6. Privacy and Confidentiality: The Collaborative Process offers greater privacy compared to traditional litigation. The discussions and negotiations that take place within the collaborative team are confidential, promoting a safe environment for open and honest communication.
  7. Court Approval: Once the spouses reach a settlement agreement, it must be submitted to the court for approval. The court will review the agreement to ensure it is fair and in the best interests of any children involved. When approved by the judge, the agreement becomes legally binding.

It's important to note that while the Collaborative Process can be a beneficial option for many couples, it may not be suitable for all situations, especially if there are significant power imbalances, concerns about domestic violence, or an inability to cooperate. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine if the Collaborative Process is the right choice for your circumstances.

Make Your Missouri Divorce Less Painful: 5 Do's & Don'ts

Make Your Missouri Divorce Less Painful

Preparation, getting the right support, and making sure you educate yourself on the right and wrong things to do can make the process a little less painful. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst things you can do during the divorce process.

Here are 5 Do's and Don'ts of Missouri Divorce

DO be fair and equitable

Unfair settlements can hurt everyone, including kids. Strive to make sure your assets and custody arrangements are good for everyone, including your children.

DO make sure you have a support network

Don’t do this alone! Make sure you have friends, family or a support group to act as your sounding board. During even the smoothest divorce, you will face a roller coaster of emotions, so ask for help when you need it. You can support all of your children through this process more easily if you have your own emotional reinforcements. Just as you need friends who have your back during a divorce, you need legal and financial advice as well. Don’t try to figure out the best settlement options via Google; talk to an attorney who can give you advice based on your specific family and financial situation.

DO empower yourself

Educate yourself about divorce, the process, and the financial implications. Talk to an attorney and find out every step, how settlements can work, and options for child custody and support. You’ll feel more confident knowing what’s possible and what happens next. DON’T Use your kids as a wedge Your kids are hurting too, but they shouldn’t be asked to take sides – they should be neutral parties to the divorce. Most importantly, don’t say negative things about your spouse to your children or withhold time with them to punish your spouse. Your kids will need the support of both parents right now.

DON'T stay in the dark about your finances

If you haven’t been involved in financial planning or discussions during your marriage, you can go in to the divorce process at a disadvantage. Make sure you know the assets you and your spouse own, including property, bank accounts, insurance policies and retirement plans. You’ll also need this information to plan and budget for your life after the divorce.

Mary Neff is an experienced problem solver.  She works hard to support her clients so they can clearly and gracefully navigate one of life’s most challenging transitions.  Mary is a licensed Missouri and Illinois family law attorney, mediator and collaborative law practitioner.

Reach out to Mary to discuss your divorce options and how you and your spouse can divorce amicably.  Mary can be reached by phone at 314.454.9100, by email at mn***@ae******.com">mn***@ae******.com, or visit her website at https://aegislaw.com/who-we-are/mary-neff/com