Five Ways to Divorce
You have options when it comes to your separation and divorce!
Private / Efficient / Less Expensive Than Litigation
You and your spouse meet with a team of specially trained divorce professionals: attorneys, a neutral financial professional, and mental health professionals who function as divorce coaches, child specialists, or case coordinators.
The Team works together to gather information necessary to make decisions regarding your settlement. Decisions are made during team meetings. At the end of the process, the attorneys draft the separation agreement and finalize the divorce without having to go to court.
Inexpensive / Private / Reasonably Fast
Couples that communicate well can often work out a mutually convenient parenting plan for their children, make lists of their assets and debts, and determine how to divide them fairly. Sometimes, they will draw up a simple separation agreement. This is called the “kitchen table” approach. It is inexpensive, private, and can take a relatively short amount of time.
The kitchen table approach does not work well if you and your spouse have a relationship where historically only one party has controlled and understands the finances, where one spouse is financially dependent upon the other for support, or where there has been physical, emotional, or financial abuse.
By choosing to do it yourselves, there is a risk you may miss something. The legal and financial issues that arise in a divorce are often much more complex than people initially realize. This can make an inexpensive kitchen table divorce more expensive in the long run in missed or mishandled assets, or increased conflict between you and your ex-spouse because you forgot to address certain issues in your parenting plan.
Private / Shared Costs / Control Over Timeline
In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party whose job is to facilitate a settlement negotiation. You may, but do not need to, have a lawyer present with you during mediation.
The mediation process is similar to the collaborative process in that the mediator gathers financial information from you and your spouse and then helps you fairly divide assets and liabilities, plan for child and spousal support, and devise a parenting agreement in the best interest of your children. Mediation is private. Participants typically share the cost of the mediator’s fee. The process proceeds based on a schedule that the parties determine.
In North Carolina, mediators cannot draft a legally binding separation agreement. Instead, the mediator provides the parties with a written summary of their agreements. The parties then can take the summary to an attorney, who will review it for completeness and draft the separation agreement.
Lawyer Led Negotiations
Private / Potentially Time Consuming
This is essentially a delegated approach. One or both spouses will hire attorneys to negotiate the terms of a separation agreement and parenting plan. Although the spouses are involved in making decisions with their lawyers, they do not typically communicate with each other except through their lawyers.
The attorneys make and exchange proposals that favor their client only. Many attorneys will threaten litigation as a means of obtaining concessions from the other side.
Success is dependent upon the personalities and skills of the lawyers and the willingness of both spouses to make concessions. The process is private but can be expensive and time-consuming depending on the personalities involved.
Complex / Expensive / Prone to Delays
If you and your spouse are unable to negotiate an agreement using one of the other processes, then you may need a family court judge to make decisions for you.
Litigation, by nature, is an adversarial process, and a courtroom can feel like a very hostile place. Documents filed in court and matters occurring during hearings and trial are public. A decision that a judge makes is based upon the evidence admitted during a hearing or trial, the arguments of the parties or their lawyers, and the applicable law, as set forth in the North Carolina General Statutes and decisions of the appellate courts.
There are specific rules and procedures that all litigants must follow. These rules and procedures are complex, and for this reason, you will likely need an attorney to represent you. Attorney fees in litigation can run in the tens of thousands of dollars. Because of backlogs in the court system, it is not uncommon for there to be delays of months or years before your case will be resolved.