Understanding the Three Types of Divorce


There are three common methods for obtaining a divorce: Traditional/Litigation, Collaborative, and Mediation/Arbitration Divorce. Understanding these options can help you choose the right one for your unique situation.


This is the process that most people are familiar with. It starts when one spouse decides to divorce, hires an attorney and serves their partner with divorce papers. The spouse then hires their own attorney to file a countersuit.

Both sides gather information from one another concerning their assets, income, debt and other key factors. Over a period of months, various court filings and hearings will occur in an attempt to sort out these details. The attorneys will start negotiating settlements. Carole can help you and your attorney analyze the settlement proposals and help you to decide which settlement matches your short and long-term financial needs.

The majority of cases never make it to court because most people decide on their final agreements before going before a judge. In the event that you do go to court, understand that all of your familyís private matters will become public record. The process itself is costly and can continue for months or years.


Collaborative divorce is a relatively new approach designed to minimize conflict while enabling divorcing couples to find a way to resolve their differences on all issues. Initially each spouse will meet with their collaborative attorney to discuss their needs. The couples have a four-way meeting to share information about property division, child custody and support. Both spouses must agree to share all financial information, refrain from threatening each other with litigation, work to reach a written agreement on all issues and respect each otherís confidentiality.

Next the couple meets with a team of mental health and financial professionals. The mental health professional can meet with both individuals separately or act in the role as a child specialist.

Even though the collaborative method uses several professionals, studies have found that the financial cost can be less than a traditional divorce. It also provides greater emotional support and healing for the entire family.


Mediation is a method for settling disputes out of court, using a neutral third party. The role of the mediator is to assist the two sides in developing their own agreement. If both sides come to an agreement, the mediator provides that agreement to the attorneys and they in turn file the appropriate legal documents. This method allows you to have a say in your final agreement and is much more cost effective than traditional litigation.

Arbitration uses a third party, but unlike mediation, the arbitrator acts as a private judge and issues a legally binding agreement to the court. A judge must endorse this final agreement. This method allows for more privacy, a quicker turnaround and lower costs.

Note: Carole Peck is NOT AN ATTORNEY AND DOES NOT PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE. All information she provides is financial in nature and should not be construed or relied upon as legal [or tax] advice. Individuals seeking legal [or tax] advice should solicit the counsel of competent legal [or tax] professionals knowledgeable about the divorce laws in their own geographical areas. Divorce Financial Planning is a fee-based process that does not involve investment advice or securities transactions.

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