What Kind Of Divorce Options Do I Have? (No-Fault, Fault Divorce, Etc.)
By: Dylan Buckley
Updated February 25, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH
Not all relationships and marriages can be saved, and you may find that divorce is the right path for you based on the current course of your relationship and the many issues that you may be having at the moment. Fortunately, you have already made the difficult decision of separation, and you can now figure out where you are going to go next. Unfortunately, this decision comes with a host of legal steps you will need to take to properly divorce your spouse.
You'd think that divorce would be fairly straightforward, right? All there is to divorce is legal separation, and there is only one way to go about it. While this is logical thinking, there are several different types of divorces that you can choose from when you want to divorce your spouse. To better prepare yourself for when you begin filing for divorce, there are some options that you have to choose from or some divorces that may come about as a result of unique circumstances.
1. Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is one of the easiest types of divorce, and it is utilized when a couple who plans on separating works together to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce. In this type of situation, the couple files for divorce and doesn't usually have to deal with court appearances because there are no issues between the two that need to be resolved by a legal entity. This type of separation also tends to be the least expensive and the quickest to complete. If possible, all couples should aim to have an uncontested divorce.
2. Contested Divorce
Aptly named, a contested divorce is a divorce in which a couple cannot agree on the terms of the separation because many of the things they share are things that they wish to hold onto. This type of divorce, which is often considered the typical divorce that many couples have, happens most often between couples who have a lot of property and shared finances. Couples who have a contested divorce should expect to deal with several court appearances and negotiations until fair terms are reached. If you can't reach an agreement with your partner on the terms, there are alternative options, but they will make the process of divorce much harder and longer than it needs to be.
3. Fault Divorce
Although this type of divorce is not common in practice anymore, a fault divorce is a type of divorce where the person who is seeking the divorce must prove that it is their spouse's fault that the marriage has fallen apart. The reasons for this divorce must be legitimate and provable. For example, a spouse can file a fault divorce if they have been abused or neglected. This divorce is still practiced in states such as Louisiana, Arizona, and Arkansas, but most divorces follow along with the rules of the next category. If you are in one of these states, and you believe that you would wish to go with the fault divorce model, make sure to conduct careful research into what is required of individuals who choose to seek out a fault divorce and what the consequences of this divorce will be for both you and your wife or husband.
4. No-Fault Divorce
A no-fault divorce, unlike a fault divorce, focuses on the idea that both individuals played a part in how the marriage ended up. This divorce isn't necessarily a divorce type but rather an explanation of how the process of the divorce will play out in a court of law and in between a couple. With no-fault divorce, both parties are treated equally and are not expected to prove innocence or guilt. The only things that need to be determined in a no-fault divorce are the terms of the separation, which will tie into the many divorce methods listed above and below. To better break this down for you, a great example could be that you are having a no-fault divorce in an uncontested divorce model.
5. Divorce With Mediation
When two individuals can't agree on the terms of a divorce, they will require a mediator to help them solve their issues. This type of agreement happens outside of a court of law, and the mediator works as a messenger between the couple to help them reach an agreement without involving a judge or another legal body. Generally, if terms can't be reached, using a mediator is the easiest option for both involved.
The mediator will go back and forth and communicate the needs of both individuals until each spouse can agree on the terms required by each other. If they can't reach an agreement and they are still struggling to find terms that work for both parties, they will have to leave the divorce with mediation method, and they will most likely have to use a process of divorce like the one mentioned below.
6. Divorce With Arbitration
A divorce that requires arbitration is similar to a divorce that requires mediation. However, the person who solves a couple's issues during the arbitration process is a special judge known as an arbitrator. The arbitrator will listen to each story of the couple and decide what is fair for both of them to receive based on what arguments they present. This type of divorce process only happens if a couple is unwilling to negotiate on any terms and can't settle terms using processes outside of the court.
7. Default Divorce
A default divorce is granted when one spouse cannot be found or contacted. Say, for example, that you have been married to someone who has left you and moved to another state or country without your knowledge. When you file for divorce, the court will typically require you to accomplish a series of tasks in an attempt to contact your spouse and to make the divorce known in your area. If you cannot find them, and if the court cannot find them either, the divorce will be granted without your spouse's consent. Keep in mind that the tasks they will ask you to do will often be quite extensive and you may have to wait a significant amount of time before you can expect the divorce to be approved and go through finally.
8. Summary Divorce
A summary divorce occurs when a couple has not been together for a long period or when they don't own much between themselves. For example, couples without children, shared finances, property, or who have been together for only a few months or years. Those filing for a summary divorce file significantly less paperwork than those who have to deal with any of the divorces listed above. They will also have to deal with fewer court visitations and wait less time to finalize their divorce. Much like an uncontested divorce, this is one of the ideal divorce processes to go through but maybe unrealistic depending on your current circumstances.
9. Collaborative Divorce
Much like a divorce involving arbitration or mediation, a collaborative divorce requires the assistance of other people to reach an agreement on divorce terms. With collaborative divorce, however, each spouse hires their attorney to help them with their divorce, and after signing an agreement, the attorneys work between each other to help the couple agree with what is best for them. If they should fail to reach an agreement that suits both of them, the attorneys will leave the couple, and the couple will have to go through another process, which provides extra incentive to agree the first time.
As you can see, there are a variety of divorce paths that you can choose to take when you decide to separate in your marriage. This allows you to pursue several different paths during the separation and helps to make sure that the divorce goes through if your spouse tries to put the divorce off or hinder the proceedings in some way. Hopefully, you were able to have a conversation with your spouse that allowed the two of you to agree on a divorce method that worked best for you both and were able to negotiate the terms of your divorce and how you would split the different assets and properties between you two when the divorce was finalized.
However, while the number of legal options you have can be encouraging, the number of options for divorce and the divorce itself can be overwhelming to deal with, which can create the need for guidance and help outside of the courtroom in the form of counseling. Fortunately enough, there are plenty of these resources available that can guide you through the process of legally separating from your spouse.
If you are struggling with the divorce process, and you need help coping with your separation, consider visiting https://www.regain.us/start/. ReGain is an online counseling platform designed specifically for relationship counseling and can handle any relationship queries regardless of whether you are at the beginning or end of one. You may also be able to find a divorce counselor who treats couples either going through a divorce, couples who want a divorce, or couples who have just gone through a divorce so that you will be able to be supported throughout the entire process. Additionally, online counseling allows you to maintain a flexible schedule and will allow you to receive counseling from the comfort of your own home. If you believe this type of counseling could be beneficial, clicking the link above will bring you to a page that will help you connect with the right relationship counselor for you!
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