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January 17th, 2017 by Marta J. Papa


Part 4: Last week I discussed the three initial steps I urge couples to take once a decision is made to proceed with a divorce: get off social media; begin to document pertinent information (spousal routines/children’s schedules and caregivers); and gain advice and direction from an attorney.

Furthermore, I addressed the most efficient and cost effective way to gain a divorce: Pro Se Divorce. In those instances where children are not a factor and large property holdings are essentially non-existent, this is (by far) the swiftest and cheapest means for married couples to gain independence. Think of it as a Do-It-Yourself style of marital dissolution.

Yet, by the time clients make an appointment to see me, most couples have children and property holdings at stake. This scenario usually precludes the Pro Se Divorce option, as there is more delicacy necessary and more determining factors requiring attention. For those couples, the Non-Contested Divorce is the next least abrasive method for the dissolution of a marriage.

In order to be good candidates for a Non-Contested Divorce, however, couples must be capable of civility and information sharing. Therefore, trust is still operative in the relationship. These are not relationships, therefore, insistent upon focusing on past grievances, indiscretions, and disappointments. Thus, this is a low-conflict relationship, where both spouses are resigned to moving forward separately but cooperatively. In doing so, these couples are capable of determining for themselves the division of assets, the allocation of debts, the fiscal needs for each household, and the necessary arrangements for child support and custody.

The triumph of a Non-Contested Divorce is that couples are capable of remaining reasonable in the present and cooperative in anticipating the future. In these instances, one spouse hires an attorney to facilitate the paperwork and attend to the proper court filings. With only one lawyer required, cost is immediately reduced in the proceedings and time is saved. Yet, as attorneys can only represent one client in a divorce proceeding of this nature, only one spouse will have direct access to the attorney’s advice and directives.

This is where trust and open communication between spouses are paramount for this style of divorce to be an option. Both parties will review the necessary paperwork and provide the necessary signage for a divorce decree, but neither party feels the need for third party control in determining the outcome. Rather, couples in a Non-Contested Divorce remain in control of their financial concerns and childcare issues. Judges, lawyers, and the court system, therefore, take on supportive roles during this process, but they do not determine the actions taken; this is reserved for the couples to determine between themselves.

Thus, with a Non-Contested Divorce, couples feel confident in proceeding together with a common goal: both desire to have their highest needs met and the needs of their children. In doing so, time and money are spared, while a new normal is achieved…without undue trauma fueled by conflict and resentment. These couples are capable of exiting the divorce process with good will exhibited for each other and, most especially, the well-being of their children intact.

At times, however, other couples require more direction, assistance, and guidance in dissolving their marital union. If this is the situation, a Mediated Divorce may prove to be the best option. I will focus on this type of divorce next time.