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The end result of all divorces is the same in both legal and practical terms: the marriage is dissolved and legal arrangements are made to divide assets and arrange for the care of children. But there are different methods to reach this resolution.

Types of divorce

These variations are usually broken down into 5 distinct types of divorce:

  1. A summary or “simple” divorce
  2. Divorce mediation
  3. Collaborative divorce
  4. Arbitration
  5. Traditional divorce litigation

All types of divorce draw from the same governing laws and legal guidelines. Yet each one utilizes a different process to reach an agreement and finalize the divorce. The process used is almost directly related to the amount of fighting and contention between the couple. Therefore these types of divorce can be best thought of as degrees of divorce. Summary divorce and mediation are the most simple and civil processes to go through, and it gets progressively more complicated and contentious from there, with a traditional divorce being the worst.

There are also a couple distinct subtypes of divorce we’ll discuss in this chapter:

  1. Contested and uncontested divorces
  2. Fault versus no fault divorce

What’s the Best Type of Divorce?

The best option for you and your children is the one with the least amount of conflict and bickering possible, which would be mediation. Divorce collaboration is a more formal process and usually more expensive, but since it, too, focuses on bringing about a civil resolution and settling out of court, it’s another good option. Long-term studies show no significant differences in the child’s adjustment between parents who use lawyers or mediators to settle their differences. (Emory & Dillon, 1996)

As you get up into the other two types, the situation grows more complex, and usually nastier. These are generally contentious divorces where the spouses are anything but civil, and their battles may be fought in the public record of a courtroom. There are situations where such litigation might be necessary (or it may be forced upon you), but otherwise couples should regard these more serious options as a method of last resort.

Different types of divorce across different states and jurisdictions

It should also be said that each state has its own set of laws governing divorce. In the United States, these different regulations will follow the same basic outline provided in this chapter, although details will vary from state to state. Other countries also tend to offer variations of these types of divorce, but some may have rules that are quite different. So after reading this chapter and getting an understanding about the premise behind each variation of divorce, you’ll need to consult your lawyer or do some self-research to learn the specifics about divorce laws in your state.

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