9 Different Types of Divorce

Divorce is a messy subject in the best of times. Not only are they hotbeds of emotion, they can be incredibly expensive.

However, there are actually a number of options available that may be less destructive than you’d expect. This is partially because the media lumps divorce into”fault” and “no-fault” categories with an emphasis on the drama created by the former.

In reality, a divorce is only as complicated as the couple makes it. The more assets, debts, or children involved, the more likely it will be a court hearing will be needed.

However, even the simplest of cases can take months and thousands of dollars when the couple are at odds. Here are some of the more common types of divorce and what they entail.

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Types of Divorce

1. Arbitrated Divorce

This is essentially a divorce in which a private judge or magistrate is hired to preside over the case. The rulings of this arbitrator are legally binding. Couples may choose this alternative to save on court fees.

2. Collaborative Divorce

One of the more interesting types of divorce, this method requires good communication between both spouses. Each party hires a type of lawyer who’s trained in this form of divorce.

The parties must be completely open and honest about all relevant details and all four individuals meet both together and in smaller groups to work out the terms.

In the event an agreement cannot be reached using this method, a new pair of lawyers must be hired, either to restart the process or to convert to a different type of divorce proceeding.

3. Contested Divorce

This type of divorce is one of the worst. It happens when children or marital property is involved and the couple cannot agree on a method of division.

This process is extremely slow with numerous negotiation meetings and hearings. In the event a settlement still can’t be reached at the end of this period, the case is taken to trial.

4. Default Divorce

What do you do when your spouse has gone missing for years or you otherwise have no contact? In many cases, the judge will grant what is known as a default divorce if your spouse doesn’t respond within a certain amount of time.


All this means is that the spouse’s lack of response is being considered an acknowledgement and agreement to the divorce proposal.

5. Fault Divorce

Traditionally, divorce required one spouse to prove the other caused a breakdown in the relationship. This was often a matter of adultery (later renamed “criminal conversation” in states that still allowed for these grounds), but may also extend to criminal activity.

A spouse may file for a fault divorce when their spouse is incarcerated for a heinous crime which has affected their life negatively, such as cases of murder or child molestation. Fault divorces are messy and thus not as commonly practiced these days.

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6. Mediated Divorce

Not to be confused with the mediated phases of a normal divorce, a mediated divorce involves a neutral third party to act as mediator between the two parties. This option most often occurs when there is a breakdown of communication between the spouses.

The mediator relays information between both parties to keep things diplomatic, but does not have the ability to make decisions on behalf of either party.

7. No-Fault Divorce

A common alternative to fault divorces, the no-fault no longer requires evidence of direct wrongdoings. Instead, the plaintiff may simply state “irreconcilable differences” or an “immediate breakdown” as reasons for the divorce.

This may still be contested by the defending spouse, but usually ends largely uncontested with the exception of distributing marital property or childcare. This is an option available in every state.

8. Summary Divorce

An evolution of the annulment and sometimes referred to as a “simplified divorce”, this option requires the couple to have been together less than five years, have no common children, and little or no property or joint debts.

The process only requires a few simple forms and thus a lawyer isn’t required. This is a great option for young couples, as it doesn’t require a large investment of time or money and generally can be granted without a court appearance.

9. Uncontested Divorce

Perhaps the hardest type of divorce to get is also the cheapest and quickest. In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to the divorce and work to come up with the terms together.

As a result, there’s little or no lawyer interaction required and the paperwork can often be filed together for minimum cost. Additionally, it’s incredibly rare for the case to reach a courtroom, and the judge will often grant the divorce decree within a week or two as time permits.

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