Divorce can be difficult, both legally and emotionally, which is why you may wonder if there's a legal alternative to divorce. Although there is the option of a legal separation, which outlines the rights and duties of a couple who is still married, divorce is the only way to legally end a marriage. There are, however, alternatives on how to divorce. These alternatives include mediation, collaborative divorce, and traditional divorce.
In this legal alternative to divorce, the couple works with a neutral mediator to come to an agreement on the aspects of their divorce, such as property division and child custody. While mediation is a less expensive and more peaceful way to end a marriage, it may not be feasible for couples who are not open to negotiating with each other. Additionally, one party may end up in an agreement that's not best for him or her, especially if the party didn't consult with his or her own attorney.
This legal alternative to divorce occurs when a couple works out a divorce settlement outside of court. While this sounds almost identical to mediation, there are a few key differences. First, in a collaborative divorce, each party must be represented by an attorney. Mediation does not require attorney representation, although it's always a good idea to consult with an attorney. The second key difference is that there is no neutral party at the center of the process. Again, collaborative divorce is only an option for couples who are willing to sit down with each other to come to an agreeable settlement.
While mediation and collaborative divorce sound more "civil" than a traditional divorce, sometimes they're not viable options. As previously mentioned, these alternatives to divorce require the parties to work together to reach an agreement, which can be difficult for a couple who has decided to end their marriage. It's also possible that mediation or collaborative divorce could end up costing more money than a traditional divorce. This can happen if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, thus having to spend money on a traditional divorce after having spent money on the failed negotiations.
It's important to remember that each couple's situation is different, which means that legal alternatives to divorce may not work for a particular couple. Whether a marriage has lasted for 5 years or 25 years, divorce can be difficult. It's best to contact a local divorce attorney to discuss your options.